By April 14, 2011 My Garden 6 Comments

After several months that alternated between staring grimly at a hole in the ground and going after said hole with a pickaxe—a process interrupted by my need to scale the summit of Mt. Mulch–I have finally finished the pond. It is dug, it is lined, it is filled, and there are rocks.

Lord, so many rocks…

Kevin came in yesterday for the final few hours of laying down liner and whatnot, and helped me lug some stone, but for the most part, this has been my project, and I’ve got the blisters to prove it. (I also now own my own pickaxe. ‘Cos every woman needs her own pickaxe.) Today I threw everything else that needed doing to the winds and spent about six hours finishing up the job, punctuated by phone calls from my editor to make sure I really did want to do more Dragonbreath books and my agent wasn’t keeping me chained in the basement and making me say that.

The current fashion in ponds is a hole with big flagstones around it overhanging the lip. I realized sometime yesterday that the reason for this is because that’s definitely the easiest method of coping with the question of how to disguise the big plastic pond liner. Unfortunately, this method also leaves no easy method for things that fall in to get out again, and no way for butterflies to puddle, and while frogs seem able to leap from the water like tiny torpedoes, if a turtle happened by, it would be screwed.

I cannot face the guilt involved in having accidentally slain a hypothetical turtle. Two hundred pounds of drainage rock later, I have constructed a crude beach-head for beasties to escape, and which also provides some nice soggy gravel that may prove interesting for butterflies looking for a sip.

This has the effect of making the flagstones look kinda funny on the beach-side. They’re high and dry and sitting atop gravel, while the waterline is several inches lower. To which I say “Look, there are so many weird-ass aesthetic choices in this garden, if you’re sweating over that, don’t turn around.” (Yes, there will be photos, but not until the water clears a bit and I’ve put in the water plants—definitely some scouring rush in pots, to give the dragonflies something to hold onto, and I’ll see what else is native and sturdy.)

One of my great goals for gardening is to successfully have some amphibian or other breed in my yard. If I can do that, I will feel like I’m really getting somewhere. And also I may die of squee.*

Surely tadpoles are possible!

It was a good day for hauling rocks around. It was pleasant and sunny and not hot enough to be miserable, everything is alive and singing, the tiger swallowtails are out in force and a woodpecker drummed on the tree above me while I worked.  The first hummingbird of the year buzzed me—male rubythroat, gorget absolutely gorgeous saturated red, attitude absolutely vile, just as it should be.

I saw the first monarch butterfly a few days ago, and was immediately seized with guilt, as my garden, while gearing up for a really fine show this year, is still sadly lacking in the early spring nectar offerings. I felt like a bad host. Here was one of my gardening goals, on the wing, and I had nothing to offer it!** It was as if the queen had come to tea, and all I had was stale crackers and some leftover tonic water.

I did what gardeners always do in this situation—I went out and bought some annuals and vowed that next year would not catch me so flat footed. (Bulbs. I need bulbs, clearly…) Some day I will have enough early spring plants to tempt a monarch without having to grab a flat of cheap annuals!

Just not, perhaps, today…

Anyway, the pond is dug, and I am very very tired and may go to bed before nine tonight. This weekend, I get the BEST part of such a big project—putting in the plants to complete the project! (My big potted oakleaf hydrangea is going into the ground, but there’s a lot of space to fill in. Woot!)

*I’m sure the little cricket frogs are breeding SOMEWHERE on the property, but I’ve never caught them in the act. I want to actually SEE a tadpole. This would make me very happy.

**I’d like to hatch out caterpillars here somewhere, too—if a monarch could live on the milkweed, I would be beyond thrilled, but I’d be happy with black swallowtails at this point. And I keep planting pipevine for the pipevine swallowtails, but it may be awhile before there’s enough to tempt a butterfly to lay eggs.


  • Katebat says:

    The statement about the pickaxe couldn’t be more true….I learned it from Digger… 🙂

  • Mud says:

    Very exciting. when I have a permanent pace with a yard I want to dig a pond (a small one, as I live in the desert). Maybe try growing rice in it…

  • Laura says:

    I would also suggest parsley… you can eat it and it has been my families one surefire way to get caterpillars. Parsley Swallowtails adore it (funny enough right)?, and the caterpillars are beautiful and funny with their little angry horns and the butterflies are equally beautiful, in a ‘there is no way I came from that fat stripey caterpillar’ way.

  • So jealous. I want a pond somethin’ fierce.

    Looking forward to the pictures!

  • dreamforest says:

    Ursula, it’s a bit late for this pond, but given your fears of reptile death, I thought I’d point you to my father’s pond building walk through, for the next iteration of this pond. I like it because it is stable enough for wading.


  • Phoenixineohp says:

    It might be too late for this pond, but there is a great article in Reptiles Magazine about how to build a pond for turtles and other wildlife. It might be very helpful for the future and info on how to help hypothetical turtles.
    Here is a link to the article stub:
    You can order online versions of past issues or see if there are any kicking around your area if you want to read more.
    Good luck with the garden!