The Fish Can See Clearly Now


I always say that my backyard pond is the one place in my yard where I spend the most time and do the least amount of work.

That definitely isn’t true on the weekend when I have to clean it, however. It’s an “old-fashioned” pond–pre-formed, not liner with rocks on it, so that in and of itself causes a lot of issues.


It was put in over 35 years ago–before they knew about putting in filters and building filters into the waterfall feature–so I have to plop a filter box onto the bottom to house the pump.

But despite all the drawbacks, it works to keep some smallish fish alive, even through New England winters. And the sound of moving water definitely helps you to feel cool on a hot day!


The fish are probably 12-13 years old–I’ve lost count now–and when I was cleaning it this year, I found a 2 year old that I didn’t know that I had. So that’s always a nice bonus. We’ll see if it lives long enough to grow into an adult, although if it’s made it this far, chances are good it will survive.

I don’t generally put plants in the pond anymore although I used to. The photo at the top of the post is from several years ago. The fish, rooting around in the gravel and the mud just made a much bigger mess for me to deal with when I was cleaning. I want the fish to eat the algae that forms–and there’s plenty of that–and any bugs that might fall in. Obviously it works or the fish wouldn’t have survived this long.

I also don’t use that fountain feature. The birds loved it a little too much. They would try to perch on it, which was really funny to watch, but then they would tip the whole fountain and pump over if they were heavy enough–think something like a mourning dove.

Even the robins would sometimes knock it over flying too quickly around it. So it had to go.

But the end of the day, to sit beside the pond is one of the best things in life.

Wordless Wednesday


Sigh. This was the big attraction at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show on Saturday. You could barely get near it to take a photo. This despite the fact that even the Spoiler said to me, “Oh yuck! You’re not taking a photo of that, are you?”

They get great points for creativity, I will give them that. But as a musician, I am a little bit horrified at the “creative re-use” of the old piano, particularly since it was once a player piano.  I guess they are going the way of cursive handwriting.


The only other pond I took a photo of was this one. This is a beaver dam depiction and it won the most awards of any exhibit at the show–10 of them, including the coveted Environmental Award.

I will talk about this display, and show more photos from it on Friday.

Wordless Wednesday


This time of year, the pond is a blessing and a curse. It has to do with the fact that there’s water in it–and the fact that we’re still in a moderate to almost severe drought–we’re right on the edge now.

Last weekend as I was cleaning, I heard the dog yapping away. It was her “there’s squirrels in the yard” bark so I wandered over to an upstairs window to take a look. Sure enough, a squirrel was running down the rock face that backs up the pond, going out onto the ice and drinking from the fountain. Nice for him/her/it.

But the weekend before, just before the snow, the pond was completely iced over. The ground was frozen hard and the dog pulled me right to the edge of the pond. I looked and immediately pulled her back. All I could see were 2 squirrel legs sticking up out of the water–“touchdown squirrel” as it were–upside down.

As near as I can guess, the poor critter must have leaned over the edge where there was a bit of water showing, and pushed the ice away to get at it. But of course, the ice pushed back and it got trapped and that was that. There it was until the ice thawed this weekend and I could fish it out and give it the “compost” burial that the other unfortunate critters that slip in on occasion get.

No matter how many bird baths full of water I keep out, the pond still is a death trap on occasion. I always feel sad about that.

Water, Water Everywhere at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show

Pondless waterfall

I have to confess, I was way more impressed with this little feature than the Spoiler was.  He couldn’t believe that I took quite so many photos as I did.   He of course didn’t realize it was a pondless waterfall, not just an ordinary fountain. As a water gardening expert and former retailer of Aquascapes products, I knew immediately what this was and how well done it was.

What I couldn’t quite believe, however, was how many other landscapes were displaying water features.  I know this vendor and he is a an Aquascapes retailer. We did business many times when I was in retail gardening. He’s quite good at what he does.

But it got me thinking about water features. How many folks actually have them. Even 10 years ago they were relatively rare and I suspect with the trend toward native plants and sustainability ponds are becoming endangered species. Most folks don’t realize they can be very eco-friendly.

In fact, this next landscape, which was so dramatically different from everything else in the landscape display area, endeavored to show just that: that native plants, including bog areas and rain gardens, can be lovely too.  It was different but it caught my eye and it was definitely lovely in its own way.

native garden

The bog area in the garden is in the distance, at the upper right, with the Spoiler, the “crusty old New England native,” as I described him, leaning on a table waiting for me to finish taking photos.

Of course there were far more spectacular–and unrealistic–examples of the use of water too.


This was the set most of the TV folks were doing their live shots from.  You can see the “waterfall” flowing from the dining table into the “pool” below.  Just out of sight in this shot are the stepping stone rocks that take you across to the garden area. In another portion of this landscape is a little sitting area with Adirondack chairs flanking a stone fireplace. It was lovely but again, not something you’ll find in the average backyard.

