List of Wildlife Pond Edging Ideas for Small & Large Ponds 2021 [updated]
An outdoor pond is a haven for wildlife, and will often be one of the most biodiverse areas in a garden. It is a site where both organic and inorganic elements interact to create an ecological balance. This opens up a variety of spaces for shelter, especially for animals that have ventured out of the wild. In our increasingly fragmented natural environment, wildlife ponds will often be frontiers for survival. For this reason, the selection of materials to place along a pond’s edge goes beyond the aesthetic appeal.
A functional pond edge is one that reinforces the shape and stability of a pond’s margins, effectively hides pond liner, provides ample protection for a pond’s inhabitants, and attracts the right wildlife. This functionality can often be achieved by imitating what is found in nature. By striking a balance between living ornaments and structures for support, you can provide your pond’s inhabitants with the right amount of comfort and protection. The overall appearance of your pond can then be tailored to your taste by adding subtle garnishes and statement pieces.
When selecting materials for your pond’s edge, keep in mind that they will each require different levels of maintenance and attention. For example, plants may require regular pruning or may need to be placed in pots to restrict growth. Moreover, structures such as logs or bricks may encourage the growth of moss along their surfaces or deteriorate over time if kept wet.
With the end goal of a ‘balanced’ appearance in mind, you’ll find that all elements will naturally complement one another and should even ease maintenance. To achieve that unique natural look, here are some pond edge essentials to mix and match.
List of Ideas for Edging Wildlife Ponds
Often referred to as creepers or spillers, trailing plants are a great choice for blurring a pond’s edge. They can create the illusion of an impressionist painting by adding splashes of color and a variety of textures. Place these plants directly along a pond’s edge or elevate them in pots to create a dramatic cascading effect. You’ll find that they can provide cool shady spots for visiting amphibians and even attract a host of colorful pollinators.
Several species of trailing plants thrive in waterlogged soil or high-humidity conditions. These plants tend to have root systems that can grow out of specialized stems, allowing them to spread quickly in a more horizontal manner. This spreading habit makes them prime candidates as ground or liner cover around your pond. Their rapid spread also makes them a cost-friendly choice, as they can be propagated without much fuss.
Flowering spillers are a great choice for a colorful pond edge. Vibrant species for a lush, yet manageable, look include creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), purple lobelia (Lobelia erinus), creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens), and creeping thyme (Thymus spp.). Apart from these, there is a wealth of candidates for pond trailing plants that are relatively hardy and low-maintenance. For maximum impact and minimum effort, make sure to select plants that are suited to your climate and soil conditions.
2) Rocks, stones, and pebbles
These inorganic essentials range in size from considerably heavy boulders to weightless pebbles. As an addition to your pond’s edge, these will normally have a dual purpose: functional and ornamental. Rocks can be used to reinforce your pond’s shape and are a cost-effective solution for keeping liner in place and for protecting the material. Rocks and stones along the margin can be spaced apart to leave room for potted plants.
As these materials vary widely in terms of size, texture, and color, they can be mixed and matched to create a visually stunning, yet organic, appearance that blends into the surroundings. This way, wildlife can be drawn into the structurally diverse layout. Larger stones can be stacked to make way for a waterfall on one side of your pond. They can also be used to create varying depths along its margins. In the same way, they can be piled on top of one another to increase levels along the pond edge. Allow trailing plants to grow out of crevices between the rocks and tumble into the water for an altogether natural look.
Smaller stones and pebbles can also be used to create a gradual slope along one edge. This will allow wildlife to safely enter and exit the pond. If placing your rocks and stones above liner, make sure to select for those that have smooth edges, as rough edges may eventually tear the liner material or hurt the pond’s inhabitants. Additionally, position your stones with care to ensure that they won’t be displaced easily.
Plants that have a tolerance for “wet feet” are ideal for planting into your pond’s margins. They can open up safe pockets of shallow water for juvenile fish and small amphibians. Moreover, their moisture-loving roots can prevent erosion, reinforcing the stability of the pond’s edge. Aside from these benefits, marginal plants are unparalleled in rendering ponds with complexity and depth. A selection of the right species can endlessly beautify your pond throughout the seasons.
The best candidates for marginal pond plants typically thrive in shallow water conditions and have shoots that extend to the water’s surface. The leaves of these plants often have one side with waxy or hydrophobic cuticles. These afford the leaves a measure of buoyancy and protection. Many varieties are hardy enough to withstand year-round conditions, with shoots that die back in the winter and reappear in spring.
The fronds of marginal plants range from stiff and slender, such as those typically exhibited by rushes and cattails, or wide and fleshy, such as those of water lettuce and butterbur. Aside from the shade that these plants provide, many of them are oxygenators that aid in pond water aeration. Some species you may want to consider for their attractive flowers or foliage and their ecosystem services include marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), Japanese water iris (Iris ensata), and papyrus (Cyperus papyrus).
Want your pond edges to look as natural and wild as possible? If yes, you may want to look into the giant world of ferns. These moisture-loving plants thrive in humid conditions and will undoubtedly add texture and color to your pond’s edge. Easily identified by their stereotypical leaf structures, the rustling fronds of ferns are generally pest and disease-resistant. Moreover, most ferns are low-maintenance and are easy to control in terms of growth and spread.
Many species are hardy to temperate climate conditions and will not need special overwintering methods. Their fronds will typically grow yellow and die back towards winter, but can be expected to reappear and rapidly grow once more in spring. Species that are worth considering for their affinity to moisture-rich soil include Japanese painted fern (Athyrium nipponicum), marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), and shaggy wood fern (Dryopteris cycadina).
For a pre-historic or tropical look, place these hardy plants in between rocks or on a bed surrounded by lush ground cover plants for maximum impact. This way, shade and protection are provided for your pond’s visitors. Ferns can also be incorporated into a stone or waterfall backdrop for your pond, so long as their roots have access to well-draining soil.
