Picture-Perfect Pond

By Nancy Moffett

Oh, the joys of summer! Lounging on the patio with a cool drink…soaking up the sunshine in a warm summer breeze…listening to the sound of running water and the chirping of birds. What’s wrong with this picture? No sounds of running water?

Perhaps you’ve thought of adding a water feature to your backyard, such as a pond with plants and fish, but are concerned about cost and upkeep. We talked to several Lehigh Valley experts to get the scoop on what it takes to install and maintain a picture-perfect pond.

Define It

Bruce Fritzinger, partner and Manager of Landscape Architecture at Plantique®, says, “Everybody loves the sound of water.” (With 40 years in the business, he’s only met one person who didn’t.) “Before beginning, you have to go through a process of questioning: What areas do you have? How much time do you have to care for a pond, even if it’s low maintenance?”

The most common use for a pond is to create sight interest, so it is usually placed close to the most highly used areas, such as a patio. Another purpose is to produce white noise to counter sounds coming from traffic or other disturbances. “A larger pond with a longer drop,” Fritzinger explains, “helps control more noise.”

Jay Kaniper, owner of Prolific Landscape, says the most important element in pond placement is size. “You need to be able to hear and see it and feel like you’re on top of it…almost sitting on the water’s edge.” He notes that a bigger pond requires more maintenance, but not much more.

“When we work with customers, we give them a rundown of options, from simple to complex, Fritzinger says. “Then we hone in on size, what they need to do or pay someone else to do.”

Ryan Cortez, owner of Glenmar Nursery and Garden Center, agrees that finding the right size is important. “A good way to decide is to lay out the pond on the ground with a garden hose. Five by five doesn’t look so large when you can visualize it,” he notes “A common size for ponds is 8 x 10’.”

Refine It

What about cost? Kaniper says cost varies, but starts around $5,000 for a 9 x 9’ pond with a waterfall and a good filtration system. Although pre-formed fiberglass shells can also be used, he recommends a rubber liner not only for longevity but also to provide a unique shape. For the most natural look, he recommends filling the liner with boulders and fieldstone gravel, which help create a healthy pond ecosystem.

As for plants, there are lots of varieties to choose from, so that’s really up to personal preference. Although many people automatically think about filling their ponds with koi, goldfish are easier to care for and more likely to survive winters, Kaniper says.

Fritzinger says the pond’s depth must be at least two feet if you are adding fish. “The more volume of water you have under the surface,” he explains, “the more control you have of the chemistry.” So a shallow pond is almost impossible to keep clear unless there’s no life in it.

If, at this point, a customer decides that maintaining a pond isn’t something they can or want to do, another alternative for adding the sight and sound of water is a new type of pond-less waterfall that re-circulates water into a stone basin, Kaniper says.

Enjoy It for Years to Come

Kaniper says maintaining a pond is “not that time-consuming if it is set up properly” with a skimmer box, UV light and bio system that helps keep the water clean. As for winterizing, that can be as easy as using a pump for aeration and a small heater to keep an opening, allowing waste gases to escape. In spring and fall, covering the pond with netting helps keep leaves and debris out. Then, every few years, it should be drained, cleaned and refilled.

Glenmar has six pond displays to help homeowners make decisions. “When you see a pond visually you better understand why and how it works,” Cortez explains. They carry a full line of pond equipment and products and self-warrant them. “We don’t do installations, but cater to do-it-yourselfers and installers,” he says. “If you get the right equipment and the right installation, you will end up with a clear pond.” Glenmar also offers seminars for would-be and current pond owners, including “Winterizing Your Water Garden” on September 25. (Call for reservations and hours.)

If, after designing, refining and installing your pond, you find you don’t have the time to maintain it, both Plantique® and Prolific offer overall or yearly maintenance packages.

But, according to Cortez, more than 70 percent of Glenmar’s customers are so satisfied and happy with their picture-perfect pond that they come back wanting to add or replace it with a bigger and better one.

Nancy Moffett enjoys visiting other people’s gardens each year via the Allentown and Parkland Garden Clubs’ tours.

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram