Wildlife Ponds

Garden ponds are increasingly the last refuges for some of the UK’s most fascinating animals. creating a wildlife pond, will not only enhance your garden, you’ll be helping to ensure the survival of some of our most endangered species.

Creating a successful wildlife pond

Before starting work on a wildlife pond it is well worth investing some time in deciding exactly what it is you want to achieve. A successful wildlife pond does not necessarily need to be a perfect copy of a natural pond, indeed, this can be very difficult to achieve, and a few compromises at the planning stage can produce a much more successful pond.

The first thing to consider is size, most garden ponds are significantly smaller than natural ponds found in the wild. This need not be a big problem, but the mistake many people make is to cover the base of their pond with soil and then plant directly into it. There are two problems with this approach firstly the soil, because it is laid on a liner, can cloud the water and encourage algae.

Secondly the more vigorous plants will grow rampantly in these conditions and are very difficult to keep under control. Whilst it is true that in a natural pond no-one controls the plants, because of the larger size of most natural ponds, this isn’t an issue. A 10′ square clump of Iris pseudocorus will not look out of place in a natural pond, where it might take up all of a garden wildlife pond. For this reason we strongly recommend planting all plants in large planting baskets. Once the plants are established the baskets are unobtrusive, and make pruning of the plants far easier.

We also don’t recommend soil on the base of the pool, after a few month’s you won’t notice the liner, but it will be much easier to clean & maintain when you need to. It’s also worth considering at this stage how rigid you wish to be about your choice of plants.


Planting the pond

It’s certainly possible to plant a wildlife pool using only native species, but since your pond is likely to be smaller than a natural pond there are a few compromises which are at least worth considering.

The wild type of lily Nymphaea alba is a vigorous plant which produces lots of leaves and relatively few flowers. There are other commercially developed varieties of water lily which produce more flowers and spread less vigorously. These cultivars produce a wide range of different colour flowers, if you want a yellow, pink or red flowering lily rather than the white of the native species, this will make little or no difference to the wildlife in your pond.

Much the same applies to the native flag iris, Iris pseudocorus, there are other varieties which are less vigorous and produce more flowers. Choosing such varieties will not alter the suitability of the pond for wildlife. Similarly planting in baskets will not deter any potential inhabitants.

Other native plants that can be incorporated into a wildlife planting scheme include marsh marigolds, cotton grass, buttercups, water forget-me-not and bulrushes (beware these should always be planted in sturdy baskets as their roots are very tough and prone to damaging liners – this applies particularly to the larger varieties).

Other plants have become naturalised in the UK, Mimulus luteus, is a good example, although they originate elsewhere. Some might wish to avoid such introduced species.

Designing a wildlife pond

Although choice of plants is very important to the final appearance of the pond, it will have little impact on the range of wildlife that takes up residence. In designing a wild life pond there are some important considerations which if taken into account in the design will ensure that the pond attracts the widest range of inhabitants.

1. Don’t make the pond too small or too shallow. The bigger and deeper the pond, the more stable the temperature. We recommend that the maximum depth is at least 18″, but preferably 2 – 3 ‘. The pond should not be this depth all over, shelves at the sides of the pool will allow the planting of marginal plants, also.
2. Do ensure that there is easy access for frogs and newts, either by providing a gentle sloping beach area, or by ensuring that stones, rocks, or plant baskets are strategically positioned to allow these fabulous creatures to climb in and out of the water.
3. Ensure that there are lots of well planted shallow areas to provide hiding places for tadpoles and other small creatures.
4. An open shallow area, or perhaps a slow running stream, will attract, birds to bathe and drink.
5. The surroundings to the pond will also influence the range of wildlife that take up residence. Plenty of foliage, and rocks, will provide hiding places for frogs when they are not in the water, and will make it easier for them to colonise it in the first place.
6. Fish, although it is possible for fish and other wildlife to co-exist in a pond, most people who want fish & wildlife find that two ponds are better than one!

Need advice? Contact us.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the choices or just need some expert advice, don't hesitate to reach out. Our team of aquatic specialists is here to guide you every step of the way.