Wading into Water Garden

Any yard or garden can feature the wonder of water. Master the planning process with these basic considerations.

| December/January 2005

  • Water elements create a focal point to which all other aspects of the garden adhere.
  • A meandering stream accented with a small footbridge adds subtle yet powerful interest.

Water offers such a wide variety of applications that no garden can be considered too small, no style too restrictive and few budgets too meager to accommodate some kind of water feature.

When introducing water, spend time considering why you want it in your garden, then plan how it can best be integrated into the garden’s existing design scheme. Take into account the nature of movement and sound that moving water features can offer — these elements need to be applied with just as much care as color and texture in a planting scheme. Adjustable flow controllers on the outlets of pumps for fountains and waterfalls enable the pressure and volume to be finely tuned — too much noise can be obtrusive; too little and it becomes irritating. Cobbles in shallow water at the base of waterfalls create a totally different sound from water falling into deeper water.

Two popular misconceptions must be dispelled at the outset in planning a water feature. First, moving water needs no connection to the main water supply. Second, ponds are not necessarily more appropriate in areas of high rainfall — they provide welcome oases in dry climatic zones.

The considerations of site will be discussed later, but first let’s look at some main types of pond.

Formal pools. A formal pool is often the ideal option for a small garden where there is little or no lawn and the surface is dominated by paving. The formal pool has clearly defined, crisp edges, which are generally paved and form regular geometric shapes. The planting is restrained, confined mainly in aquatic planting containers, and dominated by specimen plants that have bold upright leaves, such as irises, which create a strong vertical contrast to the even, horizontal expanse of the water.

Informal ponds. The priority in planning an informal pond is to blend it into the existing style of garden design. This type of pond would have strong appeal to the gardener, offering considerable scope for lush planting which may not be possible in other parts of the garden. The boundaries of the pond could be extended to a bog area, so allow space for this at the planning stage. If fish are introduced, the choice, size and number will need to be strictly limited.

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