Unless your pond is part of a formal garden scheme with a stone rim around it, you will need to landscape its muddy edges. A number of gardeners try to do this with stones, which are appropriate for a mountain stream, but not for a placid pond! The natural landscape for a pond is one of vegetation and this is what you must recreate as the landscape around your pond.
The outline of the pond is of the first importance. To be effective as a natural-looking pond, the outline of the pond should be irregular. If your pond is a perfect circle, it will never look natural, no matter what you do to it. So it is first necessary to excavate further areas in order to give the pond the necessary irregular outline. In a natural watercourse the curves are mostly due to the water meeting some obstacle, curving round it and throwing itself against the opposite bank, which becomes eroded by the force of the water. Use the same principle in forming the edges of the pond, with promontories faced by inlets on the opposite side.
The shoreline itself should not end suddenly with a steep drop into the water. There should be a gentle slope down to, and beyond, the water's edge. It is this ground that projects into the water itself that should be planted with the largest and boldest plants. This is natural and also has the effect of concealing some of the inlets. The pond will appear larger than it really is and will remain full of surprises.
The pond edge is one of the most tractable and amenable areas of the garden for moisture loving plants. Why not take full advantage of this? By growing a wide variety of plants and flowers around your pond you will make it into a feature that gives constant delight as well as a natural haven for frogs and newts.
The edges of ponds with their moist soil are perfect places for growing those flowers that thrive in damp conditions. Astilbes, euphorbia, hostas, ligularias with their heart-shaped leaves and golden flowers, irises, and lobelia will all flourish beside a pond. In addition to their flowers, all of these plants have interesting foliage. A contrast in the shapes can be achieved by placing rounded and broad-leaved plants beside the spikes of the yellow flag iris or those of lobelia cardinalis. Filling the pond edges with a rich variety of damp-loving plants of different height not only adds a natural look to the edges, but enhances the surface of the pond with their reflection. It is better to plant in groups leaving, initially, some bare soil so that the plants can spread and colonise the ground naturally.
If the area is large enough, plant broad-leaved foliage plants such as gunnera and darneras. Allow tall flowering plants to rise their heads above. These broad leaved foliage plants add a lush jungle effect.
Not only the edges themselves but the banks of the pond are splendid areas for planting great drifts of flowers, marsh marigold, purple loosestrife, bog irises, meadowsweet, ostrich plumes, and tall Asiatic primula will all grow well together on the banks. Royal ferns will look stunning growing in clumps above a pond. On an acid soil, clumps of the blue Himalayan poppy will add to the interest, although they will not do well in a completely waterlogged soil. In the shallow water at the edge of the pond are grown bog arums, the tangerine scented foliage of acorus calamus, and sedges and rushes.
The moist, lush conditions at the water's edge will encourage all these plants to grow well, in some cases too well. It is important to ensure that your pond landscape is not completely taken over by one particularly invasive plant that chokes out all the others. It is necessary, as always when trying to achieve the 'natural' look, to divide the plants every few years. In all natural gardening, there is a constant need to adjust the plant proportions as some increase faster than others. The aquatic plants themselves should not be allowed to cover the surface of the pond. For the landscape to work, at least one third of the water surface should be kept completely clear to reflect the sky and surrounding trees.