Sitting beside a large pond or on a river bank is relaxing and fascinating. Even a small wildlife pond with its changing reflections and movement generated by the weather adds interest to any garden. Ponds can also have great benefits for butterflies and moths.
A pond in the garden, whether formal with steep sides and uniform water depth or more natural with gently sloping edges, can be a great place to grow wildflowers which provide butterflies and moths with nectar and food for their caterpillars.
There are two different habitats. The first created in water for aquatic life and the second a wetland area adjacent to a pond, similar to a damp river bank.
A bog garden can be any size but the soil needs to be at least 30cm deep and ideally next to a pond so it stays wet. Plants beside ponds, in addition to providing nectar-rich flowers for butterflies, moths and bees, give protection and shade for frogs and toads.
In very moist soils, plant growth can be extremely vigorous so they may need to be lifted and divided regularly, to fit the available space.
Here are some recommendations for bee, butterfly and moth-friendly plants to put in and around your garden pond.
Plants for deep water in the pond:
- White Waterlily Nymphaea alba
Water depth 30cm to 1m. Best for larger ponds as it spreads up to 1.5m. Waterlilies are valuable as a resting place for dragonflies and protection for tadpoles and newts. Additionally, the Brown China-mark moth Elophila nymphaeata has caterpillars that are aquatic and feed on water plants such as Waterlily and Pondweed Potamogeton spp. The moth flies in July and August, and the species is fairly common around ponds, lakes and canals throughout Britain.
Marginal plants for shallow water:
- Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus.
Water depth 2.5 to 15cm. This gives good cover for frogs.
Cut off dead flower spikes in autumn.
- Water Mint Mentha aquatica
Water depth 2.5 to 15cm. Lilac flowers from July to Oct.
This is invasive, so grow it in a basket but it is worth having because it is a good nectar plant for butterflies and bees.
- Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorus
In water up to 15cm deep or in a damp border. Flowers from May to July.
- Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris
In water up to 20cm deep or as a bog garden plant.
A native spring perennial which has yellow buttercup-like flowers from April to July and provides valuable early nectar for butterflies emerging from hibernation.
Plants for a bog garden or damp area beside a pond:
- Hemp Agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum
Pink, red or white flowers from Jul to Sep.
- Ladies Smock (or Cuckooflower) Cardamine pratensis.
Dainty pink flowers from April to June. Leaves are food for caterpillars of the Orange-tip and Green-veined White.
- Purple Loosestrife Lythrum salicaria
Tall stems with pink flowers between June and August provide nectar for bees, moths and butterflies, including Brimstone and Elephant Hawk-moth.
- Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi
A hardy native perennial with ragged rose pink flowers from May to Jul.
Butterflies love this plant, especially the whites. It is also the foodplant for Lychnis and Campion moths.
- Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides
A fast growing native perennial with pretty blue flowers from May to Oct.
All these plants will provide food and shelter for a wide range of wildlife.
Once planted, sit back and enjoy the changing scene.
The Secret Gardener