Elizabeth Warner Garden Design - Design ~ Transform ~ Enjoy

Wildlife Pond Design

by Liz 0 Comments

I have long been interested in wildlife pond design and the benefits that having one can bring to a garden.  A simple wildlife pond doesn’t need to be expensive or large.  Recently I finally realised my dream of having a small wildlife pond in my garden.

Here is a brief checklist of do’s and don’ts to be aware of when considering a wildlife pond design.

  • Do create a gentle slope for wildlife to approach the water edge safely on at least one side of the pond;
  • Create at least two tiers around the edge of the pond to accommodate marginal plants;
  • Do plant a range of aquatic (water loving) plants, if you wait for the pond to naturalise on its own you will be waiting years!
  • The pond should be at least 50 cm deep;
  • Rainwater is best;
  • Do not introduce fish, they will eat tadpoles and other invertebrates;
  • Do not plant invasive species such as New Zealand Pygmy Weed, Crassula helmsii.  This and other invasive species escape from gardens and cause damage to our natural waterways;
  • Do not introduce creatures or plants from other ponds or take spawn or plants from the wild which can spread disease.

wildlife pond design


Firstly, a sunny site was chosen with a little shade in the afternoon and with no overhanging trees.  Deep shade is detrimental to a healthy wildlife pond.  Overhanging branches of deciduous trees shed their leaves which can pollute the water and their roots can damage the pond’s structural integrity.  In addition, remember to site your pond where it is visible from indoors to get the most enjoyment from it.

Pond Structure

The pond is 50 cm deep.  A piece of old carpet was used to line the deepest part of the pond.   Following this a pond underlay and finally a butyl liner were used to line the whole pond.  It has two tiers of shelves on three sides. Each tier is at least 50 cm wide to safely accommodate marginal pot plants.  A sloping beach on at least one side for safe access for wildlife is essential.   Finally, a grass margin will be allowed to grow around the edge of the pond.  This will help to provide cover for wildlife as they move from the pond to other garden areas. The same effect can be achieved with ornamental planting.


Isolepis cernua

Isolepis cernua (Fibre Optic Grass)

For this wildlife pond design, I have used a combination of rocks, stones, cobbles and gravel giving the design a more natural feel.  The warm tones of the Cheshire pink gravel and cobbles harmonise with the red brick of the house and garden path.  The grey rocks and stones complement some of the plants in the garden which have blue foliage.

Aquatic Planting

I have used a combination of deep water, Potamogeton natans, marginal, Cyperus papyrus and floating aquatics, Eichhornia crassipes as well as a couple of oxygenators.  The plant on the east side of the pond is the Fibre Optic Grass, Isolepis cernuawhich may need frost protection and is actually a sedge not a grass!



If you have young children it is probably best to reconsider having a pond, even small volumes of water can be a danger.  Alternatively you could consider a bird bath or a bog garden and grow marsh loving plants instead.  You could consider fitting a metal guard just below water level that covers the whole area.  Metal guards can be bought tailor made or can be made from steel mesh.  Fence off larger ponds and fit gate(s) with child-proof locks.  Whichever choice you make children should always be supervised around water.

Finally the water pH and cloudiness need to settle and the wildlife will move in.



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