Installing a water feature can add a wonderful dimension to your garden. It will attract all kinds of birds and dragonflies. Maybe even a frog or two. Your feature can be soothing or invigorating, splashing or bubbling, with or without plants. The best part? It’s not as daunting as it sounds.
“People are so intimidated by it, but it’s not hard,” said Chris Moore, owner of Moorehaven Water Gardens in Lynnwood. “Water features can be as simple as a big bowl planted with water hyacinth and water lettuce.”
The basic parts of a water feature are a reservoir, pump, pipe and spout. The mechanics are simple. Water pumps from the reservoir through the pipe to emerge from a spout. The water returns to the reservoir to be continually recycled.
You can use many things for water features, and Moore encourages you to look at all kinds of water features before choosing the one for your garden. Then see if you can recreate it. She describes how to make a simple water feature. Drill a hole in the bottom of an urn and place a pump and water light inside. “You can enjoy the dancing light and splashing water and you don’t have to worry about digging a hole,” she said.
Jessica Bloom, owner and lead designer of NW Bloom EcoLogical Landscapes in Mill Creek, is “celebrating rain.” She captures water with a rain chain made of cups that hang from the rain gutter to the ground. This replaces her traditional gutter downspout. Rainwater visibly runs down the chain, creating soothing splash sounds. “Every time it rains, it’s a water feature. Otherwise it’s decorative,” she said. If desired, the end of the chain can be placed in a large pot to catch the rainwater for use in the garden. This feature is a good option for the budget-minded and is easy to install.
Bloom encourages you to consider scale, aesthetics, budget and style when adding a water feature, since it is part of your overall landscape. “Not every element works in every garden,” she said. And, you want it to be ecological and child safe, she added.
A favorite water feature that works well in many settings is basalt columns. “We are in the middle of the basalt bubbler trend,” said Rick Perry, co-owner of Falling Water Designs in Monroe. Typical of this feature are a trio of uneven columns that bubble water from their centers down to a pool of water or bed of rocks. These natural-looking bubblers are ideal for flat areas.
Basalt bubblers are nearly maintenance-free. They operate with recirculating water and you can run them all year long. They are great for kids and attracting wildlife. “When we had cold freezing rain in January, we had all kind of birds stopping by,” Bloom said.
Small details can add to the charm of your water feature. If you place it in a shady spot, moss will grow. A stone Buddha incorporated into your feature can add a mood of tranquility and contemplation. Place native plants nearby to give it a Northwest-forest feel. Incorporate an original sculpture for a one-of-a-kind feature.
Sound is an important detail, too. You can customize it to suit your needs. Perry always asks, “Do you want your water to be calming or invigorating? Do you want it to be relaxing or rejuvenating?”
Whatever you choose, you do not want the sound to be irritating. The faster it flows and the farther it falls, the more noise it will create. Water falling on stones is quite different from water falling on water. The wider your spout, the more quiet the gurgle.
Also, consider the size of your reservoir when choosing the location for your water feature. “The biggest secret is the reservoir,” Moore said. It should be twice as wide as your feature is tall to manage the splash. Otherwise, you’ll be adding water all the time.
For a small patio garden, try a dish stone. This basalt stone has a shallow scoop and water gurgles out the center, flows to the edge, and falls on rocks or in a shallow pool. It has the look and feel of a secret underground spring. Many other water features are available for your exploration.
Professionals usually install larger features such as fountains, streams, waterfalls, rain gardens and ponds, but not always. If you are ambitious, have the time, and are willing to learn about the process, you can do it yourself.
“Water is one of the elements of the earth. It is important to have it in the garden,” Perry said. “The technology makes it so easy, there is no reason not to have water.”
Moore agrees: “It completes the garden and it’s not that difficult.”