Designing a Pond

Lessons Learned

I love almost everything about my little pond (about 10′ x 7′) but I certainly didn’t build it perfectly. There’s probably a reason people make their living creating ponds for people who can’t do it themselves…

Pond July 27 2016

Pond July 27 2016–with a leaning bird feeder in the foreground 


Latest lesson is about water movement. Guess what? The movement of 1000 G per hour at one end of the 10′ pond is not enough to prevent stagnation at the other end of the 10′ pond. My neighbour casually mentioned they’d noticed more mosquitos lately and “did I think they could be propagating in the pond?” I assured her that tho’ I’d seen some larvae a while back, I was pretty sure the agitation from the waterfall was enough to prevent still water–which is what mosquitos want for egg-laying. Wrong! I peered into the edges of the pond and waited to see movement. Not only did I see a few  2-3mm black “commas” (that I’d seen before), but the longer I looked the more I could see ZILLIONS (ok, maybe not quite that many) of much smaller moving bits. Next day I was out buying goldfish!

Here is an excellent short article on preventing a mosquito explosion in your pond.

When the first “scoop” of 18 fishies seemed to be effective (fewer larger larvae), I went and got another 15. So far the racoons have either not noticed the fish or figured they were too hard to get. There are LOTS of nooks and crannies and hiding places in the pond, including two caves that I built even tho’ I was sure I didn’t want fish. I’d had too much racoon activity over the years to encourage even more devastation. But really, choosing between a mosquito infestation and potential West Nile virus, and a few cute furry (big) rodents–no contest!

Stay tuned for more Lessons Learned.


Garden Tour–Oh Yay!

I’m doing this from my phone because my computer is at the Apple hospital. FOR A WEEK!

So yesterday was the garden tour I “accidentally” agreed to participate in. Turned out to be excellent incentive to do a lot of things I’d been procrastinating all season. And then some.

I created vegetable cages, transplanted shrubs and perennials from unsuccessful containers, spread more wood chips, thanks to my neighbour, got the pond water pretty clear, thanks to Empress of Dirt, and most happily, cleared out the tiny back patio that was so overshadowed with excessive vegetation you could hardly tell there was a patio there. Sorry for the Dickensian run-on sentence.

So now here are just a few more pics of flowers that were either still blooming or just started blooming.


No-name dahlia, one of my favourites ever. I never dig up the tubers but it returns reliably every year for at least 5 years now. Usually it doesn’t have a very beautiful growing habit but for some reason all my (3) dahlias are growing perfectly upright. Happy.


Another view


I usually keep plant tags, but alas, didn’t for this dahlia either


This is only about 3.5″ diameter, but almost 4′ tall


This one I do remember: ‘Caribbean Fantasy’. This dominant colours change with the ambient temperature. When it’s colder the dark colours dominate.

I’d love to add more pics, but writing this post on my phone is extremely taxing! 

I’ll post the rest of yesterday’s pics on my Instagram page– much easier than trying to navigate back and forth on this tiny device.

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day–the Ides of July

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day–the Ides of July

May Dreams Gardens hosts a monthly blogger’s party called–you may have guessed it–Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day

(Oh and btw my keyboard has had a little too much spilled tea so the period and comma aren’t working)

I don’t know if one has to be invited to join the party but if so i’ll probably find out when I tag this post

In the meantime here’s a picture-rich text-poor (because of no periods and no commas) tour of my garden today

Starting with the dragonfly (four-spot skimmer–Libellula quadrimaculata) who just loves this one spent flower stalk among the Iris:


Among my favourite flower combinations: Crocosmia 'Lucifer' with Leucanthrmum x superbum --Shasta Daisy and Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purople'--smoke Bush

Among my favourite flower combinations: Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ with Leucanthrmum x superbum –Shasta Daisy and Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’–Smoke Bush

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David Austin Rose ‘William Shakespeare 2000’

This is one of the most difficult colours to accurately capture–it’s a little more magenta–

Crocosmia x crocosmiflora

Crocosmia x crocosmiflora probably ‘Star of East’

This small crocosmia is a lovely fountain of orange and green

This amazing carpet of Sagina subulata has been blooming for well over a month

This amazing carpet of Sagina subulata has been blooming for well over a month and clearly isn’t finished yet

