11 ideas from the best garden ponds I’ve seen

March 10th, 2019 Posted In: Garden trends & design

I’ve seen some beautiful garden ponds in both public and private gardens over the past few years.

A garden pond is more than just ornamental – it’s key to sustaining wildlife. Garden birds, pollinating insects and other creatures need water to survive. And in our paved-over cities and towns, that water is often in short supply.

Do you want a natural-looking pond or a designed one? #backyard #gardendesign

A friend’s garden pond in May.

Garden ponds can also be a place for you to reflect and relax. There’s something very soothing about water.

Some of these ideas are for new ponds, but others are ideas for adding something special to your current garden pond.

So here are my favourite garden pond ideas from garden visiting over the last few years.

‘Natural’ DIY garden ponds

I’m starting with the easiest, low-tech garden pond. These ponds are literally just holes dug in the ground, lined with heavy-duty pond lining plastic (held in place by rocks) and filled with water.

I’ve looked up pond lining plastic. The best-reviewed and best-selling one on Amazon came from PondHero – 2mx2m for £9.99, so not expensive.

Note: links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means I may get a small fee if you buy, but it won’t affect the price you pay.

You can do the digging yourself or pay (or persuade) someone else to do it.

The advantage of this kind of pond is that you can build levels into the pond. Many small creatures can’t get out of a high-sided pond, and pond plants grow at different depths. So having a ‘beach’ or graded levels in your pond is a big plus.

Dig your own garden pond

A friend dug this pond herself, lined it with heavy duty plastic and edged it with stones. It’s approximately 6ft in diameter and is in a half acre garden.

You can also get hard pond liners, with graded levels, to create the same effect. Cover the edges of the pond liner with rocks or planting. These are called ‘pre-formed rigid pond liners’ and the most popular one I could find was the Bermuda Cover pre-formed pond liner.

The disadvantage of this kind of a pond is that it generally takes up a bit more space, and it won’t be suitable for the smallest gardens.

The rigid pre-formed liners are generally smaller, but you have to be careful that a small pond doesn’t dry out in hot weather.

Stone or brick garden ponds

If you want a more designed effect, then stone or brick garden ponds will (probably) need to be professionally built.

But they look smart, and will fit into any size of garden.

A garden pond made of local materials

This simple rectangular pond in Robin and Margaret Marks’ garden is built of the same granite that the house is built of. The gravel chippings around it are also local granite. You can see more of their beautiful garden in 7 garden design ideas from four private gardens.

Raised garden ponds

One of the main issues you need to think about when planning a pond is whether babies or toddlers could fall in. A child can drown in a few inches of water.

Raised garden ponds fit into small spaces

This small raised pond tucks in beside the back door. It belongs to garden designer Posy Gentles. She grows aquatic plants in it. Posy also has a grille on top to stop small creatures falling in.

A raised garden pond isn’t 100% safe, but it is probably safer.

A raised garden pond as a central feature #gardendesign #backyard

This raised pond from the RHS 2018 Hampton Court Palace show is the central feature of a small garden. You could perch on its edge, or leave your coffee mug there.

Raised garden ponds are also particularly good in smaller gardens, as they introduce different levels to the design, and can fit into small spaces.

Classical garden ponds

I love classical garden ponds, like this one below at Doddington Place Gardens.

Consider a classical design for your pond #backyard 'gardendesign

The strong clean lines of a classical pond look good in winter when they reflect the yew hedging at Doddington Place Gardens

Contemporary ponds

This pond area is in a show garden designed by Chris Beardshaw for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018.

A garden pond going right up to the wall of an urban garden #backyard #gardendesign

Chris Beardshow’s ‘Best in Show Garden’ at RHS Chelsea 2018 for M&G Investments. It’s a beautiful use of sculpture and colour, and might be worth considering for a town garden as the water goes right up to the ‘garden walls.’ Definitely not safe for children.

I am not sure how easy it would be to maintain, as the pond goes right up to the garden wall, without an edge on two sides. But it’s an interesting idea and a lovely use of colour.

Contemporary garden ponds designs #gardendesign #backyard

Another contemporary pond design – this pond is in the Health & Wellbeing Garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace show 2018. It’s exceptionally shallow and its cobbled base reflects the path around it. Very pretty.

Exotic garden ponds

With today’s trend towards ‘exotic’ gardens, even in temperate climates, ponds can look jungly.

Use a mix of large-leaf foliage plants and other hardy plants, such as bamboo, to create a tropical effect. Let it get a bit overgrown for that wild, jungly look.

