How To… Use Water Features In Your Garden
Water features of any size are a great asset to the garden. Not only do they provide a focal point but they also give a sense of well-being. Whether still or moving the tranquil effects of water can calm or uplift any space.
For the small garden think about scale. We assume that a small garden requires small features and that everything needs to be in proportion. This makes the space seem even smaller, a sort of miniature garden. So, have fun and take a risk! Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama. Large leaved plants backed with smaller leaved plants help accentuate the depth, making the garden seem larger. Do not limit yourself to a very small water feature; for water to work well you need at least half a metre square of surface area. And remember the rule about using an existing measurement – try the door or window width or even a path dimension; coordinating measurements will anchor any feature you choose to introduce.
So, have fun and take a risk! Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.
Materials are important. Do you want the feature to stand out or blend in? Link back to a material that is already in the garden in order to harmonise. If the house is brick introduce brick again. For a cottage garden galvanised metal or rusty steel can be both contemporary and traditional. Is your water feature flush with the ground or is it raised? In a small space a raised pool often works better. A 1 m2 pool raised 450mm high provides an exciting focal point, is large enough for dramatic reflection and, the rim is the right height to sit on and enjoy.
Fountains can make or break. Think subtle and sophisticated.
A large fountain in a small pool is totally out of scale. Try a small bubble fountain fixed just under the water’s surface; the jet will gently babble away creating a calming movement and sound, or use a very fine jet and keep it simple. One arching spray of water on the centre is more than adequate. For a Mediterranean feel locate a jet in each corner of a square or rectangular pool and aim them to cross each other. The Alhambra Garden in Spain is a great resource for inspiration.
Still water requires a little more maintenance to keep it clean and it will also evaporate quicker. A little black dye will help heighten the reflective qualities and stop algae growing.
Do not overcrowd a pool with lots of plants; remember the design mantra that less is more. Again think scale. You don’t want a miniature water garden, but you do need to choose plants that are appropriate to the pond size. Miniature water lilies can work well if planted alone. For contrast plant large oval-leaved Hosta around the edge and sword-shaped Iris directly into the water. If you are looking for inspiration I would suggest visiting the flower shows or have a look at their websites – RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is generally the best one for water-plants. (Try not to look at the larger water gardens; this is not the look you are trying to achieve.)
Safety, with water in the garden, is paramount. A raised feature is safer, especially if you have young children, but I would always insist the client has a metal grid fitted just below the water surface so that if a child falls in, the grid would protect them.