Our pond

When we bought our house, it was brand new. We had .75 acres and about half of that was the pie shaped back yard. In 2002, my husband began to map out a free-form outline for a future pond, which he began digging out during the summer and fall 2001. We estimate it to be about 5,000 gallons. We didn’t have one tree or shrub in our entire yard. We had no experience with ponds – knew nothing about filtration, liners, skimmers, etc. We figured it out all on our own.

Early pond. We ended up removing most of this landscape.
Early pond. We ended up removing most of this landscape.
A year later we added plants and bought four koi. Three of which still survive today. Figuring they were at least a year old when we got them, they are at least 12 years old! I also got the bright idea to buy some cheap goldfish, you know, the kind you win at a church carnival? Big mistake, for all they did was eat and poop. We also bought some other fish, none of which survived the year due to Blue Herons that would visit our pond, usually at dusk and dawn. Somehow, the koi knew how to avoid being served as dinner!

Later we added more plants. The only fish that reproduced were the goldfish. Goldfish and Koi, essentially both carps, are able to breed, but their offspring are rather muddy looking and sterile. We ended up giving away as many of these fish as we could.

In 2003 or 2004 we put stone from our deck to the ponds edge, so that we could have a patio.

We eventually created two garden paths from either side of the stone patio that converge to the shed. Most of the leylands shown here came down during the 2010 bilzzard.
2003-2004. We eventually created two garden paths from either side of the stone patio that converge to the shed.
Most of the leylands shown here came down during the 2010 blizzard

Garden path
We also carved out garden paths to the left and the right of the pond, which converged to a point at the garden shed.Backyard pond

We sculpted out a heart shaped garden path that points back to our storage shed
We sculpted out a heart shaped garden path that points back to our storage shed

Ichiban is one of our original four koi we bought in 2002. She is very friendly, lets us pet her and feed her. She is a piggy and a show off!
Ichiban is one of our original four koi we bought in 2002. She is very friendly, lets us pet her and feed her. She is a piggy and a show off!
A serious leak in 2009 forced us to drain the pond completely. We bought a kiddie pool to put the fish in, and it was a good time to weed out all the mutts. My husband put them in a cooler and took them to a natural pond nearby. I couldn’t bear to kill them. With fresh water, we decided to buy two more koi (after four years we had lost a white one due to natural causes). OhNo,  a pretty yellow gold koi, stayed in the pond for about two months before a Blue Heron got to him. We found him alive, but floating on his side with a puncture wound.The other koi was a butterfly or fantail, almost white with some pale orange coloring around the head. We didn’t want to lose “Choucho” too! That is when we decided to get a net. We bought copper hooks and put them around the pond and their purpose is to hold the net taught.Kou at feeding timeWaterfall

Once we put the net up, we also bought a lot of water hyacynths and parrots feather. That year, the vegetation just went wild. We could hardly see our fish, but the water was very clear. And something else happened, we started seeing babies! Breeding koi is difficult because they tend to eat their own roe. The combination of the net, lots of roots floating on the surface and vegetation in the pond for roe to attach, plus perhaps the addition of OhNo and Choucho (Japanese for butterfly)provided an ideal habitat to make koi babies. More than a dozen survived. We’ve given a lot away, but kept eight to enjoy. We see many of the characteristics of our original koi in this second generation. One in particular, we dubbed Rising Sun, for his nice round orange spot on the top of his head. I also like the name because it is one of my favorite George Harrison songs.  He’s very shy and quick and its hard to get a picture of him.

The pond net makes getting nice photographs difficult In the spring, the net catches various seed pods and leaves, and it can get kind of junky. We’ve got to figure out a way to vacuum this debris off. But it is necessary and acceptable if it means our koi are safe!

We changed the water in the pond this year (startling a mother mallard that nested at the pond’s edge and pump)  and I made my husband take out most of the plants that had overgrown their pots, and which had also accepted many weeds. He removed them under duress, but we needed a fresh look. So we launched this spring with one pickerel plant, and plan to get some more. We need the plant life to fix the nitrogen and help shade the pond. Algae is a problem, though the fish don’t mind it.

