Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Koi Pond: Planting Details

The section of our garden that was featured on our Big Koi Pond Reveal post is a newly developed part of our garden which so happens to have a big pond as its main feature. Although the main passion and drive to complete this section was to keep koi, we are plants people after all so the planting around the pond was planned with just as much excitement and consideration.

Aloe polyphylla
So what about the planting scheme of this area? Well here's a bit more about the plants, design, and planting scheme.

First of all, the planting scheme was never meant to look 'naturalistic'. From the very beginning we never intended the area to resemble 'somewhere else', unlike our old garden which was shaped to give the illusion of being in the tropics. Although we've heard some feedback that this section reminded them of Greece, which is fine too given the white colour scheme, presence of Yuccas, and on the photos some sun. However this area reminds us personally of nowhere else but...our own garden. 

Initially, neither of us wanted to categorise the design style of this area but for convenience of description we regard it as a modern/contemporary, urban garden. It is very structural with the raised pond, water feature, three raised beds, filtration house and decking, and does not hide the fact that it is a town/city garden. Modern gardens and those usually found in urban locations are styles we both love, appreciate, and celebrate.

And being a modern/contemporary, urban garden, there is berth and allowance with regards to the selection of plants and planting scheme. You can be a bit more risque, avant garde, and adventurous. The plants selected were combined together for their form, colour, and texture rather than in lumps and categories like spikies, lush, alpines, and so much more.

Schefflera and Aloe, not normally combined together but why not?
But whatever planting scheme you wish to go for the main thing you must consider are the growing requirements of plants you wish to use. In an extreme analogy you wouldn't plant a sun loving agave and shade loving aspidistra on the same bed, even if the intention is to have a wacky, avant garde garden. Totally unrealistic combo wherein one will thrive and one will die.

In a modern garden you can be experimental and unconventional with your planting scheme as well as defy traditional, pre tried and tested combinations. Some plants traditionally or naturally don't associate with each other but if their growing requirements are actually similar and they may possibly be able to thrive equally well when planted together in the same bed then go for it and experiment. Even if putting them together seems 'unnatural' if you're brave enough still go for it, as long as you feel it is still pleasing to the eye. Sounds fun don't you think so?

Ok, on to our planting beds...

To prevent any of the beds being labelled as just arid, woodland, rock, etc.; and to stick with the brief of colour, form, and texture we minimised the selection that will go in it.

For example, strictly only one type of aloe (Aloe polyphylla) and agave (Agave bracteosa) will go on the beds. Blue trunked Yuccas will only go on one bed while the other bed will have a green trunked yucca as its main feature. Linking plants will also be used to tie in the beds to each other like Kniphofia caulescens, Scheffleras, and again Aloe polyphylla.

Also, to demarcate this area from our original garden we made a list of plants to avoid repeating in this new area like cannas, bananas, tree ferns, persicarias, and many more.

So there are three planting beds and each planting bed has their own unique conditions, due to their position and the consequent amount of sun it receives through the course of a day.

First Raised Bed
The first raised bed, the biggest of the three is in full sun for most of the day and benefits from getting some sunlight during the winter months too. Perfect for sun worshipping and drought tolerant plants. The colour scheme of this bed is blue and green, and the texture is matte which to a degree will be mirrored by the second raised bed in front of it.

Blue plants and blue Yuccas
Hence all the tall and blue yuccas are on this bed, plants with matte foliage, as well as green but sun loving plants. Green slate (which actually looks more Light Blue than Green) was used as mulching to reinforce the blue theme as well as boulders of green slate of varying sizes placed throughout the bed serving as natural sculptures. Dotted in amongst the bigger plants are various low growing alpines to give more interest (i.e a good reason to squeeze in more plants!).

Yucca linearifolia
Yucca rostrata
Yucca linearifolia 'Galeana' (?)

Some of the plants on this bed are Trachycarpus wagnerianus, Tracycarpus fortunei, Yucca linearifolia, Yucca rostrata, Dasylirion wheeleri, Aloe polyphylla, Schefflera rhododendrifolia (has matte foliage), Agave bracteosa, Pachystegia insignis, Cytisus battandieri, Chamaerops humilis 'Vulcano', Kniphofia caulescens,...just to name a few.

Second Raised Bed
The second raised bed, two thirds of which towards the pathway pretty much has the same conditions as the first raised bed. The remaining third, towards the back is shady as our neighbour's garden has some shrubs and low growing trees planted near this bed. To mirror the colour scheme and texture of the first raised bed, the blue, green, and matte theme continues via the use of the same green slate mulch and boulders, as well as use of more matte/blue/silvery plants. 

However this bed leans more towards green and the back section planted with lush and leafy plants to plant to make it blend better with plants growing on our neighbours property (also to serve as screening). 

Yucca treculeana

Knophofia northiae
Hence the centrepiece plant on this bed is a tall green leafed yucca, Yucca treculeana. Linking plants are Aloe polyphylla, Schefflera rhododedrifolia (Garden House), Trachycarpus fortunei, and Agave bracteosa. In this bed you will also find Celmisia spectabilis, Celmisia hookeri, Yucca baccata, Kniphofia northiae,...just to name a few.