This Scotch moss–Sagina subulata–is about 1” high the flowers about 1mm


Pretty sure this is Echinacea ‘Cheyanne Spirit’

Two no-name hostas

Two no-name hostas

I seldom like the look of hosta flowers and occasionally cut them off–these are pretty however

On the other hand this ‘Elegans’ is less than optimal in every way: doesn’t keep its blue; leaves burn with the least sun despite a lot of moisture and truly ugly flower stalks

Hosta sieboldii 'Elegans'

Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’

But I love the idea of collecting the seeds so I’ll leave it

And now for this year’s selection of my own hybridized daylily keepers (as opposed to the dozens I’ve shovel-pruned):


No-Name daylilies–Hemerocallis–#1and 2

Hemerocallis #3

Hemerocallis #3

Hemerocallis #4--I love this one--the flower is only about 3'' across but the scape is tall enough to see above all the local foliage

Hemerocallis #4–I love this one–the flower is only about 3” across but the scape is tall enough to see above all the local foliage

Hemerocallis #5--another butter yellow and little larger and taller almost hidden in the raspberry bushes

Hemerocallis #5–another butter yellow and little larger and taller almost hidden in the raspberry bushes

Hemerocallis #6--slightly boring colour but I love the shape and it's been blooming for weeks!

Hemerocallis #6–slightly boring colour but I love the shape and it’s been blooming for weeks!

Hemerocallis #7 is my favourite especially when its neighbour the Jude the Obscure Rose is in bloom; which it currently isn't alas

Hemerocallis #7 is my favourite especially when its neighbour the Jude the Obscure Rose is in bloom; which it currently isn’t alas

Another view of #7; can't get enough of it :-)

Another view of #7; can’t get enough of it🙂

Enough of daylilies now on to the rest of the garden

Can't get enough snapdragons

Can’t get enough snapdragons

Rose 'Magenta'--pretty colour but terrible shrub; black spot magnet and weak branches I'll give it one more year to perform better

Rose ‘Magenta’–pretty colour but terrible shrub; black spot magnet and weak branches I’ll give it one more year to perform better

Hypericum 'Albury Purple'--one of my favourite garden plants

Hypericum ‘Albury Purple’–one of my favourite garden plants

Not blooms but oh so colourful Imperata cylindrica--Japanese Blood Grass

Not blooms but oh so colourful Imperata cylindrica–Japanese Blood Grass

Rose 'Rosemary Harkness' with Clematis jackmanii

Rose ‘Rosemary Harkness’ with Clematis jackmanii Neither doing well but since I’ve tried to kill Rosemary several times can’t complain

Hibiscus syriacus 'Red Heart'--Hardy Hibiscus aka Rose of Sharon

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Red Heart’–Hardy Hibiscus aka Rose of Sharon

Echinacea purpurea--coneflower

Echinacea purpurea–coneflower with bee; I notice the bees like this echinacea and the white one but haven’t seen any activity on Cheyanne Spirit even tho’ it allegedly sets seeds

Hydrangea arborecens 'Invincibelle Spirit'

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Invincibelle Spirit’

None or my hydrangeas do really well; Invicibelle Spirit has beautiful blooms but the canes are very floppy

A Hydrangea expert from Heritage Hydrangeas spoke at my garden club this week and described how he stakes his Annabelle Hydrangea (same species and series as ‘Invincibelle Spiri’t and ‘Incredibelle’)

I guess it’s not just my plant care at issue here


Floppy Hydrangea arborescens ‘Invicibelle Spirit’

I may move it into more sun in the fall

Couldn't resist one more hemerocallis--#8

Couldn’t resist one more hemerocallis–#8

And finally

Acanthus mollis

Acanthus spinosus– Spiny Bear’s Breeches–and spiny it is indeed!

Acanthus spinosus

Acanthus spinosus — See those booomerang shaped poiny bits? Seriously sharp!

So that’s the garden tour for mid-July–now the 16th because it took me that long to compose it

As I’ve said many times this isn’t a “designed” garden–just one that meets my needs of having as many fun interesting wildlife attracting plants as possible

Having said that I try to incorporate design principles as I go along and as I change things around

Next post will be on plant combinations

Stay tuned





Monkey Puzzle Trees

Last Fall I drove by this house several times on my way to a project, so had a chance to observe it fairly closely. The reason it caught my eye was because my project was also on quite a slope, and also had concrete retaining walls that I needed to beautify.thumb_IMG_1467_1024


What’s with that gate?

