A pond is always a standout garden feature, but in the fall, the dark, reflective surface of the water becomes a splendid mirror for seasonal color, transforming a pond into something quite magical.
Frank and Sue Gooderson have not one, but two ponds in their country garden in Caledon, Ontario. The first and larger of the two ponds comes into view the moment you turn into the driveway. A curved wooden bridge divides the large oval pond into two smaller pools of water. A waterfall feeds the smaller of the two pools.
I first visited Frank and Sue's garden back in August on the sunniest of summer days (unfortunately not the best circumstances for good landscape photography). I always like to show a garden at its best, so I determined to return again in October when the light is more golden and the leaves have begun to show their brilliant fall colors.
The Gooderson's had a water feature in their previous home in Oakville, so when they moved to the countryside in retirement, another pond was definitely on their wish list.
The wide lot of their new country home dipped a little on one side and the ground there was quite marshy. This seemed like the perfect place to create a large, natural pond. They dug out the area and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the only thing that happened was the weeds moved in. When rainwater failed to pool, a liner was added to hold water.
The arching branches of a Cotoneaster dangle into the water. One of the really nice things about this shrub are the red berries in the fall and early winter.
Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum on the left and Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa on the right.
The plantings around the pond include shrubs, perennials and grasses. There are tall clumps of Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, and on the water's edge, there is low-growing Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa.
In the shady area next to the waterfall, there are several types of hosta, ferns and Astilbe with its striking red plumes.
Astilbe as photographed during my first visit in August.
A closer look at the bridge.
A Japanese Maple growing next to the pond.
A view of the bridge from the back of the property.
Hosta in their golden fall hues.
Both the large pond and a second, smaller pond (that you will see shortly) freeze over in the winter. The fish move to the comfort of warm water at the bottom of the pond. A bubbler (seen above) keeps a small surface area open and allows any gasses to escape.
Waterlilies add an ornamental element to both ponds, while native Bullrushes give the larger of the two ponds its natural look. Together the water plants provide a place for the koi and goldfish to hide from predators. The tall bullrushes waving in the breeze also work to discourage birds looking to do a little fishing.
Both water features attract wildlife to the garden. A mink, muskrat and a snapping turtle have all attempted to take up residence in the large pond. Recently the Gooderson's returned from a trip to England to find a heron taking full advantage of their absence.
A ribbon-like area of garden begins at the back deck and then turns to run parallel to the back of the house. This band of shrubs trees, and perennials breaks the expansive backyard into smaller, more intimate areas. An arbor allows you to pass from one area to the another.
While the garden appears to be fairly low-maintenance, looks can be deceiving. Weed seeds readily blow in making weeding one of the biggest tasks on Sue's list of garden chores.
Adjacent to the deck at the back of the house, there is a tiny waterfall that empties into a stream. The stream flows over a bed of pebbles down the natural slope of the backyard and empties into a second, smaller pond. A single slab of stone creates a bridge over the flowing water.
The waterfall to one side of the back deck.
A large slab of stone forms a bridge over the stream.
In August pink waterlilies were blooming in the sunshine. The gnarly branches of a Sumac and a stone lantern give the pond a bit of a Japanese feel. Ornamental grasses, hosta, shrubs and evergreens complete the plantings.
A screened gazebo is the perfect mosquito-free retreat.
The small pond in the summer season.
Water features like this are wonderful, but how much work do they entail?
Frank figures that he spends a couple hours a week on routine maintenance; checking the pumps, dealing with algae and keeping an eye on water levels.
The hydrangea planted adjacent to the gazebo.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky' has large, two-toned flower panicles that open white and age from the base of the flower to pink. This shrub is adaptable to most soils in both sun and part-shade. It blooms on new wood, so you can prune it in the late fall or early spring. This hydrangea has the bonus of being a drought tolerant shrub. Height: 1.8- 2.4 meters (6-8 ft), Spread: 1.2-1.5 meters (4-5 ft). USDA zones: 3-9.
There is the seasonal maintenance as well. In the fall, screens are placed over the surface of the smaller pond to keep falling leaves out of the water.
Maintaining a water feature might require some work, but I think the Gooderson's would tell you it's well worth the effort.