Third Raised Bed
The third raised bed, the smallest of the three and the one connected to the small water feature is mostly under a very tall conifer and only the part nearest to the water feature gets lots of sun, the rest is shady. Schefflera taiwaniana is used as a linking plant as well as Kniphofia caulescens (also echos the blue and matte theme of the other two beds). 

Schefflera delavayi
Due to the shady conditions on this bed, a dense miniature woodland planting was chosen that was also inspired by some of the plant stands we see on fairs and flower shows. Green slate would not look right with woodland planting but bark chips won't be any good either as they are likely to be blown away on windy days straight into the koi pond. So Cocoa mulch is used, although very lightweight at first they do fuse together and form a tight mulch once it is moistened (not to mention it has gorgeous chocolate scent which lasts for days). 

From one Kniphofia caulescens to another
In this bed you will find Rubus lineatus, Schefflera delavayi, Colocasia gaoliogongaensis, Begonia emeiensis, Cordyline australis, Disporum longistylum, Disporum cantoniense 'Green Giant', Disporum cantoniense, ....just to name a few.

Whew! So there you go, a bit of explanation on the design, plants and planting scheme surrounding our new koi pond.

BTW, none of the plants here are protected in the winter.

Mark :-)


  1. Wow, the whole thing is just amazing! As I followed your posts I kept trying to picture where you were headed with this project. Of course you made sure it fit in the garden in the most spectacular way.

    I could take a lesson or two from your thoughtful consideration of plant selection and placement. Oh to have your plant discipline! You have written about Y. linearifolia several times and I plan to add one soon. How funny to get a native plant recommendation from all the way across the pond.

    1. Thanks Shirley! Yucca linearifolia would look great in your garden, hopefully you have access to some with very tall trunk already for instant impact :)

  2. I need to take a lesson from your disciplined approach to the planting process. More and more I'm coming to realize the value of selecting from a limited palette of plants to increase impact - yet, I'm still falling prey to a collector's mindset when I arrive at the nursery (even when I have my list in hand). Great job!

    1. Thanks Kris! Plant collecting is fun too and something we freely indulge in when we visit nurseries and is most evident on our old garden. Plant shopping is a thrill and getting new and wonderful plants is a great feeling :)

  3. Absolutely outstanding! You are both incredible designers. I love what you have done and your explanations in this post are very clear as to why you planted what you did. I would love to see a roof's eye view of your garden as a whole!

    1. Thanks Candice! Now that's a good idea :) the closest we can do is to try taking a pic from above standing on our extension roof. Not total Birdseye but a new way of seeing and taking pics of this bit.

  4. Having been oh so impressed with the style of these beds it is interesting to read about the thought behind them. I really can't imagine anything that could be more perfect than what you've done.

    1. What else can we say Loree but very flattered to hear such words from a lady of great taste :) Thank you!

  5. I don't think there is any question that this garden is 'yours' and what you want. I think it's beautiful what you have done and reflects what you like and want in the design you created.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  6. Your discipline to limit yourself to the chosen plant and color palette is amazing. I always start out with good intentions but I'm too much of a plant collector and hoarder to stick to discipline for any length of time. For example, I could never limit myself to just one aloe and agave in each bed; I’d have half a dozen or more. That’s why your garden looks calm and serene and mine looks like a crazy plant guy lives here (so true!).

    Another thing that impressed me was how mature the plantings look. You clearly started out with fairly mature plants. Did you buy them specifically for these beds, or did you have them elsewhere in your garden?

    The result, of course, is stunning and uniquely you.

    1. Thank you for the lovely words Gerhard :) we love your garden and love the exuberance of your planting and plant collection which you display so well. Plant collecting is fun and is something we indulge in ourselves, which is most evident in the original bit. Some of the plants we already have before the beds were built but most were bought specifically for them.

  7. This garden has so much personality exactly because you did it your way. This post is a perfect tutorial on how to approach garden design but it still gives permission to indulge in one's own quirky tastes. Good reading...thanks.

  8. As always, I'm in awe of you! Your nearly constant work on your garden and home are an inspiration and your thought about design is amazing. Like some others have said, my garden would benefit from a modicum of self control at the nursery and actual thought other than what catches my eye today! Since your new garden beds are not meant to resemble anywhere else, you could call this new area an opera in three unnatural acts. Another triumph gentlemen!

    1. Thanks for the nice comment Peter, it made both of us giggle too! We both love plant buying indulgence and don't intend to stop being so, at least for other parts of our garden :) keep indulging as you have been!

  9. I love how clear your vision is and how you break rules while still following "right plant, right place." That aloe is one of my biggest plant crushes. Smashing!

    1. Thanks Heather! You ought to try Aloe polyphylla in your garden, it does have a finicky nature but you might get lucky and get it to thrive :)

  10. It's strange how such a well disciplined, almost rigid, approach to that area can produce such a fabulous outcome. I must plan more and need to move my aspidistra from beneath the aloes :-)

    1. Thanks Don :) if the aloe and aspidistra have been together for quite some time keep them as it is ;)

  11. I love your plant combinations! And if it is an unconventional approach, all the better to speak to your creativity. It works! I might mention that because of you, I have a hardy palm growing in my woodland garden!

  12. I know what you mean when you say it doesn't remind you of anything but 'your garden'. I agree. It's full of plants you love and have carefully chosen, and is a reflection of both of your tastes and personalities - what could be more 'you'? I wish my Aloe polyphylla would hurry up and reach the size of yours!


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