You are here:

Creating My Own Backyard Oasis

Editor's Note: Linda Bartram is former President of AEBC's Victoria, British Columbia, Chapter, who now lives in Oliver, BC.

When I said I wanted a water garden in the backyard of our Victoria home, I'm sure my husband rolled his eyes and was thinking "not another one of her projects". But I was determined to create my own oasis complete with waterfalls and, of course, fish.

"So what will this pond look like and how big will it be?" asked my husband once he had realized that I was serious. I had a pretty good picture in my mind but he needed something a little more concrete and so, armed with a length of rope we embarked upon a two-year labour of love.

I had done a fair amount of research on the internet, with my speech program JAWS droning on about pond liners, pump capacity, biological and mechanical filter systems and the like, and had some of the answers to his questions. To determine what it would look like, we laid out the rope in various patterns on the back lawn: a circle--too boring; an oval--still too boring; something that looked like an amoeba--now that's getting more interesting! We settled for a disfigured egg shape that would be deeper at one end and would have a shelf on one side for plants.

But where should it go? Beside the cedar hedge would provide shade and help keep the water free of algae and the fish cool, but cedar roots are attracted to water and we would have leaks in the liner in no time. There was the area along the back fence that used to house the kids' playhouse and swing set, but it was too close to the compost box. So we settled for a spot under the Ornamental Cherry Tree next to a stump of one of its siblings that had met with a chain saw a few years earlier. We would just have to deal with the leaves falling into the water. At least the floating blossoms would look pretty.

Now the real work began. You need to realize that Victoria soil, at least where we lived, is one part sand and 99 parts clay. And we were going to dig the pond by hand?

At this point, I disappeared for two weeks and returned to a two-foot-deep hole and a wasted husband.

I spent the next two weekends climbing in and out of the hole, lining it with newspaper, cardboard and old carpeting, anything to protect the plastic liner, which would hold in the water. Then came the sand which I tried, mostly in vain, to plaster up the sides of the hole. Finally, we were ready to insert the pond liner.

We extended the liner another foot or so around the edge of the pond and finished this area with gravel. This was to warn me of the imminent water's edge. It worked fairly well, as I only fell in once. I decided to place a few boulders-actually, twenty-five of them--around the edge after my dip. These did not, however, deter my friend's guide dog from taking a plant-toppling, fish-scaring swim.

Creating a waterfall, which turned out to be more like a stream, was the next step. More pond liner, boulders, gravel and lots of mud and this time I carefully climbed into the pond. Getting the water to flow down the watercourse, and not over the sides or into the mud under the liner, was no mean feat, but finally persistence paid off. I planted moss, heather and other rock garden plants between the boulders on one side of the stream. On the other side was the stump I mentioned earlier. We ran a pipe around the back of the stump, up to the filter which then emptied down the stream. We concealed the pipe with ferns and again more boulders.

At this point, we happened to meet a couple who were in the process of filling in their pond. Was there a message here? They had several well-established plants needing a new home and dozens of tiny fish, the only ones that hadn't been found by the raccoons as they drained their pond. We took them all home and tossed them in. The plants survived. The fish did not.

A friend was also trading in her outdoor pond for an indoor aquarium. Was someone trying to tell us something? If so, we weren't listening. This time, we gradually introduced her fish to the pond water and they actually survived!! One of these was a Koi named Mooshi, which I trained to eat out of my fingers. When he came that close, I was able to see an orange flash just before he sucked in the pellet. Sadly, his boldness would make him easy prey for a hungry heron the following year. I resolved that the next batch of fish would be nameless, timid goldfish. These continue to grow in number to this day.

Two years and two pumps later, our pond was at a point where we could just sit on the garden bench in the evening sipping coffee, listening to the trickle of the stream, the swish of the water Iris, and the pop of the feeding fish.

Ah, heaven!!

ZZ - Disregard this link; it is used to trick spammers.