A Pond at Brookline by Karen Howard

It’s a project that seems as challenging as an attempt to sweep out the woods.

At the center of a five-acre tract of land in Brookline, Mass. runs a small stream that empties in two ponds, one large and the other small.  The water features are contained in an area of about an acre, surrounded by 30 residences.  It’s all part of a watershed that eventually empties into Boston’s Emerald Necklace, and from there to the Charles River.

The owner of the home that fronts onto the smaller pond – a body of water that was in very bad shape – asked residential and landscape architect Karen Howard to re-imagine it.

“It was full of sediment from storm drains and the land areas above,” Howard says.

The assignment was to rejuvenate the pond – addressing the eyesore and maintenance problem it had become – and provide amenities for wildlife, for the enjoyment of the residents.

“We wanted to improve the health of the water system and create a more effective filter,” she says of the project, executed with her partner, Chris O’Brien.

They reshaped the pond, sculpted the bottom and replaced steep banks with gentle slopes.  They inserted two waterfalls where the stream enters and leaves the pond, to oxygenate water and improve the health of the ecosystem.

Moreover, they sought inspiration from nature and the creatures who would call the new pond home.  Where flooding was once common, and the water was less than accommodating, now fish, birds, ducks, snapping turtles and crawfish are plentiful.

Around the edges, they removed invasive species and planted woody shrubs like azalea, winterberry and summer sweet; a walking path is now lined with blueberry bushes, ostrich ferns and downy shad.

“There’s sequential flowering over the seasons,” she says.  “There are red berries from the winterberry in the fall, with food for the birds.  And the red twig dogwoods at the edge of the pond are ornamental in the winter too.”

All in all, it seems a successful intervention for everyone involved.

“You can put a boat on it in the summer, or ice skate in the winter,” she says.

That ought to be enough for anyone.

For more information, go to http://www.howardgardendesigns.com/

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