It’s autumn and friends are asking me what I am doing in the garden – am I putting it to bed for the winter?  If my garden is a theatre show then far from closing the curtain and packing the props away, autumn is all about rebuilding the stage and casting the actors for next season’s run.

In this article I write about my new pond and a woodland path project.  If you want to read previous posts about these projects, click the links below.


Woodland path site

Woodland path first plantings

Shelves for pond marginalsPond shelving for marginal plants

Back in the summer I wrote about how I’m building a new pond.  Since then it’s been full of water but little else as we waited to make sure that it is water-tight.  There was some water loss over the summer but only due to evaporation and a lack of rain.

This week the water was pumped out so that we could build shelving for marginals.  These were made out of concrete blocks, covered in dark butyl lining to calm down the garish light blocks and then topped off with old paving stones.  They’re not quite finished yet as I have asked a contractor to cut triangular slivers to fill in the gaps between the pavers but I think they’ll work a treat and provide a stable base for some attractive marginals to fringe the pond.

We have also built a couple of pillars in the centre of the pond for water lilies, again made from concrete blocks and topped with a pavers.  This pond is deep and the water lilies will need to be started off high up in aquatic baskets and slowly moved down as the leaves extend away from the crown.

Pond ResearchBooks about ponds

As with many of my garden projects, I rushed in with my pond before researching in detail.  This week I finally got around to reading the relevant sections of my water garden book by Dr D G Hessayon, picked up in a charity shop for 99p.  I was keen to understand how to achieve a good balance in the water and to start researching plants.

In pond management terms, achieving a good balance in the water refers to a “pond-keepers” balance – whereby the water provides good conditions for plants to thrive but not for algae to take over.  The steps needed to achieve balance include keeping the pond free of debris, providing shading using the cover of plants and adding in some oxygenating plants.

Dr Hessayon panicked me when he went on to say “Pond size is a critical factor…it will be difficult or impossible to achieve balance if your pond is too small.”

Is my pond too small?  I had to delve all the way to pay 118 or the 127 page book to discover that 40sqft (4sqm) is the minimum surface area required for a balanced pond.  A revisit to the magical ‘O’ level maths equation of πrsquared allowed me to calculate the surface are to be just over 2sqm.  I’m going to do further reading though since my pool is deep and I’m sure depth must somehow play a part too…

This is all academic anyway.   My pond is built and the chosen site could not have accommodated a larger pool.

Erythronium dens caniserythronium dens canis tubur

Look at this amazing little tubur. Dens canis means dog’s tooth and these little Erythronium tuburs really do look like a mutt’s gnashers.

I bought these a year ago and grew them in a pot hoping for some pretty pink flowers but sadly only got leaves.erythronium dens canis planting

As they like partial shade and humus rich but well drained soil I’ve decided they may like my new woodland area.  Yesterday I tipped them out of their pot and planted them in a little clump near a large stump.  I hope they’ll be happy there and reward me with flowers next spring.

Gunnera manicata

My mail-order gunneras arrived this week and are fine specimens.  I bought them from Thompson and Morgan as they had a good price when buying two plants in 5 litre pots.

I have improved the soil here with compost and soil improver but I still incorporated plenty of additional compost into the planting hole to ensure a humus rich home for my new plants. I’m really hoping they love it and reward me with huge leaves.

Roscoea purpurea ‘Red Gurka’Roscoea red gurkha

I can’t decide if I like this plant or not.  It’s a good addition to my woodland area and should suit the conditions there but I find the stems a bit like bamboo, standing upright like soldiers in parade.  It’s a hardy member of the ginger family and they almost look too rigid and formal for a relaxed woodland area.  The flowers are pretty special though, looking very similar to orchids. Roscoea red gurkha

Further redevelopment plans

As if I haven’t already got too much to do in the garden, I’m going to build a rockery.  I want to show you the reason why I need to get cracking with it – my alpine plant nursery is bursting at the seams.

Last year I bought 23 packets of seeds from the Alpine Garden Society seed exchange and whilst they haven’t all germinated, most have and I now have a good little collection of rockery plants waiting for a home.

This is the first time I’ve grown a large range of alpines from seed and it’s been a rewarding experience.  I’ve written about what’s worked well and what hasn’t for the Alpine Garden Society’s website. If you want to know more about it and how I lovingly raised a rogue in my greenhouse click here.


This seasonal diary is part of a weekly link-up of garden bloggers from around the world, called Six on Saturday.  For more information and links to other blogs crammed with gardening activity, check the blog of host The Propagator.