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Aquatic plants are incorporated into ponds and water gardens for several reasons. Not only do they add beauty to the surrounding landscape design and create a more natural-looking water feature, but they also play an important role in the ecological balance of a pond. Aquatic plants act as a pond’s filtration system, removing various substances such as ammonia, nitrates, and minerals that algae feed on. They also provide protection, shade, oxygen, and food to fish that live in the pond.
Oxygenating Pond Plants
Oxygenating pond plants benefit both the water quality and aquatic life. These types of pond plants are placed in the water and use waste provided by fish as fertilizer; in exchange they provide much needed oxygen to the water. However, the plants alone may not be able to provide all that’s necessary for sustaining aquatic life. You may also need to incorporate an aeration device such as a waterfall, bubbler, or fountain to maintain an optimal level of oxygen in the pond.
Oxygenating pond plants also help reduce the growth of algae by competing for nutrients found in the water. Optimally, oxygenating plants should be added to ponds early in the spring before other water plants have a chance to start growing.
Curly Pondweed is an oxygenating plant that has wavy edges which are usually reddish brown or green. These provide good cover for fish to fertilize their eggs. Willow Moss grows slowly but thrives in both shade and sun. Hornwort is great for controlling algae. This type of oxygenating plant sinks to the bottom of the water during winter months, and then grows new stems each spring. They do not have roots so they are very easy to keep under control.
Floating Pond Plants
Floating plants live on the surface of the pond water and usually cover a large portion of the pond. Their roots hang down into the water. Many of these types of aquatic plants are tropical, but there are some perennials that are able to handle harsh winters. Floating pond plants help inhibit the growth of algae and provide shade.
There are several types of preferred water lilies which float on the water’s surface. The lily blooms are seen above the water. A nice mix of water lilies can add a beautiful touch to the pond. Other popular floating plants include Water Lettuce, Water Hyacinth, and Duckweed.
Water Lettuce basically looks like a floating head of lettuce and may grow as a single plant or in a group. The leaves are very thick and light green in color. Its flowers are small and berry-like. Water Hyacinth is free-floating with dark green blade-like leaves. They have thick, fibrous root systems and produce a pleasant light blue or violet flower. Duckweed is a small pond plant with no stem and very small leaves. It produces a dainty little flower that can add a soft touch to the aquatic area of a landscape design.
Deep Water Pond Plants
This type of plant can be very beneficial to a backyard pond or water garden. Deep water plants help to maintain a well-balanced ecosystem, reduce evaporation, and keep the water at a constant temperature. They also produce oxygen and help keep algae growth to a minimum.
Brazilian Waterweed is a popular deep water plant. It has small leaves that grow along cylindrical stems and is very good at providing oxygen in the water. The Japanese Pond Lily is another deep water plant and has dainty yellow flowers that protrude just above the surface of the water during the summer months. This plant has leaves that grow in two very distinct shapes: one leaf is narrow and oval shaped; the others are heart shaped and wavy.
Marginal Pond Plants/ Bog Plants
Marginal plants, or bog plants, thrive along the edges, or margins, of a pond or body of water where the water is shallow and the soil is moist. They are grown in containers that are placed inside the pond on shallow shelves, with most of the plant visible above the surface. Like other aquatic plants, bog plants provide filtration and enhance the natural look of a pond or waterfall.
There are many types of marginal pond plants. The Aquatic Iris comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes. These beautiful, blossoming flowers bloom in spring and early summer. The colorful blossoms are located at the end of tall stocks, which help hold the flower up high.
Another favorite is the Cattail. Cattails help provide interesting texture and remain green in winter months. Pickerel Weed is a hardy bog plant that has large heart-shaped leaves and long stems with clusters of violet-blue flowers at the top. Its leaves provide good cover for fish.
Water plants will add beauty to your waterscape, as well as complement your overall landscape design. A landscape specialist can help you choose which pond plants will be able to survive in your climate. Many water plants can provide greenery to your pond or water garden all year long.
About the Author: This guest post was written by Doug Byl.
Doug Byl is the president of Stout Creek Landscapes, a company that specializes in landscape design in Grand Rapids MI. Doug has many years of experience in doing landscape design and believes that proper backyard landscape design can bring many years of joy to the entire family.
Modern landscape design combines colors, lighting, textures and abstract patterns to create an outdoor living space that will exemplify nature’s beauty while complementing contemporary architectural designs. Today’s modern landscaping style is clean, bold and dramatic; a minimalist design.
Modern Landscape Design - Plant Selection
When selecting plants for modern landscape design consider plants that will add texture to the surroundings. Fountain grass is one such plant. Its sprouting leaves resemble cascading water from a fountain and add softness to the landscape. Plants with very fine features, such as Creeping Boobialla, Butterfly Iris or Fine Gold Leaf Stonecrop, are important parts of the landscape. Placed either as a single element or into odd numbered groups, they can add light and dark contrast. When fine textured plants are placed where the rising or setting sun can accent them, it can create a very unique effect. This same effect can be achieved by the use of outdoor lighting as well.
Modern Landscape Design – Plant Arrangement
It is very important in modern landscape design to avoid arranging plants on a grid or in straight lines. They may look great at the start of the season, but as plants age, die out or become damaged by weather it is very difficult to replace them with single plants that are perfectly matched in size. This can cause a major disruption to the aesthetic element of the landscape design. It is more favorable to use a natural approach when arranging plants, spacing them randomly.
Modern Landscape Design - Ground Cover Plants
Using plants that are curved or have an irregular shape will add character to any landscaped area. To avoid empty or “dead” areas, place foliage or ground-hugging plants around trees. Make sure that the plants will remain low to the ground so that they will accentuate the area and not overwhelm the other greenery. When groundcover is used properly, it can be a dynamic feature in any modern landscape design. Creeping Fig or Alpine succulents can add a wide variety of color as well as texture to the ground area.
Modern Landscape Design - Container Plants
Many areas in your backyard may be covered by cement or pavement so there is less soil to work with. This type of landscape offers a great opportunity to explore with container plants. Generally, containers are over-sized and add an architectural element to the landscape design. As a general rule, containers are chosen because of their unique geometric shape. Bowls, boxes, or cylinders can always be fitted perfectly with complimentary greenery. Usually, the pot’s shape will be in stark contrast with the shape of the plant. For instance, instead of placing the cylindrical Italian Cypress in a cylinder, it will be aesthetically pleasing when placed in a box. When selecting various pots to place greenery and plants in, choose those with the most artistic expression. The glaze, color, or patterns can all add something to the artistic design of a modern landscape.
About the author: Mark Simpson is a landscape design contractor and the owner of East Coast Landscape Design, in Bathesda, Md. Mark has many years of experience in landscape design and enjoys bringing backyards to life.
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