Water features add an enchanting quality to a garden. Hot days seem cooler when you’re relaxing by a tranquil pond, and the sound of moving water provides a soothing background to any outdoor setting. Beneficial wildlife like frogs, dragonflies, and birds are also drawn to a watery oasis. To make a water feature an attractive addition to your landscape, here are a few pointers to follow.
Think about size. When trying to decide how big to make your water feature, consider two main factors: the size of your property and the time you have to maintain the water feature. As with any garden element—be it a plant, path, container, or piece of furniture—it’s important to select objects that are in scale with their surroundings.
If you have a small garden, a tabletop container or wall-hung fountain would be just right. Medium-sized gardens can accommodate a larger feature, such as a galvanized livestock tank filled with water, a stand-alone fountain, or a small in-ground pool. Properties with sizeable yards are perfect for full-sized ponds. Also keep in mind that the bigger your water garden, and the more pumps, plants, and fish you add to it, the more time you’ll spend maintaining it.
Match your garden’s style. If your home has a formal architectural design and the garden is laid out with straight paths, symmetrical flowerbeds, and an ordered pattern of plants, then classic fountains or pools in the shape of a circle, rectangle, or square would be a good fit. To complement a rustic or cottage-style home, look for wooden tubs, whimsical fountains, and pools with curved and sinuous shapes. For contemporary homes, choose a water feature with minimalist appeal, such as a boulder or large rock with natural indentions where water can collect.
Look for the perfect spot. Before you start digging a pond or installing a fountain, think carefully about the best location for your water feature. One option is to position a pool or fountain as the garden’s focal point and arrange furnishings around it. Tabletop water gardens or wall fountains, on the other hand, may be more appealing as subtle accessories that give the setting a relaxed ambience.
The best location for your water garden is near the area where you spend most of your outdoor time. Resist the urge to place the water feature in the back corner of your property. If you’re adding a fountain, put it in a spot where you can hear it from inside your home. Make sure it’s near an outdoor outlet where you can plug it in, and consult with an electrician to be certain your outlet provides proper protection for an outdoor water feature.
Create a scene. To enhance the beauty of your water garden, add plants and accessories to help blend it into the setting. For a tabletop water garden, mix in some water plants or arrange tropical houseplants, a bonsai tree, or a wall plaque around the feature to give it more presence. Place containers of plants near wall-mounted and stand-alone fountains.
Concrete and terra-cotta water features tend to look out of place until time and weather tone down their brightness. To speed up the aging process, apply and then quickly rub off a thin wash of grey-green paint to “grunge” the surface.
Whimsical accessories such as a ceramic frog, favorite stones from travels, or a statue that reflects your garden’s theme help add your own personal touch to the garden. Use these items in moderation, though, so the scene doesn’t become cluttered.
Mimicking Mother Nature is a good design plan for larger water features. Natural ponds have a plethora of plants in every crack and crevice, growing over and around the rocks and softening the pond’s look and feel. Apply this technique to increase the natural aesthetics of your water garden. In large pools with moving water, a stream that flows over stones and large rocks is more natural-looking than a spray or fountain.
P. Allen Smith (www.pallensmith.com) is a garden designer, host of two national TV programs, a regular guest on the “Today” show, and author of P. Allen Smith’s Living in the Garden Home (Clarkson Potter, 2007) and other books in the Garden Home series.