My girlfriend and I went to a bed and breakfast this weekend, and one of the highlights was when we took a short walk to a nearby lake. It’s a bit hard to convey the beauty of the scene in words alone, but I’ll give it the old college try.
A small lake stretched out in front of us, and it was covered in hundreds of vibrant, green lily pads. Multicolored dragonflies flitted across the surface of the water, and somewhere nearby unseen frogs were singing their wordless songs. An enormous rock ledge was across the lake from us. It was mostly obscured by the trees, but a sun-bleached white rock face peaked out from the top of the tree canopy. The rock wall created a feeling of seclusion, as if we were in our own private stadium that had been scooped out from the natural world. It was as lovely as it was peaceful, and I regret that I can’t return to that type of beauty now that I’m back at my home in the city.
Once I finally make the transition from a city apartment to a country home, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll add a pond in my backyard. I may not be able to bring my home to a lake, but what I can do is bring a lake to my home. I want to create my own private little aquatic sanctuary where I can lay back, unwind from the stress of the day, and let the serenity of a lush and verdant natural aquascape invigorate me.
Those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have a lake or the ocean in their backyard may also want to consider a pond or water garden. But here’s the question: what kind of backyard aquascape is right for you?
Popularized by the Japanese, these ponds support koi (obviously) and usually have a zen or wabi-sabi aesthetic. Generally, these ponds have a well-maintained array of plant life that has been artfully arranged to balance between artificial symmetry and natural freedom. Japanese-themed ponds are probably one of the rarest (well, unless you’re in Japan) because they appeal to a very select audience. You either need to love to garden or have a few gardeners on staff, because these ponds generally need constant maintenance to maintain that clean, harmonious aesthetic.
Wildlife ponds are for people with a bit more of a wild streak. The ponds are less interested in looking manicured, and more interested in being free and untamed. They typically feature wild overgrowth, incredible biodiversity among plant life, and a range of critters including frogs, fish, turtles, and dragonflies. Basically, imagine that the aquascapers picked up a pond with a few helicopters and plopped it in a hole in your back yard.
One of the benefits of a wildlife pond is that you don’t have to obsessively trim the plant life every day. Overgrowth doesn’t really matter because that’s part of the aesthetic. These types of ponds might require a bit of love and care every now and then, but for the most part they can be completely self-sufficient.
Haven’t you heard? Chlorine is out and algae is in. Sterile, concrete swimming pools may have been all the rave for the past several decades, but natural swimming spaces are starting to become popular in a very big way. You swim in the ocean, you wade through creeks, and you go white water rafting — how is swimming in a pond any different?
To be honest, I love these types of pools. Everything nowadays is so artificial with digital information and real fruit flavoring that it’s hard to get anything that’s actually authentic. I want to be able to reconnect with nature and swim with the fishes (but not in the “you angered the mafia” type of way).
Artificial ponds don’t even try to look like they’re natural. These ponds utilize metal, concrete, rocks, or other modern fixtures to create a perfectly controlled aquascape. These tend to appeal to people who love a more modern look, where everything is angular, clean, and monochromatic. More than any other type of pool, these tend to fall into the realm of aquatic art. They’re great if you want to decorate your home with beautiful dynamic art, but if you love plants and wildlife then you’re better off picking one of the other types of ponds.