Category Archives: Pond

Frog hunting

I’d like to have a pic to show you of the little brown frog that has been calling loudly from the yard and pond all evening long. During a late dinner my husband asked me, “What bird is that?” and with the fans blowing and the rain, I couldn’t hear very much so I told him it must be a mockingbird. Ever curious, I stepped outside after dinner and knew it was no mockingbird! I went back in for the flashlight and searched around my neighbor’s fence because the sound seemed to be comng from that direction. I didn’t find anything and, of course, whatever it was went quiet as soon as I came out with the flashlight. A little while later it started calling again, but this time the sound seemed to be coming from the far back of the yard by the pond. I roamed around for a while with the mosquitos and eventually found this little brown frog with black markings calling from the rocks beside the pond. He’s not shy at all and continued to call while I held the flashlight by him.

Just off the top of my head I thought it might be a leopard frog, but the pictures and sound calls I found on the web don’t match. Nothing I found matches what this little guy looks/sounds like. Very frustrating! I know just how beginning birdwatchers feel. He’s pretty small; not much bigger than my fire-belly toads, if that’s any help. And he’s very loud and insistent. He hasn’t stopped calling at all, even when I let the dog out. I wonder if it could be a toad? Anyone know how to tell the difference? With all the rain we got today, I guess maybe amphibians are on the move. Can anyone take a guess what kind of frog I might have or suggest a website? From close-up, his call sounds sort of like the sound Carolina Wrens make in the fall, when they’re scurrying through the underbrush – as if that’s any help to you. 😉

Garden spikes

“Everything that grows is both beautiful and abundant, lavish and luxuriant. If there ever comes a time to take five minutes at the end of a long day and consider the teeming generosity of this earth, this must be it.” – Hal Borland

Taking five minutes at the end of each day, with camera in hand, to consider the blooming bounty of my garden leads to an abundance…. of photographs! I remember longing for such color and finery just a few months ago in the depths of winter.

I focused my attention this evening on the upright, lance-like plants that are blooming around the pond. The flower stalks on this tall grass were impossible to photograph, but so beautiful backlit by the setting sun.

To the right is Ladybells (Adenophora liliifolia) a favorite, and easy to grow with good moisture. The nodding bell-shaped flowers lead to another of its common names, False Campanula. A beauty and compensation for my utter lack of ability at growing foxgloves and delphiniums.

Next, the flower spikes of catmint, which is very generous and grows everywhere in my garden to keep the bumblebees occupied.

Lastly, the noxious Purple Loosestrife (don’t hate me Susan!) which grows in the bog garden beside the pond. It behaves well there – I help it along by deadheading religiously so as not to allow it to disburse its seeds, but mostly I think the Joe Pye Weed that grows beside it keeps it in check. The Joe Pye is already twice the size of the loosestrife and needs to be pinched back before long, otherwise it will tower over the rest of the bog at 4 feet or more.

Spring pond pics and new friends

I gave in and let my husband add a few koi to our pond last week. I’d been adamant about not wanting koi because I’d read that they’ll tear up and root around in all of the pond plants. Yet, he convinced me to give it a go and so we did. I picked out a nicely-colored gold and yellow koi who has been hiding under the waterfall since we brought them home. This white butterfly koi in the photo, on the other hand, is a show-stealer! It swims on the surface showing off its lovely long fins and stealing your attention from the less fancy fish. Another of the koi seems to be slightly off-kilter or crazed; it swims along the bottom of the pond and twists itself against the creases in the liner and occasionaly jumps out of the water!

I mentioned earlier in the week that the locust trees are blooming. They’ve now started dropping petals everywhere; mostly in the pond, it seems. The effect is pretty, even if it does require a daily skimming with the net. Last year around Memorial Day I had lilies blooming, but this year it will be later because I only just replaced the plants that died over the winter. The plant at right is Parrot’s Feather, which the new fish seem to enjoy munching on. I bought a small plant to provide some cover for the fish, knowing that it will grow and spread by mid-summer. It’s an interesting plant in that the feathery foliage closes up late in the day.

