Water adds a touch of magic to gardens, a presence and sound that has the power to calm and soothe. Nothing beats relaxing beside a pool of glistening water at the end of a working day – with glass in hand. Whether you choose to install a formal rectangular pool for fish or a naturalistic pond in a wildlife corner, water features can be easily adapted to suit the space, style of garden and its surroundings.
Top 10 water feature tips ideas…
If you’re thinking of adding a water feature to your garden then we are here to help! Not only do we have all the practical issues you should consider, but we will also take you through 10 styles of water features. There really is a water feature to suit every single garden, no matter what size or shape.
Read on to enjoy our ultimate guide to water features…
1. Focus on formality
Straight edged pools are easily sunk into a terrace alongside the house, and benefit from the addition of a fountain playing at the centre or water spouts from the side, creating a soothing, splashing sound. The only downside of fountains is that they maximise evaporation, so where installed, the pond’s water level needs to be checked in hot weather. Designers generally advise that the closer a feature is to the house, the more it should harmonise with the architecture. Simple rectangular or curved shapes often look best – raised or countersunk pools, for example, edged in the same materials as used in their surroundings. Where pools are stocked with fish, a pumped filtration system may be necessary, with pump and filter fitted in a nearby, concealed chamber and connected to a professionally installed electrical supply.
2. Raise the level
Raised, rectangular-shaped ponds can be built from timber sleepers – bolted together for added strength – or solid concrete blocks, which can be rendered or faced in stone or wood. If the sides are made wide enough to take slabs they can double as seating in a courtyard. Raised circular shapes are best built from brick or small stones in order to form the curves. Either way, the taller the retaining walls of the pond, the more water it holds, thereby exerting greater pressure on the wall. This means that strong foundations are essential, whilst staggering the joints and using masonry wall ties between the rows gives additional strength. Line with flexible butyl, securing in position with stone, brick or wood.
3. Lush and lively
The planting around and in a pond is not merely ornamental, it also helps maintain a natural balance in which pond life thrives. There are four categories of plants that live in or around ponds, each serving a different purpose. Water lilies’ leaves reduce the surface area of the pond, providing shade and inhibiting the growth of algae. Oxygenising plants such as water violets provide food for fish and release oxygen. Marginal plants – irises, lilies, arums, skunk cabbages, marsh marigolds, gunneras and flowering rushes – grow best on the pond’s edge with their roots in water, but contained in baskets to prevent the soil being washed away. And finally, moisture-loving plants – primulas, hostas, ferns and astilbes – thrive in boggy areas nearby, but do not like their roots in water.
4. Contemporary Waterfall
Sleek and contemporary, a stainless steel wall ripples with continuous sheets of water that flow down in layers, creating a mesmerising effect that is very relaxing. Self-contained versions have an integrated, rectangular pool at the base to hold the water, and fit snugly into limited spaces. Alternatively, a steel wall can cascade onto a pile of pebbles that conceals the reservoir and pump beneath, or be directed into a long rill or pool. The best examples are made from high quality stainless steel and are very durable. They are also simple to install and maintain, and often incorporate lighting to bring the feature alive at night.
5. Wildlife ponds
Garden ponds and their surrounding boggy areas offer a vital haven, providing water, shelter and food for a wide range of birds, animals and insects. A gently sloping side, maybe topped with pebbles or stone, allows easy access for creatures to escape. Also consider the surrounding area by planting trees, shrubs and flowers to provide birds with a diet of insects, fruits and seeds, whilst pollen-rich flowers such as buddleja and coneflower attract bees and butterflies. Then there is a pond’s skirt of decorative plants, graduated according to height to add colour and textural interest. But not only does the planting soften, blur and hide the angular edges of a pond, it also fosters a healthy environment. The benefit of having frogs and toads about is their appetite for garden slugs!
6. Jets and bubbles
For gardeners who do not have the space for a pool, a water jet is a dynamic way of introducing water into a confined area. Pumped jets come in a variety of designs, ranging from those that rise in an umbrella shape above a layer of pebbles to jets that bubble at differing intensities on the top of urns, stone globes or sculptures. Jets and wall spouts are a good solution for gardens where young children are about as there is no access to the reservoir.
7. Rills for styles
No matter what size your garden, there is room for a rill. This long, narrow shallow channel offers clean lines and a formal style, equally at home in a traditional setting as a contemporary one. The sharp lines are created from retaining walls of brick or block, built on a concrete base and lined with butyl. Fill with water prior to trimming the liner and secure beneath edging stones or slabs which, if laid to overhang the liner by 5cm (2in), creates an interesting shadow. Rills can be sunk into the ground or raised; short or long; unplanted or filled with aquatics. They can be a still expanse of water, or a flowing one that feeds into waterfall or pool. Flowing rills need to have a slight gradient over their length so that the water runs freely.
8. Informal curves and circles
Free-form, lined ponds can be made any shape or size you like. Having chosen a suitable site, the hole should be dug to a minimum depth of 60cm (4ft), to prevent the water freezing in winter. Line the excavated hole with flexible butyl material laid over a 5cm (2in) layer of builder’s sand topped by polyester underlay, to protect the liner from being punctured by sharp stones or roots. The top edge of the liner is anchored to the surrounding ground by bricks, stones or paving slabs.
Remember: If a pond is inadvertently constructed below the water table and the underground water level rises, it may lift the liner. In this instance, a drainage system can be installed beneath the pond’s lining, and directed into a nearby soakaway.
9. Wall water features
A wall-mounted spout is one of the most popular water features for small courtyards or terraces. The spout often protrudes from a decorative wall plaque in the shape of a lion mask or the mythical Green man, and the water falls either into a wall-mounted receptacle, a stone trough or onto a pile of cobblestones before being recirculated by a submersible pump. If pipework cannot be hidden, then hide it behind evergreen climbing plants such as Clematis armandii or ivy. Check there is not undue splashing because, combined with evaporation, the receptacle will quickly run dry. To keep the water clear, place the pump on a time clock, and regularly scrub out the inside of the feature.
10. Fountain ripples
Fountains fitted into ponds and pools don’t just add the sight and sound of spraying water, they also inject oxygen which benefits fish and wildlife. Each fountain nozzle has different spray patterns, and the sounds of falling water vary as widely as the different notes of a musical scale. Depending on how it flows, water can gush noisily, tinkle softly, drip penetratingly or bubble calmingly, affecting the ambience accordingly. Each sound is quite individual and needs to be carefully managed so as not to seem unduly busy. Success depends on the correct combination of pump volume, nozzle and pressure.
Installing a pump
Behind the crystal clear, flowing water of any pumped feature lies the installation of a pump, adequate water reservoir (in which water is stored and recycled), electricity supply and possibly a filtration system — the filter will need to be regularly cleared of debris. A qualified electrician should be asked to fit a safe, waterproof power supply nearby, with a readily accessible on/off switch and protective isolating device to cut off the power if a fault develops within the pump. Both pump and reservoir are often concealed in a brick-lined chamber hollowed out beside or beneath the feature. Ideally, the chamber should be large enough for easy access and covered with a grill hidden beneath decorative pebbles or slate chippings.