Swimming Pond Builder
by Norman Bennett
Click images to enlarge
Angelika Kern lives on the outskirts of Graz, the second largest
city in Austria. Graz is 200 kilometres (124 miles) south of
Vienna and near the border with Slovenia, Hungary and Italy.
Graz, like Vienna, is an old university town.
Angelika spent six years at University in Graz and obtained
a Master's Degree in biology. After University she worked a short
time as a biology teacher in high school. Soon afterwards she
took over her father's house and adjoining nursery when he died.
The site measures 4000 square metres (1 acre) and is nicely laid
out and maintained.
Angelika with her ponds
She cultivates waterlilies in well-made long rectangular concrete
ponds on the side of sloping ground. The house is huge and has
three stories. It was built to accommodate her parents and their
seven children. Angelika is the last born, the baby.
Her father started with waterlilies in 1937. She grows approximately
110 varieties and is very knowledgeable concerning the different
varieties. She herself says, "Unfortunately, waterlilies
are only my hobby. I cannot make a living selling waterlilies.
There is too much competition from garden centres."
Angelika's site carries large overhead expenses. She makes
a living by building large ponds that are 2.5 metres (8.2 feet)
deep in the middle for swimming and shallower at the ends for
growing waterlilies, water Iris and reeds. Swimming ponds
in German-speaking countries are very popular and most of her
trade is obtained by personal recommendation.
The writer of this article visited two of the numerous swimming
ponds she has designed and installed. Both were imaginative and
beautiful to behold. The first has stood the test of time as
it is six years old. Its water was crystal clear. One could even
see to the bottom of the deep section. Various waterlilies and
shallow water plants were flowering and flourishing but were
not overcrowded. Submerged oxygenating plants helped with water
clarity. Its attractive shape was irregular, 9 by 18 metres (30
by 59 feet) in area. Situated near the back of the house, it
was convenient for swimming and provided a pleasing view from
Much knowledge and care had been taken to choose the right
soil, stones and suitable plants and waterlilies. Plastic sheet
was used to make the pond but the sheeting was completely buried
and concealed by soil and gravel to produce a completely natural
looking and beautiful swimming pond. Wooden decking, a bridge
and a waterfall made it an extremely interesting water feature
to look at, sit by, or swim in.
Her second pool was again a perfect swimming pond. It had
only been planted six months earlier. The planning and skill
in the production of the pond could not be faulted. Again, the
swimming pond was free of blanket weed and the water was crystal
The writer has a large pond outside his office window at home.
At times he wonders what he is doing. He stops to find his mind
has been a blank. Then he realizes that he has been absorbed
by the pond, lost in wonder and relaxation. Both of Angelika's
swimming pond owners likewise discovered wonder and relaxation
in their aquatic installations.
Swimming pond, made in 1994, 192 m2
(2,067 sq ft), completely natural with no hardware. It is 2.5
m (8.2 ft) deep and
planted with waterlilies and oxygenating
plants. Utricularia vulgaris
grows very well.
Swimming pond made in 1997, 180 m2
(1,938 sq ft), for an Austrian family
with two children. It has a surface
skimmer and a filter with gravel.
Swimming pond, made in 2007, 110 m2
(1,184 sq ft) with a small waterfall.
A pump circulates water through a
gravel filter system.
The production of Angelika´s swimming ponds utilizes a
team of three skilled men, a digger driver, a carpenter and general
labourer plus machinery. She started her enterprise in 1986 with
a business partner whose share of the enterprise she purchased
eight years ago. Now this team together with a secretary and
nursery staff require ongoing expenditure and leadership to keep
Angelika is very much "hands on." She herself drives
one of their three lorries (trucks). Her car was out of action
when she met the writer of this article at the Graz airport in
a small truck. Getting out of the passenger seat really required
a parachute to reach the ground safely. The half metre (1.6 feet)
it was necessary to jump she did with the greatest of ease. She
is 1.58 metres (5.2 feet) tall.
Angelika learnt English at school and visited Australia twice
with a view to the possibility of emigrating there. Nothing came
of the idea.
The natural pond in Angelika's nursery,
1000 m2, (10,764 sq ft), planted 1954.
In winter they use it for ice skating.
When she left school, she thought she would like to go to
England and try out her schoolgirl English. She had little money
and went by herself. To save money she tried to sleep one night
in a disused chicken house on a farm. That night she did not
get much sleep. Next day was hot and she fell asleep on a beach
sunbathing. She woke up when the tide came in and she was soaking
Her English is remarkably good. In 1991 there was difficulty
translating lectures when the Deutsche Wassergarten Freunde (German
Watergarden Friends) and the International Waterlily and Water
Garden Society (IWGS, mostly English speaking) held a joint symposium
at the Hilton Hotel in Munich.
Angelika gave the joint gathering a noteworthy presentation
with visual aids on swimming pond making, then an unheard of
novelty to many attendees. She spoke clearly and confidently
in English which was a great achievement. She is certainly full
of spirit and enterprise.
Norman Bennett with
Angelika's propagation ponds
Angelika regularly attends meetings of the very active Deutsche
Wassergarten Freunde. She also manages to attend many annual
symposia of the IWGS in the US, France, Germany and England.
In 1998 she founded together with other Austrian landscapers
the Austrian Association of Swimming Pond Builders, shortly called
VÖS. Meanwhile, in all parts of Europe, the swimming pond
idea is multiplying.
In 2001 Angelika was invited by Anglo Aquarium to help them
with puplic relations and consultation about making the first
swimming pond in England at RHS Hampton Court Show. This pool
attracted much attention and British Television filmed an interview
with Angelika. Two girl swimmers in bathing costumes and a male
visitor who accidentally fell in fully clothed added to the interest
in the swimming pond.
Angelika is very intelligent, resourceful, and unafraid of
hard work. She succeeds in a very competitive business environment.
For small or large areas she plans and plants complete gardens
using trees, flowerbeds, shrubs, ornaments and more. However,
her favourite projects are gardens with water features and especially
those gardens with swimming ponds.
The nursery in Graz, growing waterlilies
and Nelumbos in beds made
of PVC liner.