5) Lawn or turf
For a neater edge around your pond, you may want to consider edging it with turf. This can provide a more distinct transition between land and water, but may be more challenging to maintain as opposed to using stones along a pond’s edge. If you intend to border your pond with turf, you will need to include a rim or lip to prevent rainwater or soil from draining into the pond. A drainage trench or rain garden might even be required if your pond is located in a low-lying area. Keep in mind that eroded soil may introduce unwanted nutrients or pollutants that can alter pond water health.
As store-bought turf may harbor unwanted pesticides, you may want to consider growing your own. To prevent cut grass from entering the pond, you will also have to manually cut your turf. This is well worth the effort, however, as a turf border can attract an assortment of amphibians to your pond. Unlike rocks and stones, turf stays cool to the touch even during the summer. Moreover, its proximity to the pond will allow the soil to stay damp.
As a turf edge stays cool and damp, it will likely be a frog’s means of entry and exit into the pond. If you would like to provide more shade and protection to these potential visitors, you may opt to grow your turf longer. By allowing the grass right next to your pond to grow longer, you can also prevent lawn clippings from drifting into the pond. To create an appealing contrast, accent your turf with smooth stones and a few plants.
If you’re interested in creating a resting spot for yourself right next to your pond, you may consider adding bricks to one corner or all around your pond system. This way, you have a stable foundation to safely walk along your pond’s edge. You can even extend your brick edge to accommodate a pondside lounge set-up complete with tables and chairs! You may want to consider leaving some space between where the water starts and where the brick edge begins, however, to prevent excess rainwater from draining into your pond.
Another creative way to use bricks is by creating a stable wall as a backdrop. You can use this wall as support for a vertical garden by mounting hanging pots of plants. Trailing plants would definitely be ideal candidates for this set-up, as their leaves and flowers can freely cascade into your pond. Perhaps more challenging, yet possibly more invigorating, would be a waterfall that flows down your brick wall. This provides the added bonus of an effortless way to water those hanging plants! Use your imagination to take this set-up even further and provide a pondside experience unlike any other.
If using bricks for finishing purposes right along your pond’s edge, do make sure that gaps are packed tightly with sand or with cement. Concrete bricks are typically safe to add to your pond, but you may need to let freshly made bricks rest away from the pond before use. Exposure to the elements will strip off any potentially harmful substances, that could otherwise affect your pond’s pH, on the surface of bricks.
If what you’re after is an extra neat pond edge, concrete would certainly be an ideal option for a pond that’s meant to last generations. Besides the drawback of being one of the more expensive edging options, it is easy to clean and maintain. It would perhaps not look as natural a pond edge on its own, but should ideally be used alongside other pond edge elements to attract wildlife.
Concrete can be used to create a steep pond edge that may deter potential predators of pond fish. It can also absolve you of all erosion or liner-related issues. Take advantage of having a concrete pond edge by bordering your pond with potted plants. These plants need not be partial to well-maintained moisture, and can even be species from the succulent family!
For a rustic, natural feel that will never grow outdated, wood is a great material for pond edging. Softer than stone, yet harder than most organic pond components, wood can introduce a balance between opposing textures. It can bridge the gap between them to develop an altogether cohesive appearance for your pond. A variety of wood types exist, with each having its own benefits and considerations for use.
Driftwood, with its almost dramatic lines and curves, has a weathered look that can make a pond appear as old and as enduring as time. Strategically place it near a waterfall or stream to create the illusion that it has been worn by the gentle pressure of water. You can also try placing it on an elevated edge and cultivate ferns and spillers from its holes and crevices. Driftwood may sometimes be expensive, or it may be difficult to find the appropriate size for your pond. Luckily, there are faux driftwood options that are usually available in aquascaping or gardening stores.
Tree stumps are another fantastic addition to a pond’s edge, though they are much more difficult to acquire and integrate into/around the pond securely. Look for weathered stumps that can easily be pried away from the earth, and are manageable to transport and carry in terms of diameter. Place your chosen stump right along the waterline and secure its position with rocks and stones.
In the same way, you can use logs, hardwood, and planks to add character to your pond. Do bear in mind, however, that some types of wood can quickly rot and even add unwanted tannins to your pond water. When selecting the right pieces, gauge the sturdiness and porousness of the wood. Remember that it may increasingly be worn over time due to water exposure, so be realistic about the possible life expectancy of this material.
If you’re the type to add a little bit of quirkiness to your pond with a garden gnome, colorful lights, or tiles with cultural motifs from your travels, you’ll find that there’s a wealth of choices you may consider to truly set your pond apart. Some of these even come with functions for which your pond’s inhabitants will thank you. A decorative pond spitter, for example, can be calculatedly placed along an edge of your pond to increase aeration in a specific area. These often come in the forms of animals, such as herons, frogs, and crocodiles.
For nighttime pond viewing, waterproof lights and lanterns are perfect for creating visibility around your pond. These are especially great if you have fish and amphibian species that only come out of their hiding places at night! Moreover, these can make your pond a night feature for guests to marvel at, and not fall into, during evening parties or intimate gatherings.
A fountain in the form of an urn, large vase, or sphere along the edge can also increase the therapeutic value of your pond, especially as moving water is known to promote relaxation. The mere sound of water has been shown to combat stress by affecting cortisol levels. Moreover, this would be beneficial for fish, particularly those that enjoy a mild current for exercise. A fountain is definitely a win-win addition to a pond, and can even be used as a separate refuge for smaller fish and waterlilies.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to decorating your pond, be they with materials that are merely aesthetic or with those that have vital forms and functions. Think of your pond’s edge as a canvas for creativity and innovation!