We’ve also attracted another frog to the pond. At least I think this is a different one than the one we found when we did our spring clean-up. This one seems a bit smaller and greener than the last one. Late in the afternoon I find him peeping at me from between the rocks under the hosta plants and mint that line one side of the pond. I’m not sure what he’s finding to eat. I hope his presence isn’t the explanation for a few fish that have vanished in the last few weeks. Very seldom do I find a fish floating; they just disappear. Last summer we had *issues* with a very large bullfrog eating our goldfish. I never would have believed his mouth big enough until one afternoon when my husband called me to the pond to see him with the fins of my husband’s favorite blue ryunkin hanging out of his mouth! We were able to remove the fish from his mouth (ahem!) and relocated the bullfrog to the farm pond around the corner. That poor fish was never the same again, and I found him floating a few weeks later. Anyway, I enjoy this guy’s company and hope he will behave himself here.

Michelle’s waterbabies!

Michelle is a fellow bunny-lover (remember pics of her French Lop, Tink?) and we’ve been chatting about our fish ponds lately. She lives down south so her pond plants are way ahead of anything happening around my pond. I’ve been wanting to post some current pics, but it looks so barren out there, still. The perennials on the pond’s edge are up and growing, but other than a few volunteer water lilies (yay!) there is nothing but algae. Well, no more algae, actually. We turned on the filter and uv light last weekend, just before we got to the *pea soup* stage after the complete water change we did a few weeks ago. My tiny little goldfish look so lonely and vulnerable out there!

Michelle’s koi look very robust, don’t they? And look at the size of those lily pads! I’m jealous. The plants she calls weeds are Parrot’s Feather and provide cover and spawning surfaces for fish. Parrot’s Feather is tender, so I have to buy it new every year, whereas Michelle thinks she is overrun with it because it doesn’t die back in her warmer climate. I have that problem with mint around my pond; it finds its way into every nook between the rocks and grows with abandon. I yank it out by the handful, which only seems to make it even more vigorous.

Michelle says that she has one koi that she can pet! My little guys are not quite that friendly, but they do like to swim around my legs and nibble on my toes when I’m in the pond cutting back the plants. Mostly I think they’re interested in whatever I stir up along the bottom as I wade through the water. Silly fish.

Thanks, Michelle, for your email and sharing a pic of your waterbabies! I needed the distraction from my bunny-worrying. You’re the best!

Ponding miscellany

Susan is thinking about a pond so I thought I would post some pics and links from when we did ours. Our yard used to have lush, well-manicured grass shaded by many black locust trees. Over the years, most of the locusts fell in late-summer storms and the beautiful lawn turned weedy when my husband didn’t have time to care for it. The circle garden went through many re-dos and we finally decided to put a pond in this area.

We did a lot of reading and planning. I wanted a pond for wildlife and plants, rather than a sterile koi pond. One of the first websites I found that had good information about how to build a wildlife pond was this one. I got the idea to build a shallow beach area from that site. The beach, and the easy access it provides for wildlife, continues to be my favorite feature of our pond. I was mostly concerned with the pond’s design, while my husband was in charge of the mechanics (and the heavy labor). We decided on a kidney-shaped pond with a liner, rather than a pre-formed pond that could be purchased because we had more choice in size and depth that way. In this photo you can see my husband digging out the deep end which is about 4 feet deep. You can also see that he has left a “shelf” around the far edges of the pond where we place plants in baskets – this is handy for marginal aquatic plants that like the shallow depth.

My husband laid down the liner and we covered it with river rock. I had read many bad things about using rocks on the bottom, but stubbornly decided to ignore it all because I liked the look so much. Over the years, we’ve removed the rocks leaving them only in the shallow half of the pond. What we should have done was install a bottom drain. Without it, the rocks accumulate a huge amount of mulm that is impossible to remove. As it is, the rocks in the shallow end require constant attention and removal of string algae and accumulated fish poop. The bare liner is ugly, but in mid-summer you can’t even see it once the water lillies and other plants have covered the surface of the water.

We use a biological filter from PondSweep that is the base of our waterfall and a skimmer – much like a backyard pool. The pump and filter runs only during the warm months because it costs so much to run the pump. We probably will need to replace the pump this year and I’d like to buy a more energy efficient one. The good ones are expensive, but hopefully we’ll save money on the electric bill. One of the most important items we purchased was a UV light to keep the algae at bay and the water clear. We’ve yet to have an algae bloom that turns many ponds to pea soup. I use plenty of oxygenating plants and don’t add any chemicals, and test the water frequently. We also have very few fish for the size of our pond; that’s important! Our pond is just under 1,000 gallons, yet we keep at most only 30 small goldfish. I don’t feed my fish 3 times a day; in mid-summer they’re lucky to be fed at all, in fact. Too much food just increases the load on the filter. The fish are growing very slowly as a result, but the whole system is healthier that way.

