Water gardens, also known as aquatic gardens, are a type of manmade water feature. They can be
defined as any interior or exterior landscape or architectural element whose primary purpose is to
house, display, or propagate a particular species or variety of aquatic plant. The primary focus is on
plants, but they will sometimes also house ornamental fish, in which case the feature will be a fish
Water gardening is gardening that is concerned with growing plants adapted to pools and ponds.
Although water gardens can be almost any size or depth, they are typically small and relatively
shallow, generally less than twenty inches in depth. This is because most aquatic plants are depth
sensitive and require a specific water depth in order to thrive. The particular species inhabiting each
water garden will ultimately determine the actual surface area and depth required.
When the aquatic flora and fauna are balanced, an aquatic ecosystem is created that will support
sustainable water quality and clarity. Elements such as fountains, statues, waterfalls, boulders,
underwater lighting, lining treatments, edging details, watercourses, and inwater and bankside
planting can add visual interest and help to integrate the water garden with the local landscape and
Water gardens, and water features in general, have been a part of public and private gardens since
ancient Persian gardens and Chinese gardens. Water features have been present and well
represented in every era and in every culture that has included gardens in their landscape and
architectural environments. Up until the rise of the industrial age, when the modern water pump was
introduced, water was not recirculated but was diverted from rivers and springs into the water garden,
from which it exited into agricultural fields or natural watercourses. Historically, water features were
used to enable plant and fish production both for food purposes and for ornamental aesthetics.
Though the term "water garden" is normally used to describe a particular type of natural or manmade
water feature that is used for a relatively specific purpose, there are many other types, styles and
designs of water feature.
Types of water features
Waterfall and pool in Bushy Park Water Gardens
Bosquet of the baths of Apollo, in Versailles
The Vanderbilt Mansion pond
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Natural Water Feature
Manmade Water Feature
Naturalistic Water Feature
Disappearing Water Feature
Live Water Feature
Sterile Water Feature
Rain Garden/Bio Retention System/Rain Harvesting
Aquatic Container Garden
Pool/Shallow Pool/Tide Pool
Reflection Pool/Reflecting Pool
Pond/Fish Pond/Backyard Pond/Garden Pond
Wildlife Pond/Habitat Pond
Riparian zone restoration
Wildlife garden with watersource component.
Mangrove swamp habitat
A water foll. Teapavilion in Mannheim's Chinese garden Duojingyuan
The sixteenth century in Europe saw a renewed interest in Greek thought and philosophy, including
the works of Hero of Alexandria about hydraulics and pneumatics. His devices, such as temple doors
operated by invisible weights or flowing liquids, and mechanical singing birds powered by steam,
motivated several European palaces to create similar clever devices to enhance their public image.
In Italy several royal houses constructed large water gardens incorporating mechanical devices in
water settings. The bestknown is the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, constructed in 1550 AD. A hill cascaded
with many fountains and grottoes, some with waterdriven figures that moved or spouted water.
Popularity spread across Europe with the wellknown water garden at Hellbrunn Palace built with
many waterpowered human and animal performing figures and puppet theaters, and folly fountains
that erupted without notice to surprise visitors.
On a constructed stream, placing rocks in the path of the water makes small patterns, rapids and
waterfalls. The rocks disrupt the waterflow, causing splashing and bubbles that can make pleasant
sounds and microhabitats for plants, fish, and wildlife. Wellplaced rocks can create splashing water
that adds oxygen to prevent hypoxia: the more bubbles, the more dissolved oxygen in the water.
Iveagh Gardens, Dublin
Stream Garden Trengwainton
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Scrape Burn, Dawyck Botanic Gardens
Stepping stones, Tollymore
Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
Zilker Botanical Garden, waterlilies
Water garden plants are divided into three main categories: submerged, marginal, and floating.
Submerged plants are those that live almost completely under the water, sometimes with leaves or
flowers that grow to the surface such as with the water lily. These plants are placed in a pond or
container usually 1–2 ft (0.30–0.61 m) below the water surface. Some of these plants are called
oxygenators because they create oxygen for the fish that live in a pond. Examples of submerged
Water lily (Hardy and Tropical)
Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
Marginal plants are those that live with their roots under the water but the rest of the plant above the
surface. These are usually placed so that the top of the pot is at or barely below the water level.
Examples of these are:
Iris or Flag (Iris spp.)
Watercrowfoot (Ranunculus fluitans)
Bulrush (Scirpus lacustris)
Cattail (Typha latifolia)
Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)
Lotus (Nelumbo spp.)
Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)
Floating plants are those that are not anchored to the soil at all, but are freefloating on the surface. In
water gardening, these are often used as a provider of shade to reduce algae growth in a pond. These
are often extremely fast growing/multiplying. Examples of these are:
Mosquito ferns (Azolla spp.)
Waterspangle (Salvinia spp.)
Waterclover (Marsilea vestita)
Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)
Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
Some areas of the United States do not allow certain of these plants to be sold or kept, as they have
become invasive species in warmer areas of the country, such as Florida and California.
Algae are found in almost all ponds. There are hundreds of species of algae that can grow in garden
ponds, but they are usually noticed only when they become abundant. Algae often grow in very high
densities in ponds because of the high nutrient levels that are typical of garden ponds. Generally,
algae attaches itself to the sides of the pond and remains innocuous. Some species of algae, such as
"blanket weed", can grow up to a foot a day under ideal conditions and can rapidly clog a garden pond.
On the other hand, free floating algae are microscopic and are what cause pond water to appear
green. Blanket weed, although unsightly, is actually a sign that the water is clean and wellbalanced.
Green water (free floating algae) means there are too many nutrients in the water, usually from rotting
vegetation or too many fish for the space. Killing the free floating algae with chemicals will often cause
it to die, rot, and then make the problem even worse as more nutrients enter the water. Adding more
floating or submerged (unpotted) plants can help with the green water, as they can take the nutrients
out of the water. There are also filters that can be installed to remove the nutrients and all types of
algae from the water. Many ponds naturally go green early in the spring and then clear up.
Fishpond with stepping stones and stream
Hatchet Pond, New Forest, England
Fish in a pond in Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai
Often the reason for having a pond in a garden is to keep fish, often koi, though many people keep
goldfish. Both are hardy, colorful fish which require no special heating, provided the pond is located in
an area which does not have extremes of temperature that would affect the fish. If fish are kept, pumps
and filtration devices are usually needed in order to keep enough oxygen in the water to support them.
In winter, a small heater may need to be used in cold climates to keep the water from freezing solid.
Examples of common pond fish include:
Rosy Red minnows
White Cloud Mountain minnows
Goldfish (Common, Comet, Shubunkin varieties, Wakin and the Fantail varieties. With the possible
exception of some of the fantail varieties, the fancy goldfish are not suited to pond life.)
Koi (Nishikigoi, Butterfly Koi and Ghost Koi)
Carp (In Australia, carp are considered an invasive fish and it is illegal to release them into
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