If you are not familiar with the pond design process then it is a prudent idea to call in an expert. The planning stage is key to getting the pond design that you really desire and an expert can give you lots of tips and pointers on how to achieve that dream pond. They should have a portfolio of completed pond designs to show you and be able to guide you through the best pond design for your situation and lifestyle.
Remember, the best time to call in an expert is when you are thinking about and planning your pond design – not once you have a partially-finished project or a problem with your pond!
Virtually all pond problems can be prevented by careful pond design at the planning stage, whilst once completed that nagging problem may well spoil your enjoyment of your new pond. We always recommend that you build a pond once and build it right. This will save you a lot of problems and in the long term money.
A lot of people when thinking about pond design or garden design look at the standard designs in books and magazines and more or less stick to these standard designs. This generally means having a narrow shelf of perhaps a foot wide, so that they can put plants all around, but this is wrong, as it gives a rather unnatural garden design with just a narrow fringe of plants. Much better is to have a natural looking planted pond is to have a much wider shelf that can accommodate more plants in a more random display.
Making the back of the pond a focal point by having a much wider shelf here is a great idea. This will allow you to build up the planting here where it is shown off to greatest effect. A width of around three feet is about right for pond design, giving plenty of space for your plant collection. Such a side shelf will also give plenty of habitat for a wide range of animals too. Make the depth about 10-12 inches, as this will allow you to make the depth shallow if need-be, but of course you cannot increase the depth.
Ideally, choose a limited palette of plants, perhaps just five or six varieties that work well together. By having multiples of each plant you can achieve a much more natural and balanced design than having lots of single specimens. This is much the same philosophy as when planting a wide border in the garden. Width and a collection of plants that work well together will achieve a much bolder effect.
If you prefer a more formal looking pool then keep the range of plants even more narrow. Just three or four species is ideal in such a pond, with multiples of each species working well with the pond design.
Also try to choose plants that will give year round interest to the pond. Each plant will look its best at different times of the year and choosing those that overlap can give great excitement to the planting twelve months of the year.
On the inside edge is makes sense to have a narrow, or perhaps no shelf at all. This will ensure that the view is not obstructed and make it much easier to interact with the pond. Low-growing plants are best towards the front of the pond. Do not be tempted to use bigger plants at the front of the pond where the containers will not be big enough to accommodate them.
In a water garden design there is no need for a really deep pond, and in fact this makes life much harder. A maximum depth of about 30 inches is ideal, allowing you to maintain the submerged plants and water lilies without having to get the scuba gear out! It makes sense to have more than one shelf in larger ponds and having a stepped garden design with different depths allows you to accommodate a wider range of plants.
One of the reasons that I am not a fan of pre-formed fiberglass ponds is that the shelves are fixed and are unlikely to be exactly where you want them. A liner gives you much greater flexibility in the design and makes wide shallow shelves possible.