  

Siberian Iris

Around 2002 or 2003, I bought a pot of Siberian Iris, sometimes called Japanese Iris. These perennials bloom each May on graceful stems. Unlike their bearded counterparts, they do not multiply via rhizomes, but through seeds produced in late summer and early fall. Their leaves are upright, soft and graceful, again not at all like the bearded Iris which have firm, blade-like leaves. My single purchase has produced countless of babies. We enjoy many clumps of this deep purple-blue color, which is my primary garden color. I am always looking for blues and violet blues! I have shared many of these with my garden friends!

Siberian Iris
Graceful Siberian Iris

I keep finding more to plant! I have tried other plants along this walkway, but the Siberian Iris, though the blooms are short-lived,provide pretty upright foliage all year long.

You can see the foliage better here. Aren’t they graceful looking?  Siberian Irises transplant well. They produce upright, rigid seed heads and self seed readily. The seed heads could be very pretty in arrangements, if painted with a floral paint. The blooms only last a week, but one clump can produce many blooms!

Siberian Iris

De-flowered Clematis

I love the way flowers look just before they bloom and slightly after their peak. When I lived in northern Delaware, I tried to grow clematis, but never had any luck. In southern Delaware, I was more successful and I try and buy a new variety each year. Two, along our eastern fence, pour their blooming attention to our neighbor’s house, so we just get to see the back end of them unless we crank our necks! I’ve wised up and started planting them on a southern exposure of our fence. This variety was a purple/blue color, which I love. It had some blooms in the store, and the first of these first petals just fell off, exposing the stamens and interior of the clematis. I think it looks awful pretty, even without the petals!

Clematis no petals

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas were my mother’s favorite flower. Neither my mother or father were into gardening. My father loved to cut grass, lawns were his thing, and he enjoyed spreading Scott’s Turf Builder on our lawn. But shrubs, trees or flowers? Forget about it. I don’t have any memories of my mother gardening, save for the memory of her watering hydrangea bushes we inherited with a summer home my parents bought in Brigantine, in the 1960s. That was her first introduction to the flower/shrub, and outside in her madras plaid shorts and summer top, she would be outside with a hose, watering them frequently. She loved the showy puffballs, which I remember being blue. One of our neighbors was an elderly couple, who also had quite a few hydrangea shrubs, and mom learned about their care from them. One day, I saw my mom putting pennies in the soil. She had heard that the copper in the pennies would help turn the hydrangea blooms pink. I recall my mother also creating cuttings through water. I would watch as little tiny white roots would appear in the glass. I don’t recall if any of them actually took.

My mother passed away in March, 2001, days before I moved to our new home in Lewes. When she died, our family ordered many hot house hydrangeas that were readily available for the Easter market. They looked beautiful in the church and I know she would have been pleased. I took one home and planted it in my side yard, one of the first landscape plants of our newly built home. It had already been forced to bloom, so I didn’t have any expectation for it that year. The next year, the shrub grew rapidly, producing many of its large, heart-shaped leaves. But no blooms. I had gotten a job with Cooperative Extension and asked our horticulture agent why it wasn’t blooming. “If it was a hot house plant, it may never bloom,” he answered. “Sometimes, they won’t.”

I resigned myself to a very healthy and rapidly growing leafy shrub. To satisfy my urge to see some hydrangea blooms, I bought other macrophyllas – Nikiko Blue – was described by many to be the most intense – actually produced a very light, pale blue in my garden soil. By our third summer, I was delighted to see that “mom’s hydrangea” – the funeral plant – had set many buds and in this case, the third time was the charm. What had been pink in the church had produced gorgeous deep violet blue mopheads. I was thrilled.

Since then, I have added at least one or two hydrangea plants a year, in honor and in memory of my mother. I ordered a variety of lacecaps from Wayside Gardens, and I can’t remember what variety they are! I fell in love with Oakleaf hydrangeas and now have two shrubs of a slightly different variety. I have grown to really love lacecaps, and have several varieties. Last year, I purchased my first “Limelight” and I have yet to take photos of it. It has leafed out nicely, enduring its first winter in our yard. I look forward to seeing it.

In 2010, we decided to line a short, southern-facing fence with a row of white hydrangeas. I think I actually had in mind the “Annabelles” the big showy mopheads, but the tags said they were just the white macrophyllas. Well! We got a surprise! Three of the row produced the advertised white macrophylla balls. One turned out pink-white-yellow (Very old fashioned looking) and two on the end turned out to be lacecaps, producing slightly different colors.