Create a jungle effect with lots of planting #gardenponds #gardendesign

This jungly pond is also at Ard Rudah – it’s beautifully overgrown with ferns, tree ferns and waterlilies.

Jungly gardens ponds at Oxford Botanic gardens #gardendesign #backyard.

Maybe it’s cheating to show you one of the ponds at the Oxford Botanic Gardens. It’s in a glasshouse – but why not consider a small pond in your greenhouse or conservatory if you have one? Surround it with colourful plants for a tropical look.

Mini ponds

I have a couple of mini ponds in my garden.

I made one from an oak barrel half.

Make a mini pond from an oak barrel

I’ve written about how to make this mini pond in an oak barrel here.

Mini ponds can fit in any garden, and are wonderful for wildlife, but you do have to consider a few factors. It’s important that wildlife can get in and out, for example, and they can also dry out in hot weather.

Add sculpture to your garden pond

Ponds and sculpture are a magical combination.

Use sculpture to add impact to your garden pond #backyard #gardendesign

This sculpture overlooks one of the ponds at Borde Hill Gardens in Sussex.

Sculpture and ponds work well together at Borde Hill Gardens in Sussex #gardendesign #backyard

This sculpture fills with water, then the weight of the water tips the dish over, and the process starts again. At Borde Hill Gardens in Sussex. It’s very peaceful!

Classic stag sculpture around a pond with conifers #gardendesign #backyard

This stag sculpture sets off a pond at Ard Rudah, echoing the conifers around the pond.

Make sure you have somewhere to sit near your pond

Create a seating area by your pond #backyard #gardendesign

This is from Viking Cruises’ Nordic Lifestyle garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace show in 2018.

Place a bench beside your pond to enjoy the tranquillity of the water #gardendesign #backyard

A Lutyens bench beside a pretty pond in Northern France.

And add pots around the edge

Plant pots around the edge of your garden pond #gardendesign #backyard

Pots around one of the ponds at Borde Hill Gardens in Sussex.

Can you plan in reflections?

I don’t know whether you can plan your garden pond to make sure that it has amazing reflections on a sunny day. But it’s certainly worth thinking about!

Think about what will be reflected in your garden pond #gardendesign #backyard

A private garden in Kent – it was once a barn and this was the farm pond. It’s stunningly beautiful on a sunny day.

Reflections on garden ponds #backyard 'gardendesign

Trees reflecting into a pond in a private garden in Kent.

Garden pond reflections #gardendesign #gardenpond

The Marks’ garden pond reflecting the sky and clouds above.

Does your pond need a pump?

In my experience, you don’t necessarily need a pump for your pond, but you do need to keep it well oxygenated. Buy oxygenating pond plants from Amazon or local garden centres.  I also have aquatic snails, which a friend gave me, which help keep my mini pond clean.

Some gardeners say that aquatic snails munch water plants as well as decaying vegetation. I have a water iris and some equisetum, which have not been nibbled by the snails.

Do you want a wildlife pond or to have fish?

This is quite a complicated question, but the short answer is that if you have goldfish or carp, they will eat much of the other wildlife that settles on or in the pond.

If you specifically want a ‘wildlife’ pond, then Making Wildlife Ponds by Jenny Steel will explain what factors you need to bear in mind. Fish keeping is another matter.

Shop my favourite garden tools, books and products

I’m often asked for recommendations, so I’ve put together convenient lists of garden tools, books and products on The Middlesized Garden Amazon store. They’re all products I either use myself or which come highly recommended by others.

For example, one list is the Wildlife Friendly list, with bird feeders, bat boxes, hedgehog homes and more.

Pin to remember garden pond ideas

11 ideas from the best garden ponds I've seen #gardendesign #gardening

I hope you’ve enjoyed these garden ponds, and do join us. Follow us by email by entering your email in the box on the top right of this page. The Middlesized Garden blog uploads every Sunday morning with tips, ideas and inspiration for middle-sized gardens. And the Middlesized Garden YouTube channel also uploads weekly.


4 comments on "11 ideas from the best garden ponds I’ve seen"

  1. Antonia King says:

    Please would you repost the link to the mini pond in an oak barrel

    1. Yes, I’ve just done that. Sorry to miss it out the first time!

      1. Chris B says:

        I’d quite like a pond but the wife isn’t keen because she’s worried about mosquitos and biting insects. I’m trying to persuade her to tolerate a small barrel pond, so your article was useful.

        1. Thank you. We haven’t noticed any mosquitoes on ours, although we live in a fairly mosquito-free area (South East England). If you kept fish, they would probably eat the mosquito larvae, or keep the water running with a pond pump.

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