What is a Water Garden?

C. Ausbrooks

A water garden is a man-made water feature, typically a pool or pond, which is designed to complement the natural environment. Water gardens typically incorporate aquatic plants, ornamental fish, statuary, water falls, and other decorations. They can be found in residential backyards, courtyards, and parks, to compliment the landscaping, and as an enhancement in existing gardens.

A water feature in a water garden.
A water feature in a water garden.

There are several different types of water gardens, including container gardens, raised and sunken ponds, and bog gardens. A container water garden is typically small and easy to care for, and can be placed on a patio or balcony with ease. Raised and sunken ponds are built directly into the ground, and require more maintenance than other types. Bog gardens are the most natural of the three, and are designed to attract wildlife. They are generally dug into the ground, lined with plastic, and filled with native plants and fish.

A water garden.
A water garden.

Plants are an important part of any water garden. They add life to the feature, and create a natural ecosystem, which promotes the health of the fish. A well stocked water garden will include several different types of plants and fish. The plants may be submerged, marginal, or floating varieties. It is recommended that a combination of these plant types be used to keep the water garden in optimal health.

Submerged plants are planted below the surface of the water. They are sometimes called oxygenators because of their ability to create oxygen, which provides nutrients to the fish, and combats algae formation. Submerged plants also provide cover for fish living in the garden, and may even be a food source. Some examples of submerged plants are pondweed and fanwort.

Marginal plants, also known as emergent plants, are planted around the edges of a water garden. The roots are planted beneath the water, with foliage appearing above the surface. Many bog plants, such as waterlilies and lotus, are also considered to be marginal plants, and produce large, attractive flowers.

Floating plants are used to add visual interest to a water garden. They are not rooted, like submerged and marginal plants, but instead float above or just below the water’s surface. Water hyacinth and water lettuce are floating plants commonly used in water gardens for their beauty and ease of maintenance.

There are also many different types of fish that can thrive in a home water garden. The most popular and well known types are koi and goldfish. Other water garden fish include minnows, catfish, eel, carp, and bluegill. Snails, crabs, and various frogs and amphibians may also make their home in the water garden. Bog ponds, particularly, attract wild frogs, snakes, and turtles.

Goldfish are popular additions to water gardens.
Goldfish are popular additions to water gardens.

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