The New Garden Addition: Stock Tank Pond

For some time now, I’ve followed Digging, my favorite Austin garden blog. I’ve so admired Pam Pennick’s stock tank pond, that I vowed to copy it. This year I committed to removing a huge swatch of water-guzzling St. Augustine from my backyard and getting that pond of my own. Twelve yards of dirt were mounded up to give some growing power to beds in my typical builder backyard, rock with two inches of dirt and struggling sod on top. Five yards of decomposed granite laid the foundation for the pond tank, widened the path to the garbage and compost enclosure, and mulched the beds. Multiple loads of limestone boulders and small river rock were manhandled into place to set the contours and accent the beds.

stock pond tank garden
view from near back gate

There is an fenced enclosure to the right here that hides garbage cans and a rotating barrel composter. The neighbors’ huge life oak is also that direction, just out of range of dropping all those tassels and leaves into the pond, but right now covering everything within reach.

stock tank pond addition
looking toward patio
This view from near the enclosure entrance shows the corner of the sunroom, where I have my glass studio and jewelry bench. In the distance, you can see the turquoise disappearing fountain at the edge of a dry river bed with a cedar bench. Around the curve is sunroom entrance and the patio, now awaiting new dining furniture.

path from patio past stock tank pond to gate
The view back towards the gate shows the new anacacho orchid tree that I planted at the edge of the live oak canopy so that it gets morning sun but is protected from our killer late afternoon Texas sun (it’s also on the South side of the house, protected from winter storms). Behind it you can see the enclosure I mentioned above. There’s a slight change of level from the path to the pond circle, and a seating area on the shadier side. The twelve-year old Texas mountain laurel gave an incredible show of fragrant purple flowers this year, but I failed to get any photos. In the foreground, a new whale’s tongue agave takes pride of place in the raised stone bed with low Blaze roses and a new bottle tree (waiting impatiently for blue bottles to be emptied of their contents).

new stock tank pond
This closeup of the new stock tank pond showcases my new waterlilies and dwarf papyrus. Early this morning three buds had broken the surface. Hiding beneath the water are pots of anacharis and some free floating cabomba. In the background are a new Mexican buckeye and another Texas mountain laurel, salvia, gold lantana, Knockout ‘Redrazz’ roses, yellow bulbine (as opposed to orange, which I put everywhere), soft leaf yucca, and in the back corner, a silver mountain laurel that seems unlikely to survive its transplanting (very sad about this!). 
first Colorado waterlily bloom
A few hours later when the sun popped out, the first bloom of my first Colorado waterlily opened.

stock tank pond
It’s pretty clear from this angle that the pond is quite green at the moment. Most of the plants have been in place for about a month. Last weekend I added fish – two goldfish and about twenty small mosquito fish.  So far, so good. I was waiting on a tropical waterlily for the second lily, but finally caved and bought a second hardy lily since I’m trying to get the pond to balance itself and wanted to get more plants into the water. 
The artist in me finds it very inspiring to work back and forth between the outside garden and the inside studios. I’ve made additions to the garden almost every year for the fourteen that we’ve been here, but never expected to stay long term. Now since the kitchen remodel, I’ve embraced that we may be here for many years to come and I should try to make the entire place fit my artistic vision. 

14 thoughts on “The New Garden Addition: Stock Tank Pond

  1. Pam/Digging

    Wow, what a fantastic makeover! Your pond looks beautifully sited, and I love your use of limestone, river rock, and decomposed granite. It all looks very natural. I’m glad you found my pond instructions helpful. Yes, when your lilies spread out to shade the water and your anacharis takes off, the algae should disappear and your water clear up. Enjoy your beautiful garden!

  2. Cat

    It looks great! I too was inspired by Pam’s stock tank a couple of years ago. I love it so much that I’ve moved it to another location so I can put a bigger one in its place in the center of the yard. I hope you enjoy yours too!

  3. melissa

    Looks wonderful! I just put in a stock tank pond and am SO happy with it! I got the colorado lily also! It is beautiful! Have fun with it! Love all the stone work too!

  4. Vickie Hallmark

    I have submerged plants, but they don’t seem to be doing the job. At the advice of the employee at Hill Country Water Gardens, I put in three bunches of cabomba just floating loose a month ago, along with one lily and two marginals. I thought I needed more of everything, but he discouraged that. The cabomba seems to be dying — bare decomposing stems with just tiny bundle of green on the tips. Last weekend, I added six bundles of anacharis in pots of pea gravel and the second lily. This weekend, I’m wondering if I should add more marginals and/or anacharis. Opinions?

  5. Judy Coates Perez

    The yard looks awesome Vic! My MIL has a couple gold fish that my kids won at a fair about 7 years ago in her fountain in LA. They are those cheap feeder goldfish that are usually a quarter a piece, they are now about 9″ long and look pretty amazing. I spose in the texas sun a couple goldfish could end up cooked though.

    1. Vickie Hallmark

      Yes, we will just see if the gold fish survive, since they don’t really like super warm water. There are now seven. It’s an experiment. The mosquito fish will be fine.

  6. jackie

    Wonderful backyard. Being a Texas girl had a Tx Mountain Laurel planted when the yard was landscaped here in the Phoenix area last fall. It’s only about 3-feet tall but healthy. Can I expect blooms this year. Was also on Pam’s site with a question about the Orchid Tree. If I can’t live in Texas guess I’ll just grown Tx plants. 🙂

    1. Vickie Hallmark

      Jackie, I think my Mountain Laurels bloomed lightly early on. I just put in a new one, probably the size you have and it did bloom this spring. They definitely bloom better as they get bigger.

      Since it’s one of the first bloomers of spring, I’d say if you don’t have flowers yet, you may have to wait until next year.

  7. melissa

    How is the battle of the algae going? I went to Hill country water gardens on wednesday and got some “natural” additive and a bale of barley straw. I hope my water will clear up in a few weeks. They told me the aim of 70% lily coverage helps… I must have 90% now. And I have anacharis, iris, mint and mini palm also. My cabomba did the exact same thing. I’m hoping my fish are doing ok as I can’t see them anymore!

    1. Vickie Hallmark

      Well, Melissa, it’s much greener now than before. I added a Louisiana iris for gorgeous purple blooms, parrot feather for more shade, and more anacharis for extra oxygen generation and nitrogen consumption. I rounded up the cabomba remains and shoved them into the pots of pea gravel with the new anacharis.

      Since I’m still not even at 50% surface coverage, I guess I have weeks to go to clear the water. The second lily is growing rapidly, so it will happen eventually. I do think the anacharis is starting to take off — I can see several inches of new growth on the tips.

      I do have a bottle of Microbe-Lift PL sitting here on my desk, while I debate whether or not to add it. I guess it might speed things along, but it still says several weeks for it to help. I was trying to let Mother Nature handle it, but this is just bacteria in a bottle, so maybe that’s not cheating.

      I lost one goldfish within two days of adding the five new ones to the two older. One of the original fish was totally freaked when the new ones were added and chased them wildly for several hours. Poor thing had been effectively solo, as its pond mate was a fantail that couldn’t swim fast enough to stay up with it. I think perhaps the one that died was injured in the frenzy. The frantic fish finally calmed down, and the remaining six now seem healthy. I see them dimly through the pea soup, munching away on anacharis. They are obviously used to being fed, because they come when I scoop out occasional oak tassels.

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