A Backyard Pond Lets You Come Home to Calming Waters

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Photo courtesy of The Pond Doc

Imagine putting in a long, hard day at work and fighting traffic for an hour to finally arrive at a glorious pond filled with happy koi who swim over to greet you as you feed them. The sounds of a waterfall begin to take away the stress of the day, as you sit on a boulder to relax. Although this might sound like a fantasy, it could easily become the description of your own backyard. Whether you want to design it yourself, purchase a pond kit or hire an expert to create something glorious, you can add a serene koi pond, waterfall or water garden to your own yard.

Even if the goal is to create a completely natural-looking pond, nature must begin with planning. There are three basic types of ponds to choose from, according to Cecil Ferguson at the Pond Doc. Water gardens are the easiest and, as their name suggests, contain only vegetation. The combination pond has an emphasis on plants, but also includes goldfish. Finally, the most complex pond, which requires more depth and better filtration, is the koi pond.

The three Ms
Ponds vary not only in type, but also in size, style and care, so once you have some basic ideas in mind, it is time to move on to the more specific questions. Eric King of Piedmont Landscape Contractors recommends immediately considering the three Ms: money, maintenance and motivation.

There should be a general idea of budget range before beginning any pond project. They can cost anywhere from $100 for a pond kit to $100,000 for the truly elaborate. What is the maximum amount that you really want to spend? Knowing your budget can also help decide the ponds size, which can be anywhere from 150 to 30,000 gallons.

For someone who enjoys working in the yard, weekly maintenance might not be an issue. However, others would rather spend time contemplating by the pond or waterfall than removing leaves from the filter. It is vital to know the amount of time you are willing to commit to maintenance, because all ponds require some upkeep and always a good spring cleaning. Of course, there is the option of hiring a professional to perform the maintenance. The amount of maintenance you desire will help determine what kind of filter you use as well as things like size, type and design.

Photo courtesy of Elite Water Gardens

YOU CAN ACCESSORIZE YOUR POND just like you do your home. Adding statues, stones, barrels, lights and other details can make your pond unique.

Finally, what is the motivation behind adding a pond to the yard? Are you looking for something that is aesthetically pleasing, something that improves the feng shui of your yard? Or are you after the feel of the North Georgia mountains? Answering these questions can be a step toward creating the perfect design.

After considering the three Ms, take a look at the existing landscape, and as King says, put your money where you see it. In other words, choose a spot that is visible and accessible. Also, think about the elevation, especially if you would like to include a waterfall. Another issue is shade. While some experts recommend shade because it means less algae, a pond below trees will gather plenty of leaves during the fall and winter.

Design elements
Today, as more and more homeowners add ponds to their yards, the trend is to seek natural designs. Ed Brazis of Elite Water Gardens and American Pond Pro strives to build ponds that are more like art than water holes and considers himself a stone and water artist. Likewise, King says his company is a team of landscape escape artists. These sentiments play out in pond design as boulders, moss and waterfalls leading into ponds.

Another trend is the pondless waterfall or pondless pond, which features a waterfall that seems to disappear into the ground. The water is caught in a reservoir below some rocks, held in a rubber liner and then pumped back to the top of the waterfall. This design is safe for children, and it gives the appearance of a natural stream. A water feature, according to Brazis, should look like you built your house around itnot the other way around. In the end, the pond becomes more natural and gets better as time and nature add to it.

Photo courtesy of the Pond Doc

For those who prefer a more formal look, ponds can be raised and surrounded with stone or brick, and elaborate design elements can be added, like stone or wood bridges and stepping stones. Innovation is key, and these days people are being undeniably creative with water features. Pots are an old standby for water features, but they now are joined by statues, watering cans and whiskey barrels. For example, King took half of a whiskey barrel, put a plastic liner in it, then filled it with water, rocks, fish and plants. He then drilled into the side of the barrel and added an old spigot with a frog design through which water comes out and into a watering can on the ground. This water then is recycled back into the barrel. Another decorative idea is to place fiber optic lighting in the pond, Brazis says. Hidden in the rocks, this lighting can illuminate a waterfall or the pond itself and can either change colors or remain a constant shade.

Many versions of more elaborate designs can be found at garden centers, and prices begin as low as $100. However, even when shopping for a simple kit, King recommends not giving in to an impulse purchase. Plan before shopping and do not buy anything on the first trip.

The right equipment
While it might not be the most exciting part of planning a pond, maintenance will always be necessary and should be heavily considered. Filtration is probably the most important part of the pond, Brazis says. Luckily, new technology has made filters better and ponding easier. There are filters with UV lights and some that include plants and small stones along with a mechanical filter to create bacteria that balance the ponds ecosystem. There are even filters that have pop-up sensors that let you know when it is time to clean them. Filters also range in price; those with better features are more expensive. It is vital to choose your filtration system with forethought.

Photo by Jan Stittleburg
Photo courtesy of Pike Family Nurseries

A pond is sort of like a car, Ferguson says. You can add equipment that makes things easier for you. Do you want to clean your filter every weekend or be on the golf course? In addition to the amount of time spent in maintaining a pond, fish are also a consideration when choosing a filter. For example, Ferguson suggests avoiding a side skimmer with a submergible pump for ponds with fish, because with this system, the bottom water does not get filtered.

Add some life
Fish and wildlife create the final consideration for a pond. There are many varieties of exotic pets that can live in a backyard pond. Types of pond fish include orandas, shubunkins, butterfly and standard koi, goldfish, sarassas, black mors and even leopard frogs and turtles. When including fish in the pond, it is also a good idea to have aquatic plants like bog plants and pond lilies. Pond fish like koi can grow to be true family pets. Kids can feed them, they become friendly enough to pet and they grow along with the family. Brazis currently has a 3 -foot, 65-pound koi living in a pond at his store.

Whether you dream of sitting on a large boulder feeding your pet fish, strolling across a bridge over an elaborate water system or listening to the soothing sounds of moving water, a backyard pond can bring years of pleasure to homeowners who love the outdoors or those who just love looking at the outdoors. With so many options available, from kits to professional, natural art ponds, water features can accommodate any budget, landscape or vision.

Photo by Benjamin Corriere
Photo courtesy of Wakoola Water Gardens

The Atlanta Koi Club Pond Tour

What: The Atlanta Koi Club Pond Tour 2005 will be held Aug. 6 and 7. The self-guided tour will feature the ponds of club members around the Atlanta area. Day and night tours will be held.

When: Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m
Cost: $10 per person. Children younger than 12 are admitted free.

For more information: visit www.atlantakoiclub.com

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