placing rocks around pond

valray(Z4)October 6, 2006

I have dug out a pond from what was swampy area at my place. The water rises and falls witht he ground water levels. This photo was taken in the spring when water was high.

The pond currently has about 8" water in it, but it will rise again over the next few months. Plant choices are obviously interesting but right now I am trying to figure out where to put the rocks that got dropped in the path.

I asked the question about how to physically place the stones in the Gardening with Stone forum, but here I am asking: where should I put them? What design principles should I be following?

Some of the best advice I got once was that rocks should look like they are rising from the soil, rather than plunked down on top of it. So that's important to remember. And also, that the lines of the rocks should all run the same way.

In practical terms, I was kind of hoping to use the rocks as a way of getting down to the water at its various levels.

When the water is low, I'd like it to look like a dry stream bed.

This may not be enough info, but any general advice about my choices here would be appreciated.

- V.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If you want to walk on them they will have to have flat surfaces facing up.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 1:53PM
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I think that you are started on the right path. You should give real thought to how YOU want it to look and what YOU want it to do. Then you make it happen. You can go from totally natural looking by building an outcrop near or in the pond that simulates what you see in the area to a totaly unnatural "patio" that surrounds the lake for sitting and relaxing. It's up to you and what you will like.

You have said that you would like it to look like a dry stream bed when the water is low. This is preferable to a mud hole so it has merit. Using stones as access or steps often can combine the natural feeling and function. Just try to visualize it at various times during the year and what you would like to do in the area. If it works for you, I think that others will understand and compliment you on your efforts. Don't be afraid to sketch it and share your ideas.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 5:21PM
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Thanks for your posts.

I definitely want a natural look - like the rocks were exposed by the moving water. Sketching various positions is a great idea but I can't draw well enough to represent what it would look like.

The problem is that I am used to "playing around" with my garden elements until I get it right. These rocks are just too big to play around with! I am going to have either a bunch of guys or a backhoe operator saying, "okay, where to?" I am finding that part intimidating.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 5:35PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Seems to me you're looking for two different outcomes here. One is the dry stream bed look, in which case you're putting the rocks more or less in the lowest point... or are you getting more rock for that? The other objective you're talking about is using the rocks to get to the water. Stands to reason they can't really do that if they're IN the water. At least, that's how it seems to me but the photo is so small it is hard to see.

So I would echo and emphasize what Steve says above: clarify your objective. Perhaps you need to think about where the water is when you are most likely to spend time out there, and design for that period.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 7:37PM
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This is the kind of project that can become all you've dreamed of, like the things you see in garden mags. It can also be a an area of little appeal, with high maintenance, and a mosquito factory. I could be wrong but I think you are a long way from being ready to call in the backhoe to set those stones.

The first thing I would consider is the safety issues. Water attracts children and the maximum depth should be designed to minimize this risk.

With west nile fever now a possible health risk, I would identify what type of mosquito control will be used before final project design. Chemical control can be effective but it might also play havoc with a natural aquatic area. If you go with natural control you need to make sure you are creating an environment that with support the mosquito predators common to your climate area. It could well be that you need a certain minimum water depth to achieve this.

You can build, re-build, re-build, then modify a few times and get what you want. People who get it right the first time usually start with a detailed plan.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 8:44AM
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Exactly: Design principles don't exist in a vacuum. "mosquito factory" makes me itch just thinking about it.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 6:00PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

The area certainly has great potential as a "watergarden"
Are you going for a specific look ,function or just trying to deal with the natural landscape??
I'm trying to picture it frozen and covered with snow??
Would suppose you'd only have to deal with mosquitoes for 4 months tops??
Sorry i'm not much help.I'm a tropical water garden freak. There are many solutions to the mosquito problem .
The mosquito is our state bird lol. But not sure what would work in your climate.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2006 at 8:02AM
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A few suggestions on playing with placement in general. Try using a lighter weight substitute, like appropriately colored plastic bags filled with stuffed newspaper and light weights, just to work on overall placement. Or take several photos and get clear overlays to draw on to test out several rock placements or even photograph the rocks and the area and try cut and paste.

Another resource would be the library and bookstores. See what you can find on streambed design. I know Fine Gardening has had at least one article on dry streambeds if you can find a source of back copies of that, maybe even buying it from Tauton Press directly if they still have back issues available.

As for the mosquito issue: mosquito dunks or granules contain a form of Bt, a bacteria, that infects mosquito larvae (which are aquatic) and keep them from hatching into biting adults. We have several wetlands on our property from long ago borrow pits, and the dunks work well to reduce the mosquito population. Another solution, since this is a self-contained pond, is to purchase cheap feeder goldfish from the pet store, and put them in the pond. Come winter they can either be caught and brought into an aquarium until it warms again, or they can be replaced next year if they don't survive the winter if the pond freezes to the bottom.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 10:31AM
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loniesmom(z5 (6?) NE OH)

Personal experience here: even if you do have a clear idea of what you want, and a drawing, if someone else is doing the rock placement you may not get away with only one single placement session. Make sure that whoever you tap to move the rocks understands what you want esthetically, year-round, from the area. That means you need to think through the minutia of each season in this specific area - use, your maintenance tolerance, investment tolerance, etc. It will be tricky to maintain water in this situation year-round because the volume of water will change so dramatically that you'll have a hard time determining the size and power of the pump you need to turn the water over at least once an hour to keep it from going stagnant; you'd have to accomodate the highest water level but unless you've got an adjustable flow pump (and you're meticulous enough to be out there adjusting it every few days) you'll be pushing the water too hard for most starter fish when the level is extremely low. My pond has water and fish year round and rocks stairstepping around the edge, down the sides and along the bottom because I, too, wanted the look to be as natural as possible. It's nearly impossible to prevent the collection of fallen leaves, muck and fish waste under and around the rocks at the bottom, which is just nasty as well as unhealthy, tho they do make organic products (not cheap) that I add at least twice a year which dissolve the yuck. In hindsight, especially in Zone 4, I would recommend going with the non-fish, non-pump method and use mosquito dunks religiously when you've got standing water. You can also utilize filtering plants whether or not you have fish. Keep in mind that all rock placement (not just 'dry stream beds') in nature are imperfect. The only person this project needs to please is you. It's not rocket science or brain surgery. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 7:11PM
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