Best Ponds from Readers' Yards
These tales of outdoor transformations may just inspire you to build a pond of your own
Installing a pond is no small feat, but the end result can be a beautiful, enjoyable space that adds character to your yard for years to come. The ponds created by these TOH readers prove just that, and each pond has a unique story of how it came to be. Some homeowners turned a completely blank landscape into a lush oasis. Others uprooted their existing nightmare and completed a total makeover. These tales of outdoor transformations may just inspire you to build a pond of your own.
When Sam Lucero and Jeffrey Reeder relocated to Austin, Texas, they wanted to bring the lush, tropical vegetation of their former home in New Orleans with them. Starting with a dry, dusty, rocky backyard, they hauled in truckloads of soil to create two 1,000-gallon backyard ponds on two levels.
Taking advantage of their backyard's natural slope, they built one pond at the top of a retaining wall and the second at the base of the wall, and connected them with a stair-step waterfall. Water is pumped into a large pot in the upper pond; it flows over the pot's rim and down the steps of the waterfall, aerating the water for the goldfish, which can be observed from the adjacent flagstone patio. The masonry has been softened with about 800 impatiens, 20 rose bushes, and papyrus and water lilies.
Renee Toth loves plants, antiques, and garage-sale finds. So it was only natural that when she decided to install a pond in her barren backyard in Brownsville, Wisconsin, she found ways to incorporate some of her favorite treasures. Renee covered the edge of her pond with large stones given to her by a family member and flagstones found at the local landfill. Vintage watering cans, lightning rods, and an antique iron gate are displayed throughout her pond garden, which is surrounded by roses, ferns, peonies, and dahlias.
June Markum's pond in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, is proof that completely changing your backyard doesn't have to cost a fortune. After seeing other ponds and attending several pond tours, June was inspired to bring this beauty to her own backyard. Through a friend, she met an elderly couple looking to give away their swimming-pool liner. June collected stone from friends who were more than happy to give her the unused rocks on their property. She did all the digging and moved all the rocks herself; it took 12 months. Surrounding the pond are hostas, spireas, and irises. In the end, the entire project cost her around $600, the price of a pump and filter.
The home that Paul and Bellah Stephan purchased in Port Orford, Oregon, came with a backyard pond that was made of concrete, painted blue—and filled with garbage. They got rid of the garbage. Then, to make the pond look natural, they used an adhesive to cover the concrete with rocks and river sand, and built a shelf for water plants. Now the whole family can sit on the deck, look down at the koi and goldfish, and enjoy the sound of the waterfall.
Steven Bavis always wanted a waterfall and a pond for his backyard in Annapolis, Maryland. But other home-improvement projects took first priority, so he prepared for his dream project by dumping scrap bricks and dirt in one corner to build up the land for a future waterfall. Once he could focus on the pond, he began transforming his yard into what he calls a "Zen zone," where the sounds of the waterfall would drown out the neighborhood noises. After finishing the pond and waterfall, Steven enhanced the space with hundreds of rocks and plants, including Japanese maples and dwarf conifers. The family now has a tranquil backyard, a peaceful escape from the rest of the world.
For Tim and Denise McDannold, the addition of their pond was the final step in converting their Canton, Ohio, house into their dream home. They decided to create a small pond with lots of stone to continue the Tuscan theme of the inside of the house. They also wanted the pond to look natural and as old as possible, as if the house and patio had been built up to the water's edge. A splashing waterfall now serves as the perfect backdrop whenever they're on the patio.
Fred Adams's main priority in constructing a pond was having something that looked natural. To help create that look, he collected moss from the woods near his home, in Erie, Pennsylvania, and planted it between the rocks surrounding the pond. Initially, the pond contained great clumps of algae, but Fred learned how to naturally maintain the balance in his pond with fish, snails, and plants, such as water lilies and cattails. Now Fred, his family, and their neighbors enjoy sitting by the pond as often as possible.
Gardening has always been Terry Metzler's favorite hobby, while her husband, Steve, enjoys keeping fish. So they decided to create a pond in their St. Louis backyard that would cater to each of their interests and provide an ideal backdrop for entertaining family and friends. It wasn't easy. Digging the hole was the hardest part; they had to use a jackhammer and pick ax to chip into the bedrock. The whole project took two years. Now their pond is stocked with koi, water lilies, and lotus, and surrounded by 300 varieties of hosta, more than 100 kinds of daylilies, and hydrangeas, azaleas, and rhododendrons.
Tim Frisch's vision for the backyard of his Kenmore, Washington, home began when his wife, Linda, mentioned she would like a small pond, no bigger than 5 feet in length. Then they attended a seminar on how to build waterfalls and became inspired to do more. A lot more. Over the next four years, they built a 25-foot-long pond with four waterfalls, along with a new deck, a stone patio, and an artificial putting green. Now they enjoy sitting and listening to the waterfalls while watching their 15 koi.
After many unsuccessful attempts at growing grass on a hill in their terraced backyard, Paul and Teresa Somogye of Lee's Summit, Missouri, decided a pond would be a better alternative. After three months of hard work in the evenings and on weekends, Paul and Teresa have a pond that's full of cattails, water lettuces, lilies, frogs, and fish, and surrounded by roses, wild strawberry, and liriopes.
Gary Rensi's pond in Monroe, Michigan, is a constantly evolving. He always wanted a pond and a waterfall in his yard, and once he began building them, he never really stopped. He began by gathering boulders and rocks to form a foundation for the pond, which took a few years. With the help of a tractor, he placed every boulder and rock himself. Total cost of his project: $5,000. Although Gary admits that his pond takes quite a bit of time to maintain, he continues to add more shrubbery, plants, and flowers each year.
When Carisa Acker and her husband purchased a brand new home in Fruita, Colorado, the backyard was nothing but bare dirt. They decided to plant a lawn and put a pond next to their deck. The pond's natural look is enhanced by their use of native plants and rocks. The space is now a goldfish-filled outdoor sanctuary.
Inspired by the movie The Last Samurai, Queenie Iglesia decided to create a miniature version of the film's Japanese tranquility garden in the weed-and-dirt-covered front yard of her San Diego, California, home. She used river stones from her backyard and purchased materials from a local home store to help create her oasis. Once the pond and waterfall were installed, she added handmade stepping stones, as well as junipers and low-maintenance plants that could survive in the dry Southern California climate.
Tom Hardy wanted a pond and a bigger deck, but he couldn't decide which he wanted more for his house in Canton, Georgia. So he enlarged the deck and put two ponds in it. He used rigid plastic tubs for the ponds, setting them into "sandboxes" under the deck. The deck boards were cut to follow the edges of the tubs. All together, the two tubs hold about 500 gallons of water and contain 18 large goldfish. A waterfall connects the higher tub to the lower one. Tom now has about 1,800 square feet of deck, so he figures it's time to stop.