By Holly Crossley published
Garden pond ideas are one of those classic features that reliably add to the ambience of a plot. Sparkling water, calming ripples, leafy aquatic plants, maybe a fish or two... their presence alone is soothing and serene, offering tons of sensory benefits.
But ponds aren't just good for the aesthetic appeal – they're wonderful for wildlife too. Providing homes for frogs and attracting dragonflies and birds, they welcome life, movement, and a more natural edge to an outdoor space.
You don't need a huge plot for one of these watery features either – even small, spherical designs can have the same stunning effect. So if you're thinking of adding a pond to your garden, you can be sure there's a style to suit you, your budget, and the size of your space. We've rounded up some of our very favorite looks to help you find the perfect one for you.
And once you've finished swooning over these garden pond ideas, take a look at our landscaping ideas, too. You'll find lots more eye-catching designs to get you inspired.
1. Add a sculptural twist
Classic garden pond ideas can be given a modern edge with the help of contemporary sculptures. Silver-toned spheres like these make a stunning focal point when arranged into clusters and add a pleasingly unexpected twist.
Surrounding the water with an angular paved edge enhances the considered look. Meanwhile, a bordering, low-growing hedge of evergreens adds a welcome dose of greenery to soften the scene. We've got more garden edging ideas in our feature.
We love the archway nearby too – it continues the architectural theme whilst establishing a defined gateway between the lawn and the pond area.
2. Raise it up
When you think of garden pond ideas, you might automatically think of those that are dug down into the earth. However, this doesn't have to be the case. A raised design such as this is a modern approach that works well if you're working with a courtyard or paved space.
A generous stone edge provides room to perch and watch fish swim or water lilies gently drift across the water's surface in the breeze. And when it comes to planting, don't be afraid to go bold. Add structural aquatic plants for extra visual interest and surround the scene with tall, verdant foliage, textural grasses, and over-sized containers to create your very own jungle-like oasis.
You'll find more inspiration in our tropical garden ideas feature.
3. Use rocks and pebbles for a natural vibe
Although we love the freestanding effect, garden pond ideas look lovely when integrated into the surrounding environment, too.
Try placing one amongst a flowerbed, and fill with a mixture of pebbles. Define the edge with larger rocks and then use clambering alpines and small trees to surround the scene for an organic, woodland vibe. If you go for acers, you can enjoy the dazzling colors reflecting off the water in autumn – make sure you have a comfy seating spot nearby to take in the view.
It's not too tricky to recreate this look yourself – take a look at our guide on how to build a garden pond.
4. Create a stepping stone walkway
Stepping stone ideas have to be one of our favorite ways to get from A to B in the garden. Bringing water into the mix makes them even more of a showstopper.
Journeying across garden pond ideas by stepping from stone to stone adds a feeling of adventure, exploration, and a child-like sense of play. But that's not to say it doesn't look super stylish too. These pale stones make a striking statement against dark water, whilst shots of jewel-like blue florals accent the scene beautifully.
5. Add a tranquil feel with water lilies
Water lilies are wonderful flowers that will elevate even the smallest of ponds – take this small weathering-steel design for example. Their leaves provide a handy platform for butterflies and dragonflies to rest and rehydrate, too.
Surround with Japanese forest grass, euphorbia, and the well-loved alchemilla mollis to provide a good mix of lovely green textures and tones. The finished result will be a pocket of serenity for your outdoor space. Try our sensory garden ideas for more relaxing features.
6. Go for a wildlife pond
Speaking of butterflies and dragonflies, you can't go far wrong with garden pond ideas if you're wanting to welcome more life to your plot. As The Wildlife Trust says, it's one of the single best features for attracting new wildlife to a garden.
If you've got the space available, go big, fill with a mixture of plants, and provide lots of stones and logs nearby for small creatures to make habitats. Consider adding different levels, including shallower spaces to allow wildlife to get in and out easily.
As The Wildlife Trust says, it won't need too much maintenance providing the plants have been well-chosen and the pond is kept at a balanced ecological state. But, watch out for build-up of dead organic matter and encroaching vegetation and clear where necessary.
Looking for more ways to welcome in the natural world? Take a look at our wildlife garden ideas.
7. Make it a feature of your patio
Ponds are fabulous garden additions, so don't feel the need to hide one down at the very bottom of your plot. Instead, bring it up to where all the action is and integrate it into your patio ideas.
An organic shape is a great way to break up the hard lines of paving, whilst rocks, moss, and other foliage will give a natural vibe. Add statement garden lighting to illuminate the scene come nightfall.
We like the bright orange awning in the set-up above too – great for providing versatile shade for seating, as well as a fun pop of color. If you're also a fan, take a look at our awning ideas for more inspiration.
8. Use waterfalls to create a soothing sound
Still pools of water will provide subtle movement, thanks to visiting wildlife, spatters of rainfall, gusts of wind, or the odd falling leaf. But if you love the sound and sight of trickling water, then water feature ideas may be the way forward.