This summer will be our pond’s fifth year and it still isn’t finished, really. I’d like to re-do the waterfall one day to make it look natural. I don’t know why we didn’t do that to begin with. The landscaping around the pond still needs work. I’d like a very lush look like you can see in some of the links below, but the pond is in full sun all day and the rock makes it very hot out there and hard to grow the mosses and ferns I’d like to use. I’m trying out plants each year to see if they can survive the desert-like conditions that surround the pond. We added a small bog garden adjacent to the pond where I plant moisture-lovers like Joe Pye Weed, Turtlehead, Swamp Milkweed, Meadowsweet, and Swamp Hibiscus. The pond overflows to that area when we get heavy rain and we used to leftover liner there to hold the moisture. No pretty pictures of it in my collection for some reason.

Helen Nash publishes some good books about ponding that I’ve found helpful. A friendly community of ponders (and other gardeners) is online at GardenWeb; the Pond and Aquatic Plant Forum can be found here. There are as many types of ponds as there are ponders to build them, but one of the most beautiful (and with the largest and most photogenic koi) belongs to a couple on Long Island NY who are very generous with their knowledge and often post awe-inspiring photos of their ponds at the forum. There is a lot of information and inspiration on their website. I love to sit out by the pond in the evenings after work. I love seeing what will grow well each year and what surprises there will be. I love the critters that turn up and take advantage of the little haven we’ve provided for them here. Happy ponding, Susan!

At pondside today

So. I got this fancy new camera for myself. My plan was to take a few photography courses at the community college where I teach and then treat myself to a digital SLR. My husband got wind of this plan and decided he wanted to get me the camera as an Easter gift. I’ve no room for any more bunnies (the perfect gift for a rabbit lover on Easter) and when he buys me chocolate it goes uneaten and is thrown away. I argued (but not too much, really) and told him I could wait and wanted to take a class first. Then, for the first time ever, I let him win the argument. *grin* Then I went out and bought it for myself as a gift from him – that way I don’t have to feel like I’m spoiling myself – he’s spoiling me – with my money – makes perfect sense!

I’ve been having fun wandering around the yard this past week taking pictures of the flowers and trees. I’ve taken a few pictures of the bunnies with little success. The fancy new camera hasn’t fixed the problem I have with using the flash indoors. I’m hoping to get the time this weekend to take some pics of the bunnies when the light is good in the house so I won’t need the flash.

It was too windy this evening for any flower photos, so I sat by the pond waiting to see if anyone would stop by for a drink or a bath. Half of our pond is very, very shallow and covered in river rock. The birds love the shallow end and the goldfish like to search among the pebbles for food. Usually when they see me coming they all wiggle their way back to the deep end to the usual feeding spot. I took these photos using my favorite 28-200 lens. I was less than 10 feet away from this bird with the lens zoomed all the way out, yet I still had to crop them to get the dove this size. Anyway, I liked these pics well enough and thought the dove looked pretty with the mixed blues and grays of the river rock behind it.

First feeding and playing in the mud

April Fool’s Day is usually when we resume feeding the goldfish, using cheerios at first, because they’re easily digested. We started cleaning the pond last weekend, so my husband caught most of the fish and transferred them to this 100 gallon metal tub. We set them up with a bubbler and they’re safe while we clean out the pond.

Because we didn’t clean the pond this fall and never got a net over it, we really need to do a thorough clean-out. It’s full of leaves and muck. The shallow end of the pond and the beach area have small river rock over the liner and this accumulates a huge amount of yucky stuff. It’s a really dirty job, so I supervise and take pictures. 😉

My husband decided we should take all the river rock out and rinse it. It needs a good cleaning, but there are gazillions of rocks to wash. He got his April Fool’s surprise this morning when he was scooping through the pebbles and came up with a handful of frog! Said he nearly tumbled backward into the water and muck he was so startled by it! We don’t know where this frog came from, but as they say, “If you build it, they will come”.

