A lot of work but ponds give life to plants, spirits


Right now our ornamental ponds are the busiest places in our garden. That’s quite a surprise considering the disastrous winter damage that left two of them frozen, damaged and, we thought, lifeless. It has been a real revelation and confirmation that life usually finds a way to survive.

It wasn’t easy getting them back in order. While the smaller pool in the front garden was easily cleaned and the waterfall that aerates the water restarted, there were fundamental problems with the larger pond in the back yard. The freeze-up destroyed the water recirculation lines, which required massive excavation to repair.

Now that things are back in order, life has sprung up all around the water. We repaired, cleaned and added new goldfish to the mix. Nature did the rest.

The biggest surprise is the new crop of frogs we’re finding. We knew some tadpoles had survived the winter freeze but didn’t expect to see them in great numbers.

Now, inch-and-a-half-long frogs decorate most of the lily pads in the mornings, pinging into the water whenever one of us approaches. When we look into the ponds, dozens more tadpoles are visible.

All of these tadpoles will turn into green frogs (Lithobates clamitans), one of the most common in the world.

They’ll grow to about 3-and-a-half inches long, females getting larger than males.

Juveniles are khaki or green and have lots of spots, some of which will disappear as they mature.

The disappearance of the adult fish and frogs changed the pond dynamics.

We’re seeing lots more dragonflies in the air earlier in the year than usual. With fewer predators in the water, more of the nymphs are turning into dragonflies.

That’s fine with us since they eat mosquitoes, and there are plenty of those around.

The local birds and bees fly down to the water with impunity, too, since there’s no worry a spooked frog will hit them leaping for the water.

The boldest of the visitors are the local robins who glide in barely a foot above the surface, rip moss off the pond rocks and immediately take wing.

They are females building their second nests of the season, and each may make a dozen visits a day.

The pond liner had to be lifted to replace the circulation tubing, so many of the marginal plants were killed during the repairs.

Before I could replace them, the birds claimed the area for bathing. Even the shy cedar waxwings and cardinals are regular visitors to this shallow water.

The goldfish were the only creatures missing.

My husband put new fish in the water weeks ago, but I hadn’t seen them until a spy mission from a second floor balcony caught them foraging one afternoon.

The vibrations of our approaching footsteps had been sending the fraidy fish into hiding.

The pond repairs and clean-out were terrible, and we had some thoughts about filling them in.

But despite stagnant water, digging and cleaning, all of this activity is proof that, for us, the trouble and expense was worth it. The water gives life and the plants feed everything drawn to it.

All of it feeds the spirit of the gardeners even if their bodies grumble sometimes about the weeding and tending to it all.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login