Adding a water garden to your backyard landscape might be one of the best design choices you ever make. Water gardens can be a very peaceful addition to your backyard - the trickle of water offers a quiet sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Water plants, and in particular the water lily, have long held a deep fascination for many people. The resurrection of water lilies each year from the mud of the pond has been a symbol of immortality in many of the world's religions. A well-designed water garden is more than just a delightful fancy. Although it is now possible for any amateur garden designer to put in a fibre-glass or plastic moulded pond into a garden, a serious designer making a water garden will want the pool for growing aquatic plants to be made using concrete as the base.

The Formal Water Garden – Building The Water Garden DesignPool

Nearly all aquatic plants need full sunshine and the pool in the water garden should be in the open. A square or rectangular shape will be the most successful using this material and it should be built at a time when there is no danger of frost cracking the newly laid and still wet concrete. Early autumn is the ideal season as it gives time for the concrete to dry before the winter frosts and to mature before planting and filling in the spring. (This is a relatively long term project but it will then outlast its designer!)

The soil is excavated to a depth of 2 feet 6 inches. The sub soil at the bottom should be made firm. Onto this is poured a six inch deep layer of concrete mixed from one part cement, two parts clean sharp sand and three parts clean gravel or shingle. These are mixed with clean water to make the consistency soft without being sloppy. It is important when using concrete under water that the very best materials are used. Cheaper materials may allow the pond to leak in future years.

Once the floor of the pond is dry, the walls are built. A wooden frame is built against each side of the pool, forming a false wall six inches from the sides. Concrete, mixed as for the bottom, is poured into this space and allowed to dry. After a couple of weeks, when this concrete has thoroughly set, remove the wooden frame. A further excavation can be made, 1 foot deep, round the sides of the pool. This allows an area for those plants that need only very shallow water.

The concrete must now be treated with a proprietary waterproofer, or with several coats of a solution of waterglass (sodium silicate) and water. After waterproofing, leave the pool for at least two months. The concrete has toxic alkalis and these need time to be neutralised before the pond is filled.

Planting A Lush Flower Surrounding

Once the concrete has had time to mature, lay a layer of heavy loam, free from roots, on the bottom. Mix in a small quantity of bonemeal. The pool is now ready for planting.

Aquatics are best planted in late spring and early summer. Water lilies can be planted in the loam at the bottom before the pool is filled. Make sure that the crown of the plant is immediately covered by a little water. As the plants grow, gradually increase the depth of the water. If the water lilies are put straight into deep water, they will not flower until the second year. An alternative method of gradually increasing the depth is to plant the lilies in a loosely woven hazel or willow basket and gradually lower this to the bottom of the pond – the weight of the loam will prevent it floating. There are plastic pond baskets available if you prefer them, but they will not, of course, break down gradually in the pond and the lilies in time will become pot-bound and unable to spread and increase.

Add a number of oxygenating plants, which grow entirely under the water, to the pond. These not only help to purify and clean the water, they also provide cover and nesting places for fish. In the shallow areas round the sides of the pond, plant the little iris laevigata, marsh marigold, water forget-me-not, arrowhead, bog arum and other shallow-rooted water plants. Do not plant any with long straggling roots, as they will rapidly become invasive and spread over the pond.

The water plants take six to eight weeks to become established and you can then introduce fish to the pond. Goldfish, a distant relative of the wild Carp, are by far the best choice of decorative fish as they are hardy, even in cold climates, and swim close to the surface where they can be easily seen.