We lost track of the frog for a while after it jumped out of the bucket he put it in for safekeeping. We found him again later way down at the bottom of the pond trying to hide in the muck. Not sure what type of frog it is, does anyone know? I don’t see the ridge on its back that green frogs have, so I’m guessing it’s a bull frog. We had a bull frog last summer that was eating our fish, so this guy may be dangerous; although he’s not nearly as big as the last one. I feel kind of bad for disturbing him, but he needs a new place to hide while we drain the pond.

Once we’ve got the rocks clean enough, we’ll refill the pond, add dechlorinator (the only chemical I use) and let it sit for a week or so before we put the fish back. We’ll have to buy all new plants this year because all the lily tubers turned to mush over the winter. It’ll be fun to shop for new plants. The photo at right is our biggest goldfish, given to me by a friend from work last fall. It had grown too big for her indoor fishtank, so we added him to our pond. I was concerned he wouldn’t make the winter, but he seems to be doing okay – not quite as fat as he was in the fall, though!

My wild garden

I am a Gemini. I get bored easily. I like change. I garden.

One particular part of our yard has gone through so many transformations it’s hard for me to remember them all. We started out with a very formal circle garden in this area, a simple design of blooming azaleas, English ivy and pachysandra, a hydrangea, and a beautiful variegated holly tree; all originally planted and cared for here by the previous owners of our house (my husband’s aunt and uncle). A late summer storm one year brought down a neighbor’s black locust on our holly, splitting the trunk. We salvaged the hydrangea, but replaced everything else with viburnums (love them!) and old garden roses. This was nice for a while, until the roses got leggy and the viburnums grew huge! So we moved the viburnums to the border of our property and added a few dogwoods and other plants to make something of a woodland edge. Very nice and thriving now!

A year later we cleared the area and built the pond there. But for the summer in between I had a garden that was an absolute riot of flowers. I went crazy planting annuals and perennials that would attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. My husband thought it looked like crap (he’s an orderly sort of fellow when it comes to *his yard*), but I loved the craziness of it all. Every flower was planted with pollinators in mind and it was buzzing with them! I loved to spend time sitting in the middle of it all and watching all the insect activity.

When we put in the pond I transplanted as many plants as I could. The pond is orderly and neat, so the DH is happy, but I miss my wild garden and all the wonder that came with it that summer. The purple flowers pictured above are perennial Mexican Agastache (very popular with bumblebees) and Verbena bonariensis; an annual that re-seeds with utter abandon and is well-loved by butterflies.

Pond fairy

The pond fish are awake and begging to be fed today. It’s still too soon; around April 1st I’ll start feeding them a few cheerios every couple of days. After a few weeks of this light feeding I can then start them on a higher protein food once the weather, and their metabolism, is geared-up for it.

Right now, the pond is a depressing sight, nothing like this mid-summer photo from a few years ago. It’s full of leaves and the water is a yucky brownish color. We have a lot of work ahead of us to get it in shape, but I look forward to being able to putter around by the pond in the evening again.

Another water lily “Patio Joe”

“Patio Joe” was a very profuse bloomer for me last summer. I don’t think there was a single day from June through early September when this lily was not in bloom and it often had multiple blooms at the same time. In these photos the color looks very pink, but I remember it as being quite variable depending on the stage of bloom. This link has a nice description of the charm of this lily.

These photos were taken in early June when the locust blossoms were falling. I loved the effect of the white petals floating on the surface of the water. The blooms look stellate rather than cup-shaped indicating to me that the photos were probably taken during the second or third day of bloom. On the first day of bloom the flower opens only part way and each bloom lasts just a few days before it sinks beneath the surface of the water.

Both of these smaller photos show buds waiting to open. Part of the fun is anticipating when a bud will break the surface and bloom. This often leads to disappointment for me if a lily blooms during the workweek and I’m not there for it. You see, lily blooms open late in the morning and begin to close for the day around 2 p.m. when the heat and height of the sun diminish. With this particular lily this wasn’t an issue; as I said it was almost always in bloom – even on weekends. I used to have a tropical night-bloomng lily called “Red Flare” that was just as difficult to get a look at. It bloomed while I was at home, but it was too dark to see it properly…. 😉 What I liked most about that lily was the large burgundy-colored lilypads and the way that the blossoms stood well-above the surface of the water. Like so many plants, we killed it over the winter. We couldn’t leave it out in the pond because of its tropical nature, so we tried to overwinter it in the basement and it rotted. Someday we’ll learn how to overwinter the tropicals we both love so much.