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Container pond love … who knew?


I’ve been gardening seriously for a couple decades now and I was starting to think I knew what made me happy in the garden. I never expected that 165 gallons of water would become one of my favorite things.

When I designed the vegetable garden I left a big space in the center for some kind of feature. A small bistro set, a sculpture, or perhaps a really romantic planting of lavender or something were all considered, but I landed on a small container pond. I know next to nothing about water gardens and until about January I knew absolutely nothing. And now I just want to know more, more, more.

container pond through gate

I chose a 165-gallon round stock tank (I had to order it here to find a round one in the size I wanted) more in the interest of frugality rather than aesthetics. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on an expensive container pond and then find out that it wasn’t right for the space. Turns out that the stock tank seems almost perfect for the space now. (If you want to see an amazing stock tank pond, check out Pam Penick’s.) 

Figuring out what plants to put in the pond was a challenge. I love plants, so suddenly finding myself in a situation where I didn’t know what the options were or what would work was something I haven’t experienced for a long time. A good way to keep yourself humble is try an entirely new kind of gardening. I found myself at garden centers asking the most basic questions. I ran into three kinds of responses: 1. Very helpful and patient, 2. Being treated like I’d never seen a plant in my life, and 3. A customer service person whipping out their phone to search Google for the answer. A hint to garden center employees: We are looking for more information that we can get ourselves from a Google search.

container pond

I learned that the goal is to have about three-quarters of the water’s surface covered in plants. Popular pond plants like water lettuce and water hyacinth are illegal invasive species in Wisconsin, meaning I couldn’t buy them locally and I couldn’t even legally have them shipped to me.

I ended up planting Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), Four-leaf clover (Marsilea mutica), a water lily and a pitcher plant (Sarrancenia) that I think probably is sitting too deep. 

container plants

Now that it has finally warmed up here, the pond is starting to come into its own. A few drops of nontoxic pond dye made the water a gorgeous reflective black that show off the green leaves floating on its surface. Things are starting to grow. The water lily gives me a new leaf every day and one hot day it gave me two. 

I know this because the pond is a daily stop for me. I can’t wait to see what it looks like every day. The rapidly growing plants are an endless source if fascination for me. I search (in vane, so far) for dragonflies on the plants. I’m so excited to see my first water lily flower that I might have a party to celebrate the occasion when it comes.

water lily
Lily pads emerge a shimmering bronze color and quickly change to green.

I love every part of my garden (well, almost), but it’s been awhile since I’ve had so much fun discovering something in the garden. You might want to give something completely new a try in your own garden. I can almost guarantee you’re in for a good time.

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18 Responses

  1. Hey. I just found you on Instagram and now I’m finding you here on Pinterest. to have a water garden is the dearest wish of my heart!
    I love the watering container.
    2 questions:
    1) how do you keep it filled? (constantly running hose?)
    2) how do you keep small animals out? (a friend left her baby pool filled and a chipmunk climbed in and…drowned. do the plants provide a safe surface?

    1. If you have still water, no fountains then can put in a few goldfish or small koi and they eat the larvae of mosquitoes.

  2. The first photo..the gate..the galvanized stock tank..the gravel..and that gorgeous fence..perfection!! We have a garden center near us in Concordville Pa called Terrain at Styers which would be right up your alley. If you get a chance take a look at their website. Your garden looks like something they would design.

  3. I am so glad you are doing this. When I bought my home in 2007, I also inherited the previous owners pond. It is a huge in-ground pond, and I am sorry to say that I have killed more fish than grown due to forgetting about leaving the water on when I have to add to it. I am so frustrated with the whole thing that I priced filling it in only to get an $1100 quote. Um, nope. So, I guess I will learn how to clean the damn thing out since it has string algae in it, and there is about 3″ of muck on the bottom. I have no clue where to start, so, I guess I will do what I normally do and just start somewhere. Yours looks beautiful, but I wonder if you will unhook it and bring it all indoors for the winter, or leave it outside and drop the plants to the bottom of the pond like we do here. Your winters are much more harsh than ours, and since your pond is above ground, you probably will have to bring in the water lily if you want to keep it for next season. Here in OK, with in ground ponds that are more than 18″ deep, we can sink water lilies to the bottom for the winter, and they do not freeze.

    1. I should have addressed that in the post! My thought now is that I will empty the pond for winter and I’ll sink the hardy plants in the ground to attempt to overwinter them. Supposedly that can work, but we’ll see.

  4. how beautiful. I too am in Wisconsin and am interested how your pond will fair in winter time. will you replant each spring, or are the plants salvageable overwintering?

  5. I have considered doing this so many times. I even went to the local farm stores and priced these galvanized containers. I have bought a book about water gardens and studied off and on yet I have never taken the plunge. I have noticed that solar powered fountain advertised here and there. How does it work for you? Your pond is pretty and it looks quite good in it’s setting. Of course anything would look good sitting in your garden.

    1. That cheap little solar fountain works pretty darn good for what it is. It does have a battery in it, so it will keep going for about two hours after the sun goes down. But it doesn’t move a ton of water so I’m not sure if it’s that great for moving water, but as corny as it is, I enjoy it. We have no electricity over here and I didn’t want to spend the money to bring it over so I didn’t have a lot of options for fountains. I would have loved to have one of those Japanese deer-scarer bamboo fountains that makes that charming sound, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make that happen without an electrical pump.

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