This duo of gentle waterfalls looks utterly stylish and will definitely bring a tranquil air to the atmosphere. Smart wooden cladding with recessed spotlights adds to the sleek look and will allow the feature to turn heads even when night falls. It would make a wonderful complement to decking ideas.
9. Step down to water
Use your garden pond ideas as a space to retreat from the daily hubbub. After all, stretches of water have a calming presence and can inspire feelings of mindfulness.
A sunken stone platform provides a quiet space to sit and reflect, whilst a surrounding stone wall will add a feeling of privacy. Using curved lines throughout the hard landscaping will keep the look soft rather than severe, whilst plenty of aquatic plants will enhance the soothing vibe.
Try our garden steps ideas for more lovely looks.
10. Try modern shapes for your garden pond ideas
If you don't quite have the room for the idea above, then don't despair – a duo of water bowls can add tons of character to a smaller, paved pond.
The simple shape and neutral tone of these designs sits in harmony against the concrete paving and edging. Small chutes allows water to fall elegantly into the rectangular pool below, keeping it well-oxygenated which is good for the inhabiting fish.
A grey slatted fence adds to the modern look, whilst bright plants nearby lift the scene with a dose of warm color.
Take a look at our small garden ideas for more ways to elevate a not-so-large space.
11. Get playful with paving
Clever paving ideas used around your pond can be perfect for injecting a playful feature to your plot. Take this flowing design above for example, where channels of water weave gracefully down the wide pathway and into the pool beneath.
Adults and children alike are sure to be enchanted by this characterful style. What's more, it's a great way to make the most of a sloping garden (you can find more designs in our sloping garden ideas feature). And if you're eyeing up the luscious ferns either side and fancy growing your own, then our guide on how to grow ferns might come in handy.
12. Opt for a classic approach
If you want to go for a timeless look when it comes to garden pond ideas, then perhaps this idea is the one for you.
Evergreen bergenias really bring this scene to life with their hot pink blooms, and offset the mounds of soft moss growing over the stone border well. Planted en masse around the pond's perimeter, they certainly make an eye-catching impact.
One of the best garden benches can provide a focal point as well as a relaxing place to sit and enjoy the view. Elevate the look further by placing matching sculptures, statues, or even oversized planters either side for a formal sense of symmetry.
13. Dye it black for breathtaking reflections
Did you know that you can dye your water? It's a trick used by the likes of Kew Gardens, and creates a striking look whilst helping to prevent algae growth.
It's an easy way to give your garden pond ideas a hefty dose of drama, it enhances reflections, and it looks stunning when combined with simple shapes and textural foliage, as seen above.
There's plenty of special pond dyes available that are perfectly safe for pond plants and fish – but do remember that you probably won't be able to see the fish anyway through this inky hue.
Should a garden pond be in sun or shade?
It is best to position your garden pond ideas in a relatively sunny spot. Firstly, this is because aquatic plants such as water lilies need sun to flower – otherwise they will only grow leaves. Secondly, a sunny spot will help to warm the water, which is more attractive to wildlife such as frogs.
However, some shade over part of the pond can help to prevent algae, which thrives in full sun. Floating plants also help to reduce algae growth.
If you're looking for ways to elevate the gloomier areas of your plot, take a look at our shade garden ideas.
What are the best plants for garden ponds?
When choosing plants for your garden pond ideas, remember that they fall into three broad categories: submerged plants, floating plants, and marginal plants.
Submerged plants provide oxygen during the day, whilst providing cover for aquatic life, as the RHS explains. The team go on to say that floating plants do not need to be anchored into the soil, and help to keep the water cool from the sun's rays, which in turn, prevents the formation of algae. Marginal plants are used to soften the edges of ponds and different varieties are suitable for different depths.
There are tons of lovely choices for pond plants, but here are some of our favorites:
- In terms of water lilies for small ponds, try Nymphaea 'Aurora' (it only needs a depth of 30-45cm to flourish). With soft pink petals and maroon-splashed leaves, it makes a pretty choice. For deeper, medium-sized ponds, Nymphaea 'Marliacea Chromatella' is a good pick with lemon-hued blooms. Avoid planting water lilies near fountains or waterfalls, as they prefer still water.
- The water violet (Hottonia palustris) is an attractive submerged plant. Native to the UK, it sports clusters of pink-tinged flowers with yellow centers in late spring-summer which spike up out of the water.
- Isolepis cernua is a brilliant foliage plant that provides height and texture at the edges of a pond or in shallow bog gardens. Also known as the fibre optic plant, it has masses of slender leaves topped with small, silvery-white flowers.
- Water lettuce is another foliage plant with a pleasing form which floats across the surface of a pond. It's invasive in tropical climates, but is easy to manage in cooler regions.
- Japanese water irises have sumptuous petals and, if you opt for the variegated versions, striking leaves. Use to border a pond, or pot up into a pond basket – it can survive in depths up to 15cm.
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day!
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