Picking the right site is probably more important for the pond than for any other feature in the garden – after all you are hardly going to move it next year if it does badly. Some of the older books are extraordinarily uncompromising on this question – laying out very precise instructions on selecting the “ideal” site – but modern gardens do not always allow the pond-builder this sort of luxury, particularly if space is tight. Never-the-less, with a little care it should still be possible to pick the best spot, even if the choice of site is distinctly limited and, more to the point, avoid the major pitfalls.
Finding the Best Site
Ideally, the pond should be in an open, level site, well-drained, south-facing, away from trees and not exposed to strong prevailing winds. The best guide when it comes to choosing the exact spot is to opt for somewhere which will allow you to see it the most; check the view from the patio, conservatory and most-used parts of the house and plan accordingly. A good bit of effort goes into building a pond so it is only sensible to pick a site which lets you enjoy the fruits of your labours. Being able to see the pond easily from the house also has an added safety advantage if there are children – or pets – to consider.
Accessibility to water and electricity is also something which should feature in the siting decision from the outset. The new pond will need to be filled and it will need regular topping up during the summer – calling for somewhere within reasonable hose-reach of a tap – and if pumps, filters, clarifiers or fountains are in the final plan, then running power cables becomes a consideration too.
Unless you are planning to install a raised pond, the location of any underground obstacles obviously needs to be taken into consideration too, such as sewers or septic tanks, water mains, drains and cables. For most modern houses, this should not pose too much of a problem as these are usually marked on the plans, but for older properties, a little more care is prudent to ensure that the site you have chosen is not going to provide you with any dramatic surprises later.
However, few of us have gardens which meet all of the ideal requirements perfectly, so even if yours is on a tree-lined slope and faces north, all is not lost. Starting with a level site is of course, easier, but many a beautiful water feature has been successfully built on sloping ground, with the added opportunity of being able to incorporate the natural landscape into the design of ornamental waterfalls, cascades and streams. If building on uneven ground is unavoidable, the trick is to make sure that sufficient attention is given to getting the finished sides properly level.
It is often said that a pond should be sited in full sun. While most plants need at least some direct sunlight to flower, only water lilies demand lots of light to be at their best and even they will manage with much less than day round sunshine – though their flowering season will be somewhat curtailed. However, if the pond is to be a small or shallow one, it is worth considering the effect on water temperature that a position in full sun can have – which may not be to every pond inhabitants likening. In addition, unless the pond is to be well-planted – perhaps covering a third or even a half of the surface – abundant sunlight may well drive unsightly algal blooms – so pond-builders forced to build in partial shade need not necessarily feel themselves too hard done by!
Settling on the site for a new pond is a major decision, not least because it will shape the ponds development – and your enjoyment of it – for years to come and since things are far more difficult to remedy later, it is worth spending the time to get the position right. For those with smaller sized plots, there may not be much choice as to where to build, but even a less than ideal site can be turned into something worthwhile with a little imagination.