The gallery below are some of my earlier photographs. My goal is to have clusters of hydrangeas everywhere! Once I get my husband to agree to a garden path trellis/arch, I hope to get a climbing variety!

A nest for mallards!

While doing some spring cleaning on our pond, we startled a mother mallard who rushed in the pond, exposing a dozen eggs she has been incubating
While doing some spring cleaning on our pond, we startled a mother mallard who rushed in the pond, exposing a dozen eggs she has been incubating
Here she is in the pond, probably scared to death that we would harm her clutch
Here she is in the pond, probably scared to death that we would harm her clutch
Often, usually around our dinner time, she would leave her nest, likely going off to her home region to feed. She would never leave longer than two hours, however.
Often, usually around our dinner time, she would leave her nest, likely going off to her home region to feed. She would never leave longer than two hours, however.
We would come by everyday to check on her. She stayed so still! She seemed uninterested in any of our attempts to eat
We would come by everyday to check on her. She stayed so still! She seemed uninterested in any of our attempts to eat
Here's a blurry picture (I was so excited) of some of the chicks leaving the next to hop in the water!
Here’s a blurry picture (I was so excited) of some of the chicks leaving the next to hop in the water!
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As I’ve mentioned, we have four large koi (and several of their babies). They were each curious about the other. The koi made some soft nibble inquires into tiny duck feet, which caused a minor commotion!

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All 12 eggs hatched! Once the last of the ducklings too their plunge, she gave them lessons in our pond! She made all kinds of grunts and quacks.
All 12 eggs hatched! Once the last of the ducklings too their plunge, she gave them lessons in our pond! She made all kinds of grunts and quacks.
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Mother mallard was quite hungry and eagerly fed on some pieces of white bread I offered her. She even took it out of the kois’ mouth when they tried! After all they had their own food, and she didn’t seem too interested in the koi pellets.
The ducklings stayed close to their mother. Because we had recently refilled our pond, we didn't have a lot of plants or pots that she could rest on. Mother was hungry and eagerly took several slices of white bread
The ducklings stayed close to their mother. Because we had recently refilled our pond, we didn’t have a lot of plants or pots that she could rest on. Mother was hungry and eagerly took several slices of white bread
Mama climbed up to the only water plant we had in the pond at that time, a large pickerel. She liked resting there and called for her ducklings to stay close
Mama climbed up to the only water plant we had in the pond at that time, a large pickerel. She liked resting there and called for her ducklings to stay close

As I was taking pictures, my husband ran out to Ace Hardware to get a bag of cracked corn. We figured she was hungry. The babies nibbled at the bread I was offering, but mostly the mother consumed the bread. She must have been starving, staying close to her clutch as they began to emerge.

Here’s a video:

After about 5 hours of this incredible show, the mother mallard climbed out of the pond, with her ducklings closely following. They exited out the back yard, went through a gap in our fence and traveled to points unknown. I did some reading about mallards, and it is common that they abandon their nest, but I wasn’t sure if that meant our pond too. I guess it did. There were a couple of things that might have factored in her decision to leave. 1. Our presence. 2. Our net. This net had confused her as she would always fly in from wherever she visited to feed. She’d bounce on the net for a while before figuring out how to return to her nest. 3. The koi. She might not have appreciated sharing the pond, though I doubt she would have that privacy in nature. 4. No pond plants. She seemed to really like perching on the pickerel, but there wasn’t enough room for the duckling dozen.

I have heard that mallards will return to the location of a successful nesting, so we hope to see her again soon!

Home for the Mallards!

Mother mallard duck

In 2002, my husband hand dug a large pond, approximately 5,000 gallons. We bought four koi, and have since enjoyed many days and nights in front of the pond.  In coastal Delaware, we are often visited by Blue Herons and as a result of their many visits, we’ve  had to put up a net.  I purchased 3 ft tall copper hooks (about eight) and placed them around the perimeter of the ponds edge, and we suspend the net on the hooks. This allows for the net to sit up approximately 18 inches from the water, so that frogs can come and go!  We drain the pond approximately every two years or so, and once, we had to replace the liner. In early April, while my husband was draining the pond and moving things around, he startled a mother Mallard duck. And she him! She  squawked and  dove into the water. My husband saw her nest, and counted 12 eggs!

We left her alone and on Friday, May 10, we saw her swimming in the pond and talking to her babies, encouraging each to take their first plunge in our fresh water! I’ll post more about this later!