Enjoy the peace that a water feature can bring this holiday season, be it the still surface of a natural pond, the splash created by a fountain or the rippling rapids of a stream. Water in all its forms brings tranquillity. And it does a lot more besides… it also drowns out the sounds of the city, attracts birds and other wildlife to your garden and provides a pleasant focal point, giving your garden that
The kind of water feature you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your garden and the style of your home and garden. For a smaller space, simple to install urn water features are ideal as they make use of vertical space with very little spread. Alternatively a swimming pool can double as a water feature with a modern letter box fountain splashing water into it. Larger gardens can accommodate natural ponds, waterfalls or even a stream running through a section of the property. Just remember that any moving water will require a pump.
Take into account the following:
What do you want from your water feature? If you want to attract wildlife or keep fish, a large, natural pond, with sloping sides and marginal plants is the best option; if you want simply to add interest to your garden, consider a classical fountain or overflowing urn; if you want to disguise a looming wall or drown out traffic sounds, a wall fountain or splashing water wall are great ideas.
Ponds are best placed in a sunny spot – especially if you are installing a natural pond with plants, as these will need sun to thrive. Also, shady spots under trees have the additional problem of fallen leaves, which will cause a maintenance nightmare, contaminating the water and clogging up any filter you may have.
It is a good idea to site your feature near a patio or entertainment area so you can fully enjoy the sight and sound of water. A large informal pond, however, may be better suited to a further away, low-lying area of your garden, where it will look more natural and where it can collect water run-off.
Assess your site – is it level or uneven? Some water features require level ground, such as fountains, but some can work better on sloping ground, such as a waterfall.
Before deciding on a style, find out what the installation costs will be and what maintenance will be needed. There are many water features that you can install or build yourself, from DIY urn fountains to preformed ponds or flexible liners that you can cut to fit your own shape.
In water features where moving water is desired, remember that the taller the water feature, or the further the water needs to travel, the more powerful the pump needs to be, and bigger pumps are more expensive.
The style of water feature you choose should ideally suit the style of your existing garden, and the architecture of your house. Consider the hard landscaping materials used in the garden and around your home, and try to match these.
These are ideal for large informal gardens. You can dig it yourself, in the shape and size of your choice, and line it with sand and a plastic liner held down by rocks. Or, you can use a preformed fibreglass or plastic shape – there are many shapes and sizes from which to choose.
To create a functioning eco-system in your natural pond, make sure it is at least 60cm deep in the middle and has a surface area of at least 3.75 square metres. Create a shallow shelf around the perimeter, where wildlife can enter and marginal plants can be placed. Plants act as natural filters and help to keep the water clean – keep in mind though that most water plants need sun for a good part of the day, so make sure your pond is placed in a sunny area.
Ponds need to be oxygenated to thrive. Certain plants are oxygenators, such as Vallisneria aethiopica. Moving water also oxygenates a pond, like a waterfall. Water lilies and other plants with leaves that float on the surface cast shade on the bottom of the pond and reduce the occurrence of algae. Around the edge of your pond, plant marginal species such as arums, irises and rush (Juncus effusus). These plants should keep your pond clean naturally, although a filter may be needed to keep it really clear. If you plan to keep fish, a filter is essential, as is oxygenated water.
To keep your pond clean with a filter medium use Clinofish. Clinofish is a direct substitute for fish pond filter media that scavenges toxic ammonia from pond water. Unlike ordinary filter media, such as gravel or sand, the surfaces of these particles are not smooth and have large surface areas. Clinofish is therefore also an extremely effective biological media for maximum colonisation of useful bacteria.
Fountains are great in small gardens as they needn’t take up much room, and unlike ponds, they can be placed in shade. They can also work well in a large garden, though, creating a focal area in a corner of the garden. The choice of fountains is endless, from pillars with taps spouting water, to more modern letter box spouts installed against a concrete block, to more traditional fountains with three tiers. These kinds of features use pumps and sumps to circulate the water, that is, the water is pumped from a reservoir, delivered to the spout or waterfall and then returned to the reservoir to be used again.
• Micro features
An instant effect can be achieved with small water features, which can be easy and quick to install yourself. They are also ideal for small gardens. Consider a concrete ball feature, with water gurgling out the top and flowing down into a sump; break up an imposing wall with a wall fountain; or place a millstone filled with water in your garden bed for a pretty effect and as a lure for birds.
If you are looking to install a fountain, you are spoilt for choice as they come in all kinds of materials nowadays. Just keep in mind that it needs to complement your home, surrounding walls and garden décor. There is faux stone for the natural garden, concrete for a timeless, traditional look, stainless steel for a sleek look, stone cladding for the modern home, and more.
• Skim the surface of your pond to keep it clear of fallen leaves and other debris.
• Clean your pump regularly with a cloth to keep it clear of debris.
• If you have a fountain, clean it and replace the water every 4-6 months. Empty out the water and wipe it and any rocks or pebbles clean with a cloth or sponge. Clean away any algae build-up. Replace with fresh water.
• If you have a problem with algae growth, you may need to treat the water with an algaecide. Algae can become smelly and clog up the pump.
The addition of a water feature, even a small, simple one, can take your garden to the next level
By Loren Shirley-Carr