Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pond thoughts

My colleague Mike McCarthy, Environment Editor of The Independent, is writing about ponds in today's paper - in particular, the Million Ponds Project by the Oxford-based Pond Conservation, which aims to restore the 470,000 ponds we in Britain to the million which existed a century ago. It's a lovely piece, and you can read it here.
But it also made me think about my own pond - which I fear Mike would describe as a mere "water feature" - and reminded me that I don't have any up-to-date pictures of it.
Ponds are very difficult to photograph, I find. You need a special filter thingy in order to photograph fish, and white waterlilies overexpose themselves (if you see what I mean). And I've often taken a shot I thought I would be really proud of, only to find that I've left a disgusting pile of detritus on the side that I fished out prior to fetching my camera and promptly forgot about.
Then there are the Netfloat heron deterrents that I always forget to take out, not to mention any stray leaves or rotting plants that I haven't noticed.
Part of the frustration with ponds - and much of the masochistic pleasure, I suspect - is the fact that you spend half the year hoping things will grow and the rest of the year trying to stop them doing so. Having worried that my water soldiers (Stratiotes aloides) would never become established, I now have a veritable army of the little blighters. The pygmy waterlily I was so proud of seems to have turned into a giant while my back was turned.
But my new Oase pump is working perfectly and I have hardly a trace of blanketweed thanks to regular applications of Nishikoi Goodbye Blanket Weed, a sort of turbo-charged version of barley straw. It's expensive, but it seems to work.
The biggest problem this year however is not the pond itself, but what's around it. The pond is in a very sunny position and I tend to use the ledge around it as a place to nurture succulents, grow cuttings or seedlings and dump anything that needs a bit of warmth and TLC. This means it's usually a bit of a mess. Not only that, but the fig tree beside the pond has put on a spurt of growth, overshadowing half the area of water. Luckily, summer is not a bad time to prune figs.

Can you see any water? No, neither can I. By the way, I have no idea what variety that dark-leaved canna is. I bought it last year and it didn't flower (I bought it late in the season and it was too dark and rainy and cold). But the foliage itself is nice. That's a hardy banana in the pot on the lefthand corner of the pond.

Ah, there's some water and even some fish. The plastic things that look like place mats are the Netfloat anti-heron devices. They link together with plastic ties to form a floating barrier that the heron can't poke its beak through. The green pointy things are the water soldiers, which I need to thin out. The yellow stuff is Acorus gramineus 'Ogon'. Yup, yellow leaves and pointy things, even in the pond.

Echeveria cuttings which are overdue for potting up. I like using terracotta pots, but that means I need something fairly sturdy to put them in, otherwise it's a pain if you have to move them. After shopping around in a vain attempt to find something at a reasonable price, I bought these seed trays from Harrod Horticultural.
I can't believe how much seed trays cost. And when they arrived, they were really rough and raw-looking. So I sanded them down (with an electric sander, I hasten to add: I'm not stupid, you know!) and painted them with Cuprinol Garden Shades in Seagrass. It's not a colour I would normally go for, but I thought it complemented the terracotta - and it looks terrific with the echeveria. Two sample pots were enough to do all three trays. I felt very proud of myself when I'd finished.