WHERE grounds have the required space, water effects should be introduced, nothing in nature being more brilliant in its effects than water, whether in motion, tumbling in creek-form, which perhaps is the most striking of all, or in repose in pond or lake.
The size or extent of the body of water should of course be in proportion to the extent of the improved grounds. A glimpse of a river or creek in the background gives a wonderfully grand finish to an ideal landscape, while a modest water-effect in pond-shape adds a charm to the smaller garden or grounds such as nothing else can possibly give.
In very few places are fine water-effects more appreciated than in the middle and southerly counties of California. This is accounted for by the great lack of rain during several months of the ordinary year, say from April to October, when the whole State from Butte to San Diego is dry, brown and dusty, and, consequently, the pleasure from the prospect of a gushing fountain or a running creek or river is greatly enhanced, such a water-effect, in fact, being a positive relief to the eye. Every village and hamlet should have its fountain-basin, as well as its drinking-place for horses and dogs, filled with clear water, for practical use and as a pleasing and effective ornament.
Before making an artificial pond, first decide upon the site, the size, the shape which it may assume, the depth of water and the mode of construction. The proportion of water-effect in the garden-plan should be, as nearly as possible, one in ten; for example, in a garden of four acres, from one-quarter to one-half an acre should be water.
It is hardly necessary to say that all these details as to the pond should first be carefully planned on paper, to scale. If the garden is laid out in the natural style, the outline of the water-surface should assume an irregular shape with deep bays and promontories, not only for the purpose of giving variety to the outline but also in order to have the opportunity of placing plants of different character in the locations best adapted to their requirements and habits, for some plants give better effects when planted on a bold point projecting into the water-line than when planted in a hollow or at the head of a bay, while others, which are low-growing, give much better results when planted close to the water and along the margin of a bay shore.
In laying out a piece of water, there should be no straight or regular lines, that is, no point of land should be exactly a duplicate of any other point on the same pond, nor should there be a repetition of the shape of any of the bays or indentations along the shore line.
After staking out the shore line, next clear the ground of any brush, stumps or rough weeds, and excavate to the required depth which should be at least three feet in the deepest part, gradually getting more shallow as the shore-line is approached. If the soil thus excavated is of good quality it will be of value for dressing any poorer ground in the neighborhood.
After the excavation work is done, smooth and level the entire surface of the bottom and sides. Should the soil be of a loamy, rocky or sandy nature or at all porous, puddling-clay of a total thickness of six inches must be laid evenly over the entire surface, this being spread in two layers, first one of four inches thick and then a finishing coat of two inches. The clay for the puddling should be free from all rock and should contain not more than twenty-five per cent of sand. After the first layer of four inches has been spread, the next operation is to break the clay up with picks and hammers until all lumps are broken, when a good soaking with water must be given. Then with a tamper not greater than one and one-half inches in diameter at the lower end, give the whole mass a thorough tamping until it is of the consistency of putty as used for glass setting. After the first layer has been puddled into shape and tamped firm and smooth, spread and treat the second layer in the same manner, finishing it with a flat tamper about six inches square at the lower end. This will give the whole a perfectly smooth finish.
On the surface of the clay, it is well to spread a layer, one inch thick, of screened rock (say of about one-half inch in size) to protect the clay from being disturbed by washing or by poles or rods being driven through the clay-bed thus making holes through which the water would escape.
Where the pond is small, a thin layer of concrete should be spread on top of the rock, as it makes the work of cleaning away sediment or dirt much easier.
In addition to the overflow pipe, there should be, for convenience in cleaning out the pond, a pipe of at least six inches in diameter, placed in the bottom at the lowest spot of the pond, on the inner end of which pipe a strainer should be screwed to keep leaves or other litter from entering and thus choking the pipe. Of course drainage pipes are useful only where sufficient fall can be had in the ground adjoining the lake. Where a sufficient fall cannot be had, drainage pipes will not be of any use and should not be put in.
Where the grounds are laid out in a formal manner, the pond should also be made formal in shape, either circular, like some fountain-basins, with granite or concrete copings, or octagonal, or of some other architectural design in keeping with the surroundings.
When the lake or pond is ready for the water, the next study is what plants, if any, should adorn the surface of the water and how they should be arranged. Before turning in the water, and where it is decided to plant Water Lilies, it is well to have basins constructed for holding the amount of soil necessary for growing these very interesting and beautiful flowers. These soil-boxes or basins should be made, if possible, of brick or concrete and should be about fifteen inches deep and four feet square. Fill them with soil composed of one-half rich surface loam and one-half old well-decomposed cow- or horse-manure, the loam and the manure having been first thoroughly mixed together, a month or so before being used, by being turned over several times. Fill the boxes to within two inches of the top and top-dress with one inch of coarse gravel.