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At Last, The Ponds Are Filled With Water!
Summer 2022

After more than four years of dried-out stream beds and murky, muddy ponds, the pond system will be up and running this week. Over the years, we have lost much of the original beauty of the garden as planned by the landscape designer. Weeds and vegetation have filled the waterways, and much of the wildlife dependent upon the water has been lost. At last, we are about the see once again what was described over seventy years ago—Although they seem perfectly natural, the three ponds at Clark Botanic Garden are in fact, artificial, having been designed as to site by Alice Rechnagel Ireys, the landscape architect who transformed the grounds of the Clark family home into the community botanic garden it is today. Named Upper, Middle and Lower according to elevation, each lies in a clay-lined depression and is kept full by water pumped from a well and circulated through an integrated plumbing system.

The system also includes two pools and brooks linking the pools through rock-lined shrub borders to the ponds. The Upper Pond, the largest and the last to be encountered by the visitor taking the usual counter-clockwise route around the grounds, is about 3 feet deep and supports a rich ecosystem of algae and other tiny microscopic creatures which are food for small fish and tadpoles. These in turn are preyed upon by the resident turtles, a dozen or more of which may be seen sunning themselves on the floating logs in warm weather. Wading birds occasionally stop to fish or stalk tadpoles, and once-in-a-while a hawk or other raptor will swoop down and seize a young turtle. Bull frogs honk from the shore and feed mostly on insects, laying their black eggs by the hundreds in rafts of clear mucilage. The tadpoles take two years to mature. Ducks swallows, and an occasional Canada goose, great blue heron and cattle egret are some other visitor. The Middle Pond, smallest of the three, is bordered by the surrounding garden of summer-flowering beardless iris, and, a little further back a crescent of hundreds of azaleas, ablaze in May, shaded on part by one of Long Island’s largest wild black cherry trees. Dredged to its original depth of 2 feet in 1987, and both fed and drained by brooks, the pond still tends to overheat in summer and become choked with algae and duckweed,” a problem that was to be controlled biologically by the introduction of plant-eating carp. The Lower Pond, the focus of the Fiedler Woodland Garden, was rescued from near oblivion in 1986, when machine dredging converted it from a smelly silt-choked mudflat back to the two-foot-deep pond it had been two decades earlier. In addition to the brick-paved sitting area and several log-curbed paths, the pond is traversed by a wooden bridge, and bordered by plantings of moisture-loving shrubs, perennials and annuals.


We are fortunate the have the expertise of the renowned landscape design firm of Emil Kreye and Son, who have designed some of the most significant rock gardens, streams, pools, natural water gardens and waterfalls on Long Island.


We are proud to announce that all the work on the pond system was financed by The Fanny Dwight Clark Memorial Garden, Inc., and we thank our many donors, benefactors and garden members for their continued support of important projects such as this. And while you may not recognize the descriptions quoted above of areas that may no longer exist, our next endeavors will focus on returning the pond areas to their original description while also adding features that will enhance the natural settings of the three ponds. Look for the snapping turtles and two large carp that have been reported in the Lower Pond, and maybe you will even see the large snails in the Upper Pond.

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