Something to Ponder

Something to Ponder


pool designsA world-famous naturalist converts an unwanted swimming pool into a tranquil pond and wildlife habitat
Story: Diane Norris

Photos: Densey Clyne

Nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac near the beautiful mid-north coast township of Wauchope, New South Wales, sits the beautifully landscaped home of world renowned photographer, Densey Clyne.

When Densey decided to buy the property several years ago, she was in no doubt that the spacious open-plan front garden would perfectly suit her needs. Not so the back garden. When looking out from the kitchen window, she was greeted by the sight of an outdoor pavilion housing an indoor saltwater swimming pool. Although well built with beautifully paved surrounds, a pool was not what Densey needed – nor was it what she wanted to look out on when preparing a meal or doing the washing up.

The backyard itself is oriented to capture a spectacular view — a panorama that takes in grassy paddocks, a magnificent stand of casuarinas and various species of eucalypts. Behind this stretches an unspoilt wetland-area estuary from the magnificent Hastings River.

Inspired by the view, Densey decided to transform the pool into something that would sit in greater harmony with the environment and provide a more pleasing vista from inside the house — a giant-sized water lilly and frog pond.

When she contacted a builder to help put her plans into action, he was a little surprised as it meant dismantling the building he had constructed a year or so before for the previous owners but he was eager to get involved. What Densey proposed was that the entire middle section of the building be removed and the ends be turned into three-sided, open-faced pavilions which would be perfect for entertaining and housing her many potted plants.

Next on the agenda was the 12m long by 4m wide fibreglass swimming pool. Firstly, the saltwater needed to be completely drained out of the pool. Once emptied, many truck loads of aggregate were brought in to fill the pool right up to within a metre of the old waterline. This fill was then raked to a roughly level finish before a layer of woven geotextile (a mesh type fabric) was laid. The geotextile was necessary to keep the aggregate separate from the top layer of coarse sand which took up the last 800mm to 1metre. This top layer of sand was where Densey would grow her water plants and thus provide a sanctuary for the frogs. Completion was near after numerous loads of fresh water were trucked in and carefully slow-pumped into the pond so as to not disturb the sand.

The project completed, Densey was able to move in, install the plants and wait for the frogs to come.

Frogs that have visited her tranquil pond over the years include the Eastern sedge frog, Peron’s tree frog and the Green Tree frog to name just a few. The pond is always full of tadpoles and dragonfly nymphs, too. What is more, it has become a haven and refuge for birds, with seasonal visitors such as the sacred ibis and the more regular guests like the pied butcher-birds, lorikeets, crested pigeons, satin bower birds and honeyeaters enjoying a stop-over. Adjacent to the pond, Densey set up a number of feeders and bird baths which she keeps supplied with fresh, clean water.

Each pavilion has its own decorating theme based around a colour: blue for the pavilion on the eastern side and green for the other. The pots and plants in each pavilion were chosen with these two colour schemes in mind as were the plants for the pond. There are blue Louisiana water iris, water canna, cream and pink waterlilies, water ferns and sedges. A little water fountain adds movement to the pond.

Densey has bordered the pond area with cottage styled garden beds filled with colourful and showy perennials.

Behind the pond is stunning backdrop of planted wattles and various native plants.

Now from the kitchen window and back verandah Densey can enjoy a superb uninterrupted view. The transformed pool — now a living eco-system pond — is the focal point of property which, from time to time, she opens to visitors through Australia’s Open Garden Scheme. Says Densey: “My garden and designing it, especially the pond transformation, has proved to be an absolute joy and the decision to move to the lovely mid-north coast has been the best decision I could ever have made.”