Imagine a tranquil evening spent listening to the soothing sound of water rather than the din of passing traffic.
Such is the life for those who install small ponds or other water features in their yards.
Wichitan Janice Lee is one of them. For the past 15 years, she has had a water feature at each of her three residences, ranging from a gurgling front-porch bubble rock to an elaborate 5 ½-foot waterfall with a stream that serpentined around her yard before flowing into a pond.
“I’m addicted,” she said. “I like the sound of water. I like the birds that come around it. I like feeding the fish.”
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Lee became interested in her own water feature after going on pond tours. “I chose an area off my deck, and I actually hand-dug myself my first little pond,” she said.
She added a liner, rocks, a little waterfall and stocked it with some goldfish. Eventually, she dreamed up the tall waterfall on the other side of the yard, created the stream, added a little bridge, enlarged the original pond and upgraded to koi fish.
She said the pond inspired the landscaping for her entire backyard: “It created so much more interest for planting – and interest and conversation for entertaining.”
So when Lee moved in with her daughter and two grandchildren, another pond was a requirement for her. This time, the quick timeline for her move meant that she didn’t dig the pond herself, but she designed the new pond with a three-tier falls and did the plantings. She enjoyed that pond for four years, and when the family moved last year, Lee came up with a new plan. She had a bunch of rocks delivered to the new home, and one in particular caught her eye. She had it turned into a bubble rock, which functions as a pondless water feature. Now she relaxes on the front porch to the sound of water flowing.
Chris Norwood, who runs the pond department at Hong’s Landscape and Nursery in southeast Wichita, knows just how soothing that sound can be. “It gets you to zone out a little bit,” he said. “It give you a nice sense of tranquility.”
Norwood stresses the importance of choosing location and proper maintenance.
LaLana Moore, who with husband Mark owns and operates Scenic Landscapes in west Wichita, agrees. The Moores specialize in water gardens, as they call them, which can be ponds or disappearing features like Lee’s latest, where the tray of water is covered so there is no chance of drowning.
“Don’t put a pond where your low spot is,” Norwood said. Runoff will disrupt the balance. And, he said, “you want to make it look natural – like it’s supposed to be there.” He prefers Arkansas moss rock to flagstone.
Moore always advises clients to put the pond in a place where they can enjoy it. Somewhere just off the patio or deck can be a good choice. “Morning sun/afternoon shade is the best but not mandatory,” she said. “If you have more sun, you can go deeper for your pond.”
Lay out your garden hose to play with the shape and size of your pond. Scenic Landscapes recommends that at least one-third of the pond be at least 3 feet deep. An area that is 2 feet deep is where water lilies should go. And the area that is up to 1 foot deep is ideal for bogs and marginal plans.
Moore advises staying away from preformed ponds, which are only about 18 inches deep. Not only are they hard to make look natural, they crack from freezing and thawing. She also doesn’t recommend concrete ponds. They are more expensive and will need frequent patching of cracks.
The experts say pumps, skimmers and filtration are critical. “You never want just a stagnant, stale pond,” Moore said.
They recommend annual cleanings and clearing debris weekly.
Norwood recommends keeping water lilies and water irises in pots and not just bare rooted. “It does give you more control, and it keeps the debris down,” he said.
Moore always encourages people to stock their ponds with a few fish as well, although they don’t have to be the vibrant – and expensive – koi.
“They’re the life of your pond,” she said. “They’re moving all the time. They’re beautiful. … The more you imitate nature, the better it’s going to work.”
It is also important to monitor your pond to keep algae under control. Moore says barley extract helps control string algae, and beneficial bacteria can counter the single-celled algae that causes water to turn green.
“A water garden just enhances your landscape, brings life and beauty,” Moore said. “People are actually investing in their own yards and making that their vacation destination almost.”
Water garden workshops
Scenic Landscapes, 5911 W. Maple St., offers free workshops on building your own water feature at 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. No fee or registration required.
Upcoming dates: May 23, June 13, June 27, Aug. 8 and Aug. 22