In a small French village called Giverny, about 50 miles west of Paris, blooms a beautiful and diverse garden anchored by a serene water-lily pond. The idyllic garden, with its exquisite water features, is the work of Impressionist artist Claude Monet, who drew inspiration from this oasis in many of his paintings.
Landscape architect Kate Karam offers these suggestions to choose the right plants for your aquatic oasis.
While Monet’s bountiful garden in Giverny is a sight to behold — complete with a Japanese bridge covered in wisterias, vast weeping willows, and his beloved water lilies — creating a similar sanctuary in your own backyard is easier than you might think.
A water garden can transform your backyard into a paradise not unlike Monet’s. Waterscapes build on the existing ecosystem to enhance the natural beauty of your property. From simple bird baths to babbling streams and intricate waterfalls, there are water garden features to suit all tastes and budgets.
The more natural, the better
The beauty of waterscaping is how easily these features blend into the existing natural environment. A bird bath adds an ornamental touch to your garden while benefiting the local bird population. Ponds become home to biologically diverse ecosystems, and streams and waterfalls create movement and mimic the rhythmic melodies found near natural bodies of water.
For some, this move toward creating a backyard paradise has meant converting inground pools into ponds. That’s right: With the proper preparation, an inground pool that your family may have outgrown (and has become a hassle to maintain), can turn into a self-sustaining home to aquatic flora and fauna.
With the help of local landscaping professionals, it’s a relatively simple process to let your pool go native. After draining the pool and cleaning and rinsing the interior, replace the liner with a wildlife-friendly material. You will need to choose a filtration system, and if you’d like to add fish to the pond, that system should include a pump to circulate and introduce oxygen to the water.
Next, choose aquatic plants like water lettuce and water lilies to populate your pond. These plants thrive in such an environment, living on the pond’s surface and feeding off naturally occurring algae. If your plants are flourishing, and the water has turned a greenish shade (indicating the presence of algae), your pond is ready for fish. Over time, you can expect to see other animals like frogs, dragonflies and butterflies find refuge in and around your pond.
Can you dig it?
You don’t need an existing pool to create a backyard waterscape. Landscape architect Kate Karam has plenty of ideas to transform your backyard into your own version of Monet’s garden.
“Try to make it look as natural as possible,” says Karam, who also serves as editorial director at Monrovia, the nation’s leading grower of ornamental and landscaping plants.
How well your water features blend into their surroundings will depend upon the materials used. Karam suggests heading to the local stone yard to find locally sourced slabs and rocks to build out ponds and waterfalls. They may end up costing you more than man-made materials, Karam says, but when placed in your yard, they will look like they’ve always been there.
Spend time dreaming up exactly how you want your garden’s waterscapes to look, and make sure your contractor knows your vision, Karam advises. Once the pond has been dug, the waterfall erected, and the stones and slabs placed down, that’s it — they’re not moving.
Accentuate with moisture-loving plants
With your garden’s design in mind, choose plants that will not only play up your chosen water features, but will also thrive in a damp environment. Karam points out that you will need plants that will survive in low-lying parts of your property — where water collects — as well as near any wooded areas that see less sun.
“Choose plants that love to get their feet wet,” she advises. Karam’s favorites — the water-loving plants she would choose to bring her own garden to life — include daylilies, natural grass, Japanese sedge, and “elegant” Siberian irises. “The green and white foliage paired with the daylilies and irises is so beautiful,” she says.
Light the way
As you decide on a budget for your waterscaping project, Karam recommends setting aside funds for lighting.
She’s not talking about “dinky” lights that sink to the bottom of your pond, but spotlights that will cast little pools of light across ripples and still water. The moon’s reflection will further enhance the glow, giving you “a bigger bang for your buck,” Karam says. “You can enjoy the space at night, and the lighting will make it a more magical place.”