True blue, rare in flowers, is easily obtainable in bog sage

Jimmy Williams

It has been some years since we’ve talked here of ornamental pools as garden enhancement. While the subject is not of the first water of interest, there is enough of it to warrant an occasional mention. 

I went through a lot of bad experiences trying to establish our two small water features. First came the trial with a flexible rubber liner. After the first big rain, water ran in under the liner, forcing it to float. I dutifully tried again, reshaping the liner and adding more stones to the edge. Same thing, more floating. 

Next was the drudgery of digging it out deeper and hiring a man who knew what he was doing to install a liner of industrial grade concrete about 5 inches thick. Problem solved. When another pool was installed later, I went straight to the concrete and I have never had any more problem. 

I did learn a few other things, too. Most references say that everyone wishes they had built their pool larger. Not me. Mine are small, on the order of 4 by 6 feet, and maintenance is less in a year than a flower bed of equal size. Each pool has a submergible electric pump that gives good service, one with water falling from a statue and the other powering a small waterfall in a more naturalistic pool. If you plan to have fish in a pool, make it at least 2 feet deep. That way, your pump can be left running until the temperature drops below zero. The moving water will not freeze and, even with the surface covered with ice, fish will make it just fine. 

Water plants enhance any pool. We have a water lily in each pool. One pool also has variegated water iris that blooms in summer with purple flowers. We have, also, arrowhead, a native plant, and an unnamed little yellow blooming plant with single flowers 2 inches across filched from a wild swamp. Cannas also make fine water plants, but will need wintering over in a garage or basement. All the other plants mentioned winter over in situ in pots in the water. There are a number of other plants that are generally found on ground that will survive potted and submerged in water. 

It is best to site a pool in full sun for the most flowering from plants. Even light shade will diminish flowering from most plants. 

Goldfish are generally easy if protected from raccoons and cats. They do not need to be fed, for they will subsist easily on native insects and pond litter. Overfeeding is a big problem sometimes, and excess commercial fish food clouds the water. 

Koi, Japanese carp, are often seen in large ponds and grow to two feet long or more. In a small pool, they won’t get that big, but they tend to roil up the water. Common goldfish can be had that are almost as decorative as koi. 

Moving water, even in small amounts, seems to generate excitement. Just be sure your ornamental pool fits its surroundings and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Fit it in with its neighboring garden. 


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Mondays at 642-1162.

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