The pond is always in bloom



In a manner of speaking. This is our second year with a water feature, and I am beginning to recognize its value. Sure, there have been some emotional ups and downs, the same that attend any major gardening project.

Between the time that we first decided to have a pond and the time that it was installed and planted, I can graph a rollercoaster of happy, then disappointing moments, punctuated by a few angry outbursts and simmering periods of deep frustration. And there was also the trauma of the fish.

So it wasn’t until this season that we experienced the pond as an ambient presence in the garden rather than as an ongoing project/problem. And we’ve realized that the main thing that really matters about the pond is its sound. The sound has to be right, and it is. The perennials and vines around the pond need very little care, and a little algaecide—supposed to be safe for fish—once a week keeps it clear. As for the fish, we did without them this year, and I’m not totally certain they’re necessary.

Other parts of the garden have their ups and downs: once the lilies go out of bloom, I lose a lot of color; the shade beds may or may not be ravaged by slugs; and you never know what might happen with roses. The pond, however, is a constant, always flowing, always looking cool and refreshing, whether it’s early spring, midsummer, or late fall.

Though I still contend that I am attracted to plants to the detriment of design—and the beds show it—this little bit of water, with its ring of greenery, probably represents the best design decision ever made here.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Your water feature is lovely and is a great example of how a pond doesn’t have to be big to really add to the garden! Fish are not necessary, as long as you toss in a mosquito dunk once a month. I see a lot of people make a water garden more work than it needs to be. That’s unfortunate, because water brings a whole new, exciting world to the garden. My land garden is more work than my 3 ponds…if only the weeds would stop growing and the rain would fall in the needed amounts at the needed times!

  2. Eh mahnn is dat a pot uh ganja growinn behint da rox dere?

    Juh no rounere in Nuh Yahk we bringin inda pots for be to cohwd ousside fordemm!

    The (take me back to Barbados) TROLL

  3. My husband and I put in a large water garden (pond) several years ago and we are absolutely thrilled. No fish, no mosquito dunks either and the mosquito population in our yard is less than what it used to be. Why? Dragonflies, dragonfly larvae, tadpoles (yes they will eat mosquito larvae). I think what we have done is to attract more mosquito predators. More predators, fewer mosquitoes.

    Our most annoying mosquitoes are the diurnal, invasive exotic Asian tiger mosquitoes and they don’t breed in deep water anyway.

  4. Algaecide?
    Oh no… 🙁

    Well – no pond in your picture so no submersible or waters-edge plants seen.

    A pond without fish is like a.. sorry – do not see the point. Our little pond with 10 4-12″ Koi and Comets (and seven frogs this year) enjoy clear water and a waterlily with a submersible biofilter. Just pull and hose and clean once a week; attached bubbler creates the movement and sound.

  5. Barbara, not sure what you’re getting at–there is a water feature in the picture, and water plants, including waterlilies, which have not been harmed by anything I’ve put in there.

  6. I think you are really missing out on a good rant here.

    The whole topic of ponds has become both ridiculously complicated and unnecessarily expensive by “the experts”. Buy this chemical … buy that filter … you need blah, blah, blah …

    Simply put: Algae needs adequate sunlight to grow. Reduce the amount of light entering the water and algae problems are gone. This translates to usually 50% or more of the water surface being shaded during the summer. Shade can come from floating plants or other sources. I simply use cheap-o, quickly reproducing water lettuce; which I pull out and compost when there gets to be too much.

    Particularly for beginners, forget about the koi and buy some feeder gold fish (the kind people feed to things like piranha and other larger pets) at the pet store for 10 cents a piece. Your monetary risk (about a dollar) is small and you have little to loose while you are learning.

  7. Hi IB,

    Well, I can’t speak to the easiness of pond installation because we didn’t do ours, which is really a small rock-surrounded pool with a waterfall, not a pond in any major way. But I can say that once installed, the thing has been really easy to take care of and always looks good, which is more than I can say for other parts of the garden.
    I can’t rant against the experts, though, because I had a pro install mine. Worth every penny.
    I agree about the koi though–the most I’ll do is some cheapo goldfish next spring.

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