Landscaping a woodland pond

Thanks to a skillful combination of plants and rocks, this little pool looks like a natural part of the landscape
Steven R. Lorton

Imagine hiking through a forest on a hot day. You're looking for a place to stop and rest when you come across a cool, spring-fed pool lit from above by shafts of sunlight poking through tall conifers. Sounds like a place you'd like to linger awhile, right? The pool in the picture at left could be that oasis in a deep forest, but it's in a backyard garden. And those "shafts of sunlight" come from yellowish foliage and flowers, not from the summer sky.

The pond is scarcely bigger than a puddle--less than 4 feet long and about 2 feet at its widest. Owner Sandra Adams built it by digging a shallow impression in the soil, then lining the hollow with a PVC liner. She covered the liner with small stones, edged it with river rock, and set a slab of basalt upright in the water's center to make the pool look deeper.

Behind the slab, she planted bright yellow Carex elata 'Bowles Golden'. In the foreground, a haze of chartreuse flowers covers lady's-mantle (Alchemilla mollis). At the left of the pond, the red-tipped blades of Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra') echo the red-leafed Japanese maple that forms a lacy canopy overhead. At bottom right, coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea) send up hot pink flower spikes that play off the maple leaves and blood grass.