Planting Around Ponds And Water Features (not just a watering hole)

Planting around ponds and water features can be one of the most exciting design adventures for landscape architects and designers. I can’t begin to tell you how much I want to design and build a running brook through my Daily Road property. The Daly Road house sits on 1.41 acres of land with a hill in the back that is at least 200 feet long and high (a snowboarders dream).

This article will take you all on a grand ride and I can’t wait to finish it but I must go and take my son to school. Be back later.

Ok, later has come and gone and here we are, an entire day later and I am lost in a world surrounded by apathy. I would like to talk about design themes surrounding water but I just can’t right now.


With water you get an entire universe of diversity. Insects, animals, plants and people. Lets begin with the most obvious. People gather around water for so many reasons. What are some of my reasons for enjoying water. Adjectives like cooling, motionless, ripples, reflective, mysterious and captivating. All these words bring life to water elements as you may have words of your own that express your experiences and feelings. All I know is water gives us the opportunity not just to see and touch but to listen to the world around us. The most basic of elements has the greatest amount of power over us, if we just give ourselves a chance to stop and sit.

Animals too have the ability to be entranced by the presence of water. The difference between animals and humans is their cautious nature that puts them constantly on guard. You may have seen a bird sitting on the edge of a small birdbath and before stepping in to cool and groom them-self, they look around, surveying their environment (just like a nudist illegally finding a private spot on a beach to disrobe). Once all is safe the bird begins the ritual of splashing around and taking the moment for all that it is. A true cleansing. Insects are very similar as they approach water to take a drink.

My wife just found me and has instructed me to get ready to go out with friends. Will finish later…

Back again and last night was very interesting. I can’t say lots of fun but as the night progressed I relaxed and let go of business so I could enjoy the wonderful people my wife and I were with. Back to the WATER!

Now that we have a common understanding of the benefits of water, hopefully an appreciation as well, we can approach the beginning stages of plants as features to enhance the water feature experience. The most obvious feature in the Northeastern United States would be the ornamental grasses. Depending on the size of your water element (pond, bird bath, waterfall, pool, spa, fountain), the grasses you will choose can really soften the environment as well as bring vertical, horizontal and a cascading feeling to your surroundings. I will name one grass type for each concept (vertical, horizontal and cascading).

Black Bamboo used as a visual stop
Black Bamboo in all it's glory

For cascading the new champion the last few years has been the Japanese Forrest Grasses Hakonechloa. The Horizontal has been Lilyturf Liriope, even though it has to be mass planted to truly understand it’s benefit. The last concept, vertical, must be the bamboos like Black Bamboo – Phyllostachys.

Japanese Forest Grass displayed under a Burning Bush
Japanese Forest Grass displayed under a Burning Bush
Liriope bordering a shady garden walkway. That's Peaceful.
Liriope bordering a shady garden walkway. That's Peaceful.

Oh no not again… My son and I have a date to go transplanting and planting of some new evergreens will be back later  with more detain and some planting and watering tips for the three groups of plants I just spoke about. See ya later. some people would argue with me that they really aren’t true grasses (well, those people are right but that is a topic for another day).

Once again you must be able to tell I have found my way back to this article and have included some pictures demonstrating some of my planting choices. It is so important that whoever reads my writing understand that planting things into the ground is almost a religious experience for me. The process of extending life and surrounding people and their homes with different levels of energy is what I live to accomplish. I now officially say goodnight to this article. The number of plant choices around water features is close to endless. The goal should be, determine what you have seen that has filled you up in the past and strive to accomplish that at your own home. I didn’t mention the large group of ornamental grasses. For me to begin with this group would have me exclusively writing about grasses and I didn’t want to do that. The same is true for the many different types of flowering perennials, trees and woody ornamentals.

I will return once again to write another article that will take you all through my ornamental tree choices around water features. That for me will be a great article to research and write about.  Until that time or until the next article inspiration I have, everyone go out, by a plant, and rearrange the living world around you.

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