At the time I thought I was going to have 3 retaining walls with two level planting spaces, not too dissimilar from this. And there was going to be quite a variety in the plantings, so as I looked at this, I cringed at the thought that my project might turn out the same.

Because, alas, my project was also going to have palm trees (Trachycarpus fortunei).thumb_IMG_1469_1024

But the construction took some hairpin turns, and we ended up with two retaining walls, one deep, very sloped planting bed. Imagine the middle of the above walls removed, and the space between sloped–that’s pretty much was “my” site is like. And I’m happy to report that it doesn’t look anything like the above, altho’ I haven’t got pictures yet because we’re still making adjustments and planting things that weren’t available in September.

But back to the orange house. I’m not going to make comments on the all the design faux pas (I’ll save that for another post) because I want to show the same site 7 months later–yesterday:

thumb_IMG_4107_1024 3I don’t know how they got away with it, but on the boulevard–ie city property– in a space of about 45′ x 5′, they’ve planted 4 Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria araucana).

Thanks to the UBC Botanical Gardens forum for this picture of Araucania araucana in Vancouver

Thanks to the UBC Botanical Gardens forum for this picture of Araucania araucana in Vancouver. Click on image to be taken to the link.

At a mature size of 70′ tall and 30′ wide, and best featured as solitary specimens, this is an excellent example of “wrong plant, wrong place”.thumb_IMG_4104_1024

They must have been getting a great deal on trees, because they’ve also hidden the house and the palm trees behind a great hedge of Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald‘, fairly mature specimens that are planted a little to close together for health.


Click on any of the pics for larger image.

Anyway, bottom line is, don’t plant 4 Araucaria araucana at 10′ intervals.


Wilderness Rant

I don’t remember if I’ve ranted about this in these pages, but it’s about the “wilderness” across the street. Up until last summer, the warehouse that fills the block across the street was bordered by 25 feet x 813 feet of trees and shrubs. Much of it was cotoneaster and vine maple and blackberry, but there was also forsythia, 12 pin oaks, and lot of other “wildness”. The birds loved it over there, my neighbours and I enjoyed the free blackberries, and the forsythia always told me when to prune my roses.


This picture was taken the day I first saw the house that would soon be my own. Would have been Feb 2007.

All changed when the owners of the warehouse decided…something. First they ripped out all the shrubbery and undergrowth. No more blackberries, no more forsythia. And for some reason that defies explanation, they made the already steep bank even steeper.

I asked Backhoe Man why they were doing this, and all he knew was that they would replant. Hmm…

These little pin oaks are the only things that are left:


May 5, 2015. (The garden is 3-4 weeks later than this year.) The small bank is actually about 10′ high, and now as much as 45 degree slope in places.

Well, until early July, when I heard chain saws revving up and went out to find someone cutting them all down. Now I’ll agree with whoever might say, ‘they’re pretty spindly and sad’, but they’d survived the great drought up to that time with no added water and all the disturbance of three months prior. What’s more, they were the only green things left. I asked Chain Saw Man what the deal was, and he said the owner wanted to paint. Ah, of course, good reason to cut down 12 trees.

And so it stayed. The blackberries started to grow back, the little cedar that was plunked up on the top of the bank (at the beginning of the video) died, of course. And they painted. The painter even asked to use my outdoor electrical outlet! He wasn’t to blame for the trees, so I let him.

And a few days ago, the piece of resistance:


Hydroseeding! Those rock-ish looking things are actually the contents of old dead planters that for some reason got rolled down the hill and left.

I took a video of Grass Masters hydroseeding, but unfortunately managed to delete it. Never mind–you get the idea. They sprayed over everything: the ditch, the gravel path at the top, the ancient debris of discarded planters, the blackberry shoots, probably already dead since they apparently also sprayed weed killer three days before. Enough time to dissipate? or just enough time to kill all the seeds being sprayed?

We’ve had barely a sprinkling of rain in the 4 days since this, and today it looks like this:

Really not any worse. Couldn't get much worse.

Up the street. Really not any worse.

Down the street. Couldn't get much worse.

Down the street. Couldn’t get much worse.

Stay tuned, I’ll definitely keep you updated on this.