Lovely, Leafy Lagoons

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Lush lagoons are a wonderful site to relax. Sitting beside a pond or dipping your feet into a leafy lake has a restorative power for some. After an agitating day, watching water flow can slow down rattling thoughts and help you escape. You can lengthen you inhale and just concentrate on the wind pass through the waterside palms.

With some sturdy construction and consistent maintainance, a flourishing pond can provide an ample amount of respite. Sound appealing? Well here are some basic elements you can consider as you brainstorm your oasis.

  • Lagoon location. Choose a spot that has partial or full shade. This inhibits annoying green algal and mosquito growth and keeps your pond healthy.

In Healing Present, our main pool is shaded by tall palms, bamboo, vines, ferns, and a variety of low growing vegetation (Photo 1). The shade also keeps the water cool and refreshing during the dry, hot seasons. Healing Present also added fun fountains and mini-waterfalls to increase water circulation (Photo 1, C). That means less stagnant water eliminates mosquito infestations.

Photo 1. Healing Present’s lagoon: The partial shade, vegetation, & mini-waterfalls create optimal conditions for a healthy lagoon.
  • Details & Depth. The depth of your pond is up to you. It really depends on the intended function of your pond. Will it be decorative and part of a beautiful vista? Do you intend to swim in it? Would you look like to keep fish in the pond? Or would you like a mini local water habitat for your respite as well as for local fauna?

Research the appropriate depths for your pond’s intended purpose. Or consult a landscape professional for suggested pond depths.

Photo 2. Stone & concrete ledges in Healing Present Lagoon

In Healing Present, the lagoon is used for respite, swimming, and a local habitat (Photo 2). We also added sitting areas, lush vegetation, and stairs to achieve these functions. So we decided to build graded ledges around and inside the lagoon (Photo 2).

The deepest part of the lagoon is 1.2m (4 feet). This depth safely accomodates our youth and adult swimmers (Photo 2, B). Ledges within the pool provide built-in seating and steps (Photo 2, A) for swimmers. Terracing or graded areas around the pool make plant and water maintenance accessible and easy.

  • Leafy & Lush. For me, plant planning is best phase of a waterside project. When we add the right plants, a boring cement pool or fancy puddle comes alive. In the Philippines, a variety of:
    • water-loving lilies,
    • irises,
    • water reeds,
    • moisture-tolerant palms,
    • flowering gingers, and
    • colorful crotons

are commonly available.

Luckily, the tropics gift us with an impressive range of water-loving plants. Remember, with planning, your can choose plants that help you achieve your water garden’s intended purpose.

Perhaps you want specific floating plants for your fish’s food and protection. Or maybe you want low-maintenance, fast growing plants that grow all year-round so you can easily and shade your swimming spot. Or you may want native, moisture-tolerant palms and grasses that songbirds will like.

  • Illuminated evenings. Consider adding lights to your lovely water feature. Solar-powered LEDs or halogen lights extend the use of your pond into the night. With recessed lights or spotlights, you can enjoy the pond without tripping or accidently falling in.

Visitors can sit waterside or swim under the stars. You can add recessed lighting to garden steps or decks around the pond. Or you can add underwater lighting on the lagoon floor or in the pond walls. Alternatively, spotlights can also amongst the vegetation bordering the pond.

  • In-ground or Above ground. Many who’d dream of grand, flowing water feature get turned off by the construction process and investment. One way to install a pond or lagoon without digging holes is an above ground option. There are a variety of materials and designs for an above ground water feature.

You can create a beautiful no-dig, container pond. Your raised pond’s exterior can be gorgeous limestone bricks, stained concrete, treated timber, bamboo, or other weather-resistant local materials. Some even use re-usable exteriors like wine barrels and bathtubs. Photo 2 shows Healing Present’s above ground pond with a gray flagstone exterior.

Photo 2. Healing Present’s above ground pond; the fountain bubbler and aquatic plants increased water aeration.

Photo 3, A & B display two types of above ground ponds. Check out “Flowing Sanctuaries” to learn more about raised water features.

A. Above ground pond with stained concrete
B. Large terrazo stone bowl transformed into pond

Photo 3. Raised ponds from my article  “Flowing Sanctuaries”

Whatever decorative exterior you choose, make sure your pondliner is sealed and water-tight. Small pumps, fountains or pond bubbles also help the water aerated. This reduces unwanted mosquito and algae growth. A combination of shade, pumps, filters, and/or added vegetation keep you pond (Photo 2) easy to clean and maintain.

In many cases, above ground options are easier to construct and require less time. Plus smaller, preformed ponds or other types of container ponds can be dismantled or transferred easily. So if you’re planning to move in the future, you can transport the pond with you.

Thanks for browsing these 5 considerations. If you need more inspiration, here are more examples on waterside planting and garden stair lighting.