Making mini ponds

Posted: Friday 10 February 2012
by Kate Bradbury

I've just returned from a holiday in Thailand, where it was hot and sunny, and quite unlike home in almost every way. Except for one...

Container pond in Thailand

I’ve just returned from a holiday in Thailand, where it was hot and sunny, and quite unlike home in almost every way. Except for one: like Britain, Thailand appears to be a nation of gardeners.

Rather than row upon row of well-tended gardens, however, most 'plots' I found were in containers. Those growing their own looked after chillies and French beans, while epiphytes were planted on trees or hung from trellises. But it was the number of ponds I came across, that set Thai gardeners apart from British ones.

From the jungles to the beaches and the cities to the suburbs, I found mini container ponds planted with water lilies and other exotic pond plants. Each mini pond was contained in a plant pot – some were housed in more extravagant looking vessels.

Just like container displays at home, some of these 'potted ponds' were nicer than others, but everybody had them – regardless of whether they had a garden or not. I saw them on street corners outside shops, on the beachfront, in the road. It seems that across the whole country, there's a watery network of potted ponds. They're all planted, I'm sure, as attractive garden features, but they have another, more beneficial purpose.

Many of these ponds contained tadpoles (some contained fish, which I presume were used to keep mosquito numbers down). At night I would sleep to the sound of waves crashing against the shore, and the croaking of hundreds of frogs. Would there be so many if it wasn’t for the potted ponds?

It got me thinking about amphibian breeding habitats in our own country. Here, ponds in the wild have declined massively over the last century, leaving frogs, toads and newts – not to mention the dragonflies and damselflies, moths and caddis flies that also breed in our ponds – with fewer essential breeding habitats. While many of these creatures have specific requirements more suited to a natural, wildlife pond, some, including frogs, will happily breed in plant pots filled with water.

To prove this point, I’m going to recreate a piece of Thailand in my garden. I’ve already got a small tin-bath pond, which is well used by frogs and some moth caterpillars. But there’s no harm in creating an extra habitat for them.

I've set a pot aside, which I will line with an old compost bag. I won’t plant it up as densely as my container pond, but I will make it as useful to wildlife as possible. This means the pot will contain an emergent plant to help dragonflies emerge from the water, a floating plant to protect tadpoles from predators, and a submerged plant to oxygenate the water and provide further protection to water creatures. I won't be using exotic plants, but native, British ones, with which our wildlife has co-evolved, over millennia.

The pot is too small to house a water lily, so for the centrepiece I've chosen fringe lily, Nymphoides peltata (though I'll still need to divide it regularly). Hornwort will sit below the surface, and branched bur-reed, Sparganium erectum, will provide height and something for dragonflies to climb. I’ll pop it in a sunny corner of the communal garden where I live, where it will remind me of my holiday, but also, perhaps, provide a breeding habitat for a variety of water creatures.

I photographed (far too many) of these potted ponds while I was away. You can see some of them in a photo gallery I've posted on the forum.

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oldchippy 10/02/2012 at 15:11

Hello Kate,A garden is only as good as the person making it,If space isn't available you the next best thing is a container that can be moved around the garden,Some thing you can't do with a border,Thailand a what's wrong with snowy England Best Wishes Oldchippy.

oldchippy 12/02/2012 at 12:30

Hello Kate I know this is nothing to do with pond life, sitting here in Ewell looking down the garden I have seen more Fieldfare this year then any other year,They have been eating the berries off the Pyracantha bush's they are all queuing up in the Cotoneaster's at the bottom of the garden but not eating the berries, they may not be as ripe yet.There was a Black cap taking the berries from the end of the branches the Fieldfare could not reach.

Kate Bradbury 15/02/2012 at 14:27

How lovely, oldchippy. I'm sure the sudden cold blast had birds returning to gardens in droves, to fill up on berries and supplementary food. I've not seen many birds in my garden this year - certainly not fieldfares - there must be enough for them in the local parks and wildlife reserves.


DIGWEED 15/02/2012 at 19:38

the pot pond is a lovely idea and im going to give it a go , but how will the frogs be able to climb into my pot i would love some little tadpoles

Kate Bradbury 17/02/2012 at 09:58

Frogs can climb really well DIGWEED, mine often use the trellis to climb into my tin bath pond, even though there are two much easier routes into the pond!


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