Sunday, April 19, 2015

Further With the Pond Saga

As some of you know, I have been fussing around with a small pond for some years. Basically, I dug the darn thing in a fit of enthusiasm, and then couldn't get it 'right'. I tried a few things: put in a pump (couldn't solve the extension cord problem), turned it into a bog (the reeds and bulrushes moved in and took over), built it up so it would be deeper (the squirrels kept poking holes in the liner) and finally just ignored it. It looked pretty bad.
Some of the edging rocks slid into the water and the 4-legged varmints made another hole. Why do they do this? You'd think as soon as they poked a hole the water would rush in and flood them, but they keep doing it. (I didn't know who was doing it until I saw one made. I was looking at the pond one day and noticed the liner move. Then I saw a dark spot appear, quickly followed by an inquisitive brown nose and a striped head. Chipmunk. He looked up at me and gulped but the damage was done. I've gotten pretty good at gluing patches on.)

What bothered me the most about the pond, and which I knew no amount of cosmetic effort would cure, was that it stuck up like a sore thumb. It just looked wrong.

I was close to deciding to just fill it in again but for one thing there was a Showy Ladyslipper doing well just at the back of it and I wasn't ready to give up on the dream of a lovely Ladyslipper leaning over the water and for another, do you know how many wheelbarrow loads of soil or sand it would take? The thing is 15' across and about 3' deep.

Then I saw, in an old magazine, a paragraph about using a capillary mat to water a plant near a pond. Eureka, as they say. In a chain of half-formulated and probably illogical thoughts, it gave me the incentive to finally DO SOMETHING.

So yesterday I had a great time reducing the height of the margin, re-laying the stones, packing new soil in around their dry sides, and making a spot for the capillary mat to go to keep the Ladyslipper moist. I wasn't able to retrieve some of the rocks which had slid into the water because most of it was still a solid block of ice but it was great fun walking on the ice and making it move around. It was an ice raft! When I was a kid my brother and I made many rafts. Some of them even kept us out of the water. The log you see sticking up was still frozen into the ice, too. It's not accidental, by the way. It is there to allow bees that fall in to climb out. Also the frogs love it and some days there are a whole row of them sitting there, some facing one way and some the other like spectators at two different sporting events.
It looks much better! Of course none of the plants around it are up yet, but just turn your imagination on: There are Wild Irises (Iris versicolor, both blue and red varieties), Yellow Iris (I. pseudocorous), the Showy Ladyslipper (Cypripedium reginae), some Solomon's Seal, both the giant one rescued from the roadside near an abandoned log building and the native Polygonatum pubescens and, of course, Ferns. You can see the main path on the left and because the sun shines in from that side, all the plants tend to face you as you look at the pond.

You may wonder how well a pond without a pump works. In a way, it doesn't. The water gets murky and in the spring, before I get the leaves out, it gets a mite smelly. But then it clears, thousands of tadpoles appear, dragonflies and frogs swoop and dive and it looks just fine. I sometimes, but not often, have to top it up with the hose. Oh yes, and repair holes...

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