Over twenty years ago, faced with a large garden and looking for an interesting challenge we decided to install a garden pond.

Edited anonymous quotation: I built my first backyard pond about twenty years ago. After seeing a massive pond on a rural garden tour, I was hooked. The sound of the waterfall was enticing. Dragonflies dipped down to drink and then zipped off into the garden. Squirrels would lean over the edge, taking sips of water. Water spiders danced across the surface. Water lily stems held their flowers above the surface, there were frogs and toads. A pond is clearly the heart of the garden.

You get the idea. The mistake I made those 20 years ago was to start digging in late summer, not realizing how baked hard a Canadian garden can get under the sun. I would come home from work and spend an hour shovelling two buckets of packed earth and then collapsing – the job took weeks. The soil had to go somewhere which was when I decided to make a waterfall. The waterfall made all the difference and turned a standard garden pond into a wildlife magnet, especially for birds. The rest, as anyone who knows us or has visited, is history. That is the first pond on the left, as it was a couple of weeks ago.

Then three years ago we realized that we were having to top up the water level more frequently than before but put it down to climate change hotter weather. Two years ago we began to worry. Last summer I installed a permanent hose so it could by topped up with the turn of a tap and then this spring matters progressed to a float valve to stabilize the level hourly with water on constant supply. Clearly something was amiss. In fact, somewhere there was a major leak but I could not find it anywhere (it turns out a tree root had split a seam well hidden in a fold of liner). Having checked the bank balance after two years of covid non-travelling, we bit the bullet and got to work.

When I had built the pond in 1999-ish I was a relative youngster of around 50 and could man-handle large stones with moderate ease but today, although fit enough for my age, I am sadly aware of my limitations. We called in the experts and found a splendid local company who specialize in water installations to whom we gave the contract. If you live around Montreal then we wholeheartedly recommend them.


Almost a week of work and a couple of tons of new stone later, we now have a slightly enlarged pond with a considerably enlarged waterfall and are looking forward to a year or two of planting and landscaping. It’s a little more formal than before but the moving water is going to be even more attractive than ever to passing birds. The raccoons will be visiting almost from day one. On the last day of work the installers (there have been a lot of them – all nice guys with a thirst for our cold beers at lunchtime) turned up with some aged wood to drape around the rocks and a miniature rustic cabana about 2ft square to disguise the float valve that will maintain water levels on even the hottest day. Years ago, friends in England (Simon and Sarah) had given us a ceramic frog-like creature that travelled to Canada with us and in recent years buried itself in the plants at the back of the garden. This fine creature was discovered by one of the crew and is now reclining by the faux-front door of the rustic cabin.

We had prepared by lifting and potting a number of ferns and removing water lilies to large containers. The bottom of the pond before had been plain black liner but this is covered with river stone which will be interesting. There will need to be more effort than before put into the future spring “pond opening” and cleaning.

We discovered thanks to a trail-cam set up on the night after the waterfall was switched on that the first wildlife to come and check it over were a couple of raccoons. One small and large like a rotund bear.

Now all that remains is a lot of serious planting and landscaping with replacement of marginal plants and some new ideas we have.

Several people have been asking after the project and we are considering an “open day by invitation” later in the summer. We can also show off the no-mow wildlife garden that is beginning to reach its peak now that all the native plants we have placed in what used to be a boring lawn are starting to mature.

  • Oh, and we have ordered a winterized greenhouse too … but that’s a story for another day.

And now … some photographs.

The final result – the wildlife pond version 2