Raised ponds are probably the least well known of all the many styles of water features which is a shame, since they have much to offer – often to gardens which for one reason or another, are unsuitable for more usual types. Although they are often thought of as being particularly at home in formal gardens, they can also be incorporated very effectively into softer planting regimes, or be used to form the front wall of a raised bed and rockery – the scope is limited only by the imagination of the gardener. They can also provide a degree of additional child safety particularly around very young toddlers and are much more accessible to wheelchairs users and others for whom bending down to a traditional pond is difficult.
Another aspect which should not be overlooked is that they reduce the amount of excavation required to construct the pond in the first place – significantly reducing the amount of soil needing to be found a new home. For some gardens – especially small ones - this can be an important consideration and of course enables a pond to be enjoyed even when the only available space is a concrete backyard or patio.
Building a Raised PondPlanning the raised pond requires that the strength of the walls be given particular thought, since they effectively do the job which in a traditional pond would be done by the earth itself. There are many ways to produce suitably strong walls, with brick, stonework and wood – especially railway sleepers – being popular DIY solutions. Some types of purpose built units are also available – such as the Blocklink and Hexapond systems which allow you to create matching raised ponds and raised garden beds, which are ideal for limited space.
Part of the appeal of raised ponds is their flexibility, which enables them to fit into almost any garden design. They can be constructed either completely or partially above ground level – and ponds raised on three sides only – perhaps built into the shoulder of a slope – offer some advantages in terms of filtration, since a waterfall return feature is easier to accommodate. This need not be a major issue, however, since there are in-pool filters which will meet the needs of most small- to medium-sized ponds. The construction of raised pools does, however, make certain demands on the builder. The walls must, of course, be able to support the weight of the pond itself – whether made of a flexible or pre-formed liner – and heavy fountains or other features will need additional footings to support them.
One of the easiest ways to construct a raised pond is to build a wall of brick, wood or stone of suitable size to support a pre-formed liner, or alternatively to use a wooden half-barrel, large ornamental flower pot or other similar water-tight container. To make sure that visiting wildlife can enter and exit the pond, it is a good idea to provide a ladder of bricks or well positioned planters.
PlantingFor a small pond of this kind, planting can be a problem, since most native plants are too vigorous and will quickly grow to clog the water. Selecting small plants – such as brooklime (Veronica beccabunga) or bog arum (Calla palustris) should help keep things in scale, while small exotics, such as pygmy water lilies (Nymphaea pygmaea) and the dwarf Japanese reedmace (Typha minima) can also be used. It is worth persevering with getting the planting right; if the proper balance can be struck, even the smallest of barrels can provide a useful water feature as well as a wildlife haven.
For small gardens – or those which are difficult to excavate – the raised pond can be the perfect solution. Space and aesthetics aside, one of their principal advantages is the speed with which they can be installed. Some of the kits – although a little pricey – can easily be ready to receive water in little more than an hour, which gives them an obvious appeal to the more impatient water-gardeners amongst us.