Water Features for Gardening

A water feature can make a striking addition to your landscape; these not only add interest but create soothing sounds that can provide a relaxing atmosphere to retreat to after a long, hectic day. Water features can be designed to fit any size or shape and nearly any landscape. They can be formal and well-defined or naturalistic and informal in appearance. A water feature can play a dominant role in the garden’s design or it can be discreetly placed as an element of surprise. Whether it’s flowing water or still, water features allow you to bring natural beauty into your garden.

There are many different styles to choose from, and most are readily available at garden centers and pond retailers. Before implementing any type of water feature to the garden, you should always plan ahead. Determine the style and purpose of both the garden and its water feature. Don’t forget to consider safety, especially for those with children and pets. The style and purpose of the garden are important for determining the location of your water feature as well as the overall layout of the landscape. For example, a sloped landscape is ideal for incorporating a waterfall feature. As with any gardening design, you will want to carefully integrate the water feature with your surroundings. Implementing the wrong type of water feature can make it appear out of place. As a general rule, whatever water feature you choose should be kept well away from trees and windy areas. Also, consider the effect you would like to create, such as a bubbling, spraying, trickling fountain or cascading falls.

Small ponds can easily be tucked away at the edge of a patio or other suitable location. Determine the size and shape of your pond to help you select the appropriate plants, such as water lilies. Plant life usually does well in a foot or two of water. Excavate the area and clear any debris. Line the bottom with a layer of sand and add a suitable rubber liner. Secure the liner in place with large boulders. Set a preformed vinyl or fiberglass pond liner (available at garden supply centers) into the hole and backfill around it with the excavated soil to anchor it in place. Surround the edges with stones and moisture-loving plants. Add water to the pond. Keep in mind that adding a few fish and floating plants to the pond can help reduce maintenance. You may also want to install a pump or filter to your pond as well. Finishing touches for a pond can take the form of small sculptures or statuary, bridges, stepping stones, garden ornaments, and fountains. A water wheel can also be a charming feature for a pond.

A bog garden can be an attractive water feature for the garden. This is created the same as a pond; however, the liner should be punctured throughout the bottom for drainage. It also helps to bury a hose for watering the bog garden as needed. Add some holes about an inch apart throughout the length of hose according to the size of the bog. Once the hose is buried, place edging around the perimeter and set plants in the soil. Add water and enjoy.

Container pond gardens can make great alternatives for those having little or no space. A small container pond not only maximizes the scenery but can be nestled easily into small areas or discreetly tucked into nooks and crannies throughout the garden. The size of the pond depends on your available space and chosen container. Nearly any type of container can be used as long as it is watertight. A container pond requires little maintenance. Keeping it filled with water as it evaporates is all that is necessary. A container pond garden can be placed above or below the ground, making it extremely versatile. Situate the pond in a sunny location, keeping in mind that metal containers can get extremely hot so these can be located in lightly shaded areas to prevent the plants from cooking. When you are placing the pond above ground, simply ensure that the site is level. Placing the pond below the surface of the ground is ideal for minimizing the threat of winter freezing. Dig out the soil just enough to accommodate your container. Level off and add a layer of sand along the bottom of the hole. Place the container inside and fill in around it with soil to secure your pond in place. Depending on the size of your container, add about 3-5 water plants. Conceal the edges with flat stones and accent with additional plants.

A pond waterfall can also make a lovely feature, presenting the garden with a constant source of sound. You can choose to create a formal one or something more natural. Whatever style of waterfall you choose, however, it should be kept in proportion with the pond (if applicable) or surrounding landscape. A waterfall can flow over rocks or slither down retaining walls as well. Keep in mind that the wider the spillway of your waterfall, the less forceful the water flow will be. Also, the steeper the falls are, the more powerful the flow of water will be. Waterfalls are usually constructed within a pile of soil or from a slope. These can be man-made constructions or preformed, do-it-yourself kits. Streams can offer another interesting approach to water features in the garden. Like waterfalls, streams can be naturally constructed or preformed. The type of stream and layout of the land will usually determine its overall shape. Streams can be lined with rocks or edged with plants.

For some, water fountains are easier to maintain than a pond. Although fountains must be regularly cleaned, they generally require little upkeep. Most fountains generally require a basin or reservoir for placement of small submersible pump, a power supply, and water. Pumps can be purchased at garden supply stores or from pond retailers and usually come in a kit with everything you need. Fountains provide sound and movement to the garden. With a fountain, you can create soothing melodies that drip, splash, spray, or even trickle. Fountains may take the form of plumbed statuary, wall fountains, basins, pebble pools, urns, containers, bamboo canes and so on.

Wall fountains make interesting focal points within the garden. Water is typically circulated from the pump hidden within a basin and makes its appearance through a spouting or overflowing ornament that is mounted onto the wall. Wall fountain outlets (or ornaments) come in many styles including real or artificial stone, tile, ornamental masks, and concrete. Another interesting fountain that can be easily constructed is made simply from a copper pipe and sheeting. Just place your pump in a small basin and run the tubing through a length of copper pipe (sized to fit). Slightly bend the copper pipe along the top so that it can be used as a hanger for a piece of copper sheeting. Drill small holes throughout the sheet of copper and attach it to the top of the pipe with wire. Seal off the end of the copper pipe. Add some stones and water to the basin and turn the fountain on. The water will softly trickle down the sheeting from the holes onto the stones below.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the sounds of water is from a gurgling millstone or pebble pool. Both are easy to install, require little maintenance, and are well suited to small areas. Simply place a small submersible pump within a reservoir, add your millstone or pebbles and water, and turn it on. You can turn an old urn into a beautiful water feature. Most urns already have a hole in the bottom or you can drill one in order to run the power cord through, which will be attached to the pump placed inside the urn. Seal the hole with silicone caulk or use a rubber fountain plug. Place small pebbles or gravels inside the urn to conceal the pump and support the pump’s spout. Fill with water, plug it up, and turn it on to create a small stream of water shooting out from the top of the urn. If you don’t have an urn, a terra cotta pot or any container that can be sealed to hold water works just as well. With a small submersible pump, you can easily create a container fountain. As long as you ensure that the container is waterproof, nearly anything goes. You could also try sticking a hollowed-out piece of bamboo inside a large pot or barrel. Secure it in place and put a submersible pump in the bottom. Use vinyl tubing to run through the length of bamboo. Once your fountain has been placed, you can add pebbles and aquatic plants to enhance its appearance. Add water and place near an outlet. Plug it in, sit back, and enjoy your fountain.

Probably considered to be one of the smallest and simplest of water features is the birdbath. Birdbaths come in a variety of designs and styles or can be easily constructed using a shallow container. This can be attached to a pedestal of some sort or sunken into the ground. Birdbaths not only provide an attractive water feature in the garden but will induce the delightful antics of birds as they playfully splash about the water.

Nearly any type of water feature can be enhanced with garden lighting. Lighting not only adds interest but allows for nighttime enjoyment of the water feature. There are a wide range of lighting options available to choose from that will fit your particular needs. Whether it’s a pond, rushing waterfall, a fountain, or a simple birdbath, water features can help turn your landscape into another dimension, providing an interesting focal point, attracting wildlife, or simply creating relaxation.

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