Saturday, July 2, 2011


The sight and sound of water are basic to the well-being of humans. It’s why most of us live as close to water as we can and make pilgrimages to it if we don’t. In fact, I have a theory that people who spend most of their time in arid climates are fractious, short-tempered and suffer from delusions of persecution. (Can you say “sub-Saharan Africa” and “Middle East”?) Maybe it’s the soothing negative ions generated by water in motion. Maybe it’s the comforting background noise, whether a quiet trickle or waves pounding the shore. Maybe it’s memories of the womb. Whatever. Deprive us of it for long periods and we get grumpy, fast.

Water in the garden takes many forms. The luckiest among us live on land with natural water features—streams (with and without waterfalls), ponds, or lake-, river- and ocean-front properties. The rest of us have to construct our own. Large ponds sculpted of natural stone and featuring waterfalls and schools of koi occupy the high end of the cost spectrum, both in installation and maintenance. The lowly birdbath you fill with the watering can once a week anchors the other. In between those extremes fall all kinds of fountains and container gardens. No garden is truly complete without at least one water feature in it, however simple.

This one fills when the drip irrigation zone runs.

This is a subject where pictures are worth thousands of words. Let’s start small, and build to a big finish.

Bird baths are as basic as water in the garden gets.

Caveat emptor: tiny reservoirs mean rapid evaporation,
which means even rapider pump burnout

Then there are fountains. Simple wall-mounted fountains…

Tim assembled this winecask-& pump model
in about an hour

 Rustic-looking fountains…

 Hidden-reservoir fountains in pots…

A bubbling pineapple jar

An amphora fountain drips off its handles

              Traditional two-tiered fountains…

Less-traditional three-tiered fountains…

Tim relaxes by an Xtreme beach model
at a local garden center

  Theme-park fountains...

Tim and I installed this one,
and did the stonework

And over-the-top examples with spectacular surrounds.

This little waterfall tinkling into a 2 by 3-foot
reservoir took three tries to get right.
Setting a stone so that water drips off the edge
instead of running along its underside
and out the back proves that sometimes
water does run uphill.

Next in order of complexity and expense are ponds. Tiny ponds with tiny waterfalls for that something extra the sound of water brings to a space…

This monstrosity is one of Fitzgeralds'
earliest attempts at waterfall

To kind of stupid-looking constructed waterfalls that seem to cascade without any good reason from exceptionally large termite mounds…

To the most beautiful man-made koi pond I’ve ever seen. An impeccable design, impeccably executed (and the huge budget helped a lot) makes this one simply spectacular. Tim and I didn't build this one, but we like a lot.


A two-armed waterfall

The view from the top of the waterfall

See how this waterfall and pond flow seemingly naturally from their surroundings?


 If you don’t have room for a whole pond, how about a streambed?

If you’re lucky enough to live on a natural—or “natural” as in “golf course drainage”—pond, you can just landscape around it… 

A bona fide boatwrught
built this "lilypad" for our clients

Or landscape in it. This was one of those projects I signed us up for that we initially had no idea how to go about. But I had every confidence Tim would figure out the details. And he did.

 Got water in your garden? If not, now you’ve got some ideas. Next time we'll discuss some helpful hints about working with water that Tim and I've learned the hard way, and wrap up this series on water on and in the garden.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday. Thanks for dropping by.