Wetlands and their importance to the environment go without saying, however, in the brief context of our website we need to limit ourselves to focusing on the smaller scale to suit our urban lifestyle. The use of native aquatic plants should be a goal for all water garden designs. Those seeking to design and construct a more natural looking landscape should consider that natural billabongs or habitat styled ponds tend to be free flowing in design. Incorporating a stream or waterfall into the landscape also creates an element of excitement. These ponds are generally not designed as centrepieces and work best if they utilise they natural slope of the landscape.
How do native aquatic plants attract wildlife to my garden?
Water is the life blood of any living garden. Native aquatic plants help to breathe life into a billabong and its surrounds. The wildlife is attracted through not only the availability of water, but also food, shelter and for many, a site to live and breed.
Wildlife can feed directly from the plants leaves, roots and seeds, or indirectly through the attraction of native insects and microorganisms that become the food source for those that are higher up the food chain. Rushes and sedges are often the source of nesting materials for birdlife, the seeds as food and the leaf stems can form sites for some frogs to lay their eggs. The native aquatic plants not only aid in supporting the lives of those that depend on the water, but also the neighbouring land based ecosystems.
Many wetlands may attract wild life, but are they attracting the wildlife that belongs in that area? In some ways this is the impossible question and in some instances will be impossible to solve due to the influences of European settlement.
Can I mix native aquatic plants with introduced exotic plants?
Although a contentious issue for some. Building a habitat water garden in a suburban landscape, using native aquatic plants combined with introduced exotics, can still help create an environment that helps frogs and other wildlife survive drought. By observing nature in your own backyard, we can see firsthand how an investment in our own environment, helps to create a better future for all. They can be gardens that the whole family can enjoy. Children will be inspired to take an interest in, not only the Googled world, but what can actually be found in their own backyard.
How do I decide which native aquatic plants to use?
This will depend on a number of factors. Planning is the best answer.
- The goals – Understanding what you are trying to achieve, the purpose and intended use of the water garden. Is it a pond that is permanently kept full or a rain garden, with water captured only when it rains and allowed to dry out in between? If you have a more formal styled pond but still wish to use some native aquatic plants then the selections need to replicate the look that you are trying to achieve, for example selecting Nymphoides species as a substitute for waterlilies. If you seek to plant an indigenous water garden, then it is recommended to observe local plantings and also seek out information from local government bodies.
- Site location – This will affect not only the scope of the project but also the plant selections for all their own needs such as how much sun or shade they get. How warm the water gets. Is it frost protected?
- Space – Whether a courtyard or a larger urban garden, this will affect the range and scope of any landscape plantings.
- Water depth – This affects not only what native aquatic plants can be planted, but if you are trying to achieve an ecologically balanced pond then a selection from all pond zones is important. As each occupant depends on each other for survival.
- Aesthetics – There is nothing wrong with trying to make the pond look attractive. If we don’t get any pleasure from our water garden, then we tend to neglect it. Not only do we suffer, but so does the wildlife. Choosing native aquatic plants of varying heights as well as those that suit different water depths gives us the ability to create a more natural looking landscape.
- Regulations – Some councils or environmental departments may have regulations on the types of plants that may be used. Some native aquatic plants may be regarded as aquatic weeds in some areas.