How To Enhance Your Garden With A Self-Contained Water Feature

How To Enhance Your Garden With A Self-Contained Water Feature

A water feature in your garden adds another dimension to your outdoor space. A reflective pool cools & calms the senses after a day at work, allowing you to drift off into a haven of peace. Water features have the added benefit of attracting wildlife & if you add a small waterfall or fountain it can help to mask road noise. You don’t need a huge garden to have a water feature, in fact you don’t need a garden at all, a patio, terrace or conservatory is sufficient for a self-contained water feature. If you have an indoor water feature you will also be able to grow more tender plant varieties. There is no need for a mains water supply & mains electricity will only be needed if you want a fountain, waterfall or lighting unless you go for solar powered options.

The simplest water feature is a shallow bowl or container such as a half barrel. Unlike a sunken pond the exterior of the container needs to be attractive to look at although it is possible to group it with potted plants which will hide the exterior. Any clean container that can hold water can be used but it may need to be lined to make it waterproof. Black pond liner can be used to neatly line a container (fill with water before trimming off the excess) or coat the interior of ceramic or stone containers with pond sealant. Decide where it is going to be placed & experiment with displays including potted plants, rocks or gravel before filling it with water, it may look best as a feature on its own. Now you can plant it up, use plants which look in scale to your container, add some height at the back using taller plants & have some floating plants to reduce the amount of light reaching the water which should help control algae. Most aquatic plants prefer a bright, well lit position but may benefit from some shade at the hottest part of the day. The water will gradually evaporate so keep levels topped up especially in hot weather.

Planting suggestions for a small container: marginals for height (sit their basket on a brick to raise it nearer the surface if necessary) - corkscrew rush (Juncus effuses ‘Spiralis’), pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) or Typha minima; hardy dwarf or pygmy waterlilies – Nymphaea ‘Aurora’, N. ‘Candida’ or N. ‘Laydekeri Fulgens’; floating plants – frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae), Wolffia arrhiza – believed to be the smallest flowering plant in the world!

An alternative to a planted container with no water movement would be a container with a fountain pump installed at the base. This would filter the water whilst producing a delicate fountain to give a relaxing background sound on hot summer days. Buy the right sized pump for the volume of water in the container & check water levels regularly because there would be more evaporation from this type of feature.

An alternative to a planted container would be a bubble fountain or a waterfall. All of these work on the same principle of having a self contained water source with a pump to feed the fountain or waterfall.

A bubble fountain is essentially a water feature sited over a large tank of water which houses the pump to produce the fountain. Once the water tank is filled & the pump checked, a strong metal grid can be placed over the tank & the feature installed. It may be a large decorative pot surrounded by cobbles with a small fountain or it could be a large ornamental rock or piece of slate surrounded by cobbles with the water gushing over its surface. Whichever feature you choose, this type of self contained water feature is ideal if there are young children about.

Waterfalls are often more dramatic but are based on the same idea as the bubble fountain, often with the water supply being part of the feature rather than being buried below. It could be as simple as a wall mounted mask pouring water into a stone sink or a stone built structure on different levels allowing the water to cascade down into a rock pool. If the movement of the water isn’t too great you may even manage to grow some plants in your pool. If you want a ready made fountain which just needs wiring in then a decorative self contained water feature made of high quality resin may be the answer. These waterfalls & fountains are moulded into a variety of designs including contemporary columns, spilling urns & natural wildlife scenes