Still, most of these displays, like most home and lifestyle magazines, are aspirational rather than something someone is going to install “whole hog” in the backyard. They’re like living idea books.

And it was so wonderful to see all the plants, trees, and flowers in bloom, particularly after such a difficult cold, snowy couple of weeks.


This 1936 Farmall tractor just had a trailer full of daffodils but it is still lovely.  And the wall that you see?  This is what’s below it.


Because of course, no landscape is complete without a water feature!  Actually I thought this one was lovely with the little ferns tucked into the sides.

Finally, lest you think there was nothing for the house plant lovers (besides acres of house plants for sale, of course) there was this sweet display.

orchids & succulents

It was this eye-catching display of orchids & succulents–something that would probably never work in real life but which looked great here. And yes, this display had a water feature too, as I recall, complete with a wagon wheel type contraption going around. It wasn’t to my liking so I didn’t even take a photo.

Just Add Water

pond--long shot

This is one of my favorite “Spoiler” stories and I think it illustrates how much work I had to do–and occasionally still have to do–to keep him organic!

When he first brought me over to show me the house (because as I am fond of saying, I married the house, gardens & pond), I was astounded at how clear the water in the pond was. I could have read the date on a penny at the bottom.

Mind you, these days, that’s not so remarkable, but this was 21 years ago and this pond has–or had–no filter! Or fish, or plants, or any living thing in evidence, except the bulbs planted in the two beds flanking it.

So once I managed to shut my gaping mouth I asked him how he managed to keep the water so crystal clear. His response was priceless, “Oh that’s easy,” he said. “Pool chemicals.”

Needless to say, the pool chemicals have been recycled at our household hazardous waste disposal day, and as I said in Monday’s post, we now have frogs–as well as fish that breed in the pond–and plants living in the pond.

The pond is the easiest “garden” I have in fact. Because it is so old and I don’t have the ability to run it like one of the newer ponds, we do have a bit more algae build up, particularly in the early spring (like now) before I do the yearly clean out.

But that’s about the only maintenance that I do. Once a year, I drain the pond (after carefully re-locating my fish to a holding bucket. The frog makes itself scarce and then returns when I finish). I lightly scrub the sides, refill with fresh water and de-chlorinator, put the fish and the plants back and enjoy the rest of the summer. What could be easier?

And there’s nothing like the sound of running water to make you feel cool on a hot day!

Wordless Wednesday–The Clean Pond

I’ve been so crazy busy this year I had to take a vacation day to clean the pond.  I did that last week.

After the pea soup green water the fish had gotten used to, they’ve all gone into hiding until the lilies fill out a bit.  I should have gotten them a water hyacinth or two. (By the way, the houttunyia, or chameleon plant you see on the right side there isn’t so much of a problem, hemmed in by pure bedrock to its right and granite on the left.  But it can be unbelievably aggressive on its own–plant with caution!)  In the top photo, you can see it coming down into the grass where the mower will keep it in check.

Water this clear is actually a little un-natural.   But after the heat we’re expecting the next few days, I’ve no doubt it won’t be this clear for long!  Astronomical Summer arrives right on schedule!  Happy summer, everyone!

A Dramatic Tropical for the Pond

You last saw me post about this back on August 16–Foliage Follow-Up day.  But the picture I had there didn’t really give a sense of the scale of this tropical grass.  And since I’ve just repotted it for the third time (it was continuing to blow over in the slightest breeze because it had become too top-heavy in its last pot) I thought I’d post about what a remarkable plant it was.  It’s definitely one I’ll over-winter again for next year!

The tall plant in the background is the plant I’m really talking about–it’s cyperus papyrus King Tut, a Proven Winners plant that really has become a standout in the pond.  The frog adores it–it is his favorite basking place.  And the fish seem to enjoy nibbling around the pot and the roots too.

Its smaller cousin in the foreground, the umbrella plant, cyperus alternifolius, is one that I’ve wintered over 2 or 3 years now.  It gets pretty scraggly by the end of the winter and looks rather pathetic when it first hits the pond in the spring.

Water plants really need warm water to get going so I usually don’t even put them in until June or so but once the water warms they take off–and they can stay in the pond for quite some time in the fall because the water stays warm.  I leave them in until there’s a threat of a freeze, usually.

While these marginals are not great at filtering the water or preventing algae, their roots do provide some food for the fish–and King Tut’s pot has always been “Freddy,” the resident frog’s favorite basking and hunting spot, regardless of its size or position.  Even when it kept flipping on its side because the plant was top-heavy, I’d find Freddy perched on the plastic, astride the pot as if it were a mountain.

When a plant provides that much eye appeal (never mind entertainment for both me and the resident aquatic life) how can I not save it over for next year?