Make a pond: wildlife will come

For several years the ponds, or rather the holes in the ground, have given me sleepless nights. They were dug when we were sorting out electricity and water and although I knew they were in the right place, they had to be lined and then joined by streams and I was concerned about levels and how it would all work.

Because I would rather grow (and buy) plants than most other activities, and I like planning ahead, I bought the waterlilies before the ponds were completed (illogical I know) and that gave me the impetus to get the lower, small, pond lined two years ago – see there was method in my madness.

The lilies did OK even though they were crowded, and they needed repotting before eight of them were moved to the big pond this spring. But at least it gave me a head start with the final planting.

Anyway, the big pond and streams were completed a month or so ago. The small pond was quickly found by pond skaters which seem to spend the night in surrounding plants that overhang the pond and appear to dash out when I approach, which seems odd. Perhaps I look like food – I certainly do to horse flies.

I was not aware of much else happening under the water though I had seen diving beetles. There are no frogs – I do not know of any nearby ponds so it may be a bit far for them to hop and find my ponds. But the big surprise was a dragonfly nymph that had crawled onto a lily leaf about a month ago. It seemed to have hatched within a few days and I found a second ’empty case’ when I had to untangle the lilies. It must have been living and feeding in the small pond over the two years which is the average time for the larvae to mature.

I am aware that I do not have many marginals planted yet, though I addressed that, to some extent, a month ago, but there is some submerged oxygenator. I want the big pond to be rather formal and although there are sloping ends where I will (and have) planted some marginals, including natives, marsh marigold and Veronica beccabunga, the two smaller ponds are less formal and probably more desirable for wildlife. They already have some water iris, bogbean and miniature reedmace – more will follow.

But the wildlife doesn’t know that the ponds are not ready and within days there were pondskaters and lots of whirlygig beetles in the big pond, the latter especially fascinating as they whizz around in seemingly chaotic patterns which, I am sure, make complete sense to them.

Spot the exciting wildlife? – answer below

Swallows swoop down to drink from the ‘large’ expanse of water and lots of other bird species are drinking from the pond edges or splashing in the streams.

The swallows have brought up healthy families and although the youngsters are obviously able to look after themselves they sit in a row on the trellis and chatter loudly at their parents as they fly over or towards them. Although they fly around all day it is in the evening that they really show off, performing acrobatic airshows and dive-bombing the cat if she is out.

But the real excitement has been the arrival of two adult dragonflies. I think they are emperor dragonflies (Anax imperator) which is recorded from south Ireland, including Wexford. Males are supposed to be territorial, perhaps fending off other males from their favourite pond, but this one, which keeps buzzing round the pond has allowed a female to land on the veronica and lay eggs.

I know small things please little minds but I am hugely delighted to have such noble insects giving my pond their seal of approval.

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9 Comments on “Make a pond: wildlife will come”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    July 15, 2022 at 8:11 am #

    Nature brings another and very interesting aspect to the garden.

  2. Dee
    July 15, 2022 at 10:18 am #

    Water bodies are wonderful in any garden big or small. You most definitely, from your photos, have a palatial mansion and grounds down there in Co Wexford.

    • thebikinggardener
      July 15, 2022 at 10:28 am #

      I would hardly describe it as a mansion or palatial but thank you. Even a small pond is fascinating to make and watch attract life

  3. Sustain |
    July 15, 2022 at 11:12 am #

    Yes. That is true. Thank you 🌍😊

  4. tonytomeo
    July 15, 2022 at 3:05 pm #

    It is amazing how fast nature (or something like it) occupies ponds. The irrigation pond on the farm became a bit too infested with aquatic vegetation, but eventually established an equilibrium. It did not take long. Of course, we added exotic (nonnative) fish to inhibit mosquito proliferation. Weirdly though, mosquitoes were not much of a problem prior to that, since frogs ate them. It is not a rather picturesque pond, although no one is there to see it. However, a smaller drainage pond at work did the same, adjacent to landscaped areas where guests appreciate it. We added exotic water lilies and will likely add more cannas around the backside. Although mosquitoes have not become a problem, and frogs already live there, I recently added koi. (Apparently, koi do not necessarily eat all mosquitoes, but I can add other small fish if necessary.)

    • thebikinggardener
      July 15, 2022 at 3:21 pm #

      A few fish appeared in the first pond. I had used a small pond at work as a nursery for the waterlilies and I had put goldfish in that. The herons ate them all but a few eggs or tiny fry managed to hitch a lift into the new pond with the lilies. Then a heron here ate all the fish – or so I thought – but there are 4 left. I am very tempted to add fish to the big pond but it is an expensive way to feed herons, plus I am aware that they may eat ‘good’ larvae as well as mosquito larvae. I have one of the Longwood water cannas ‘Ra’ but will not be able to plant it out like you – I may chance it when it has increased enough to divide.

      • tonytomeo
        July 17, 2022 at 5:51 am #

        ‘Ra’ is one of the few Canna glauca cultivars. I mean that it is a cultivar of a straight species, rather than a hybrid. If there were not already so many Canna here, I would be more interested in some of the species and the cultivars of species. I really find Canna flaccida to be appealing, since it is just a straight species, and commonly grown just as it is found in the wild in Florida.

  5. Meriel in Wicklow
    July 21, 2022 at 11:30 pm #

    Rather late reading and therefore commenting! Your new pond looks super and others great too. Photos of reflected swallows marvellous and Dragonfly. I have red Damselflies every year even in my tiny pond. I removed so much oxygenator that I was afraid I might have also removed the nymphs or eggs but thankfully not as one spotted yesterday on the wing. Oxygenator still in a bucket waiting for you! It’s threatening to climb out! Dozens of frogs too, both in pond and around the garden.

    • thebikinggardener
      August 3, 2022 at 11:09 am #

      My apologies for my late reply. I have seen damselflles now too. Thank you for being patient. I will get up to you eventually.

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