Naturalistic Pond Design

Ponds and streams that look natural are extremely difficult to create. Imitating nature is a true art form that can be mastered by only a few. The most natural-looking water features blend together, as professional pond designers we use a number of elements to give the overall natural effect.

The stone work has to be extremely well chosen and should not stretch right around the water feature, as this will scream out its man made. This style of pearl necklace edging would never happen in nature. Irregular placement is the key, some are randomly clustered, whilst others are perfect when placed on their own.

When choosing the stone for a naturalistic pond design we normally work to the ratio of one part small, two parts medium and one part large. This gives us a nice selection of stones that can be arranged in a wide variety of different arrays.

Examples of naturalistic stone work around a water course or pond. Using groups of three or five stones work very well, but the stones must be different sizes. Try using a large, medium and small or two irregular medium’s with a single large stone. The stones should also be partially buried (in water or soil), after all, how often do you see a stone simply sitting on the ground in nature?

When building water courses the framing rocks or feature stones, must be bigger than the spill stones as most of the time in the big outdoors, were you find natural water courses you will often see in the valleys and the eroded stream beds the larger harder stones make and channel the water down the naturally occurring slope.

Neatness is the bane of the naturalistic pond design. Whilst it is often in our nature to want to tidy up and keep everything neat and tidy this is exactly the opposite of how nature works.

The best thing to do between the stones is to plant them up or use different types of media, including compost, sand, leaves, although be careful that these cannot wash into the pond and pollute the water.

The plants must be able to grow into the water and not be stopped by an unnatural edge. This is a much more natural effect and enhances the natural edge of the pond, breaking it up and giving an irregular design that evolves over time. As with the stones, try planting small clumps of plants, rather than just individuals unless they are mature specimens, as this will again look more natural to our eye and create bold areas.

If you look at a natural pond or stream you will see that there is actually quite a limited number of species making use of that habitat. This is quite normal as plants are often relatively specialised and so will grow vigorously and crowd out other weaker plants in the right location. Use this information to choose just a limited range of plants for your water feature. Around four or five different species of plant is ideal in a small pond, allowing you to make a statement with the planting.

Having a good amount of water plants in a natural pond design goes with out saying to give you areas of great interest and will provide essential areas of natural sun light and shade.

This gives cover and again gives a more natural effect of looking into and under the water surface of a natural pool or stream.

By placing a mixture of dark stones on the bottom of the pond you can create the appearance of a deeper body of water and make the water quite dark.

Clear and healthy water is very rewarding in a natural pond design, the key to naturally clear water is to keep removing organic matter as it builds up (this is made easy with the addition of the correct pond filtration).

Installing an intake bay or a surface skimmer will remove the naturally occurring pond waste quickly in a shallow pond. The organic matter if left will rot very quickly on the base of the pond and in time will foul the water. With this type of filtration the pump is located next to the pond. Making it easier to care for the pond and pond equipment. This also allows us to completely hide all the ugly pipe work that is necessary to mechanically remove the waste effectively.

Whilst to the untrained eye creating a natural looking pond design may seem relatively straight forward but it does take practice to get it right. Our advice to anyone that wants to have a go at creating a naturalistic pond or water feature, would be first to go out and observe the natural world and take notes of how the aquatic habitats actually appear. Then you will start to gain an eye for creating this rewarding style of water feature.

Its about working with your heart and soul, natural master pieces take time. You can’t rush, some feature stones can take more than an hour to get them just right. We have been known to pick up single rocks 5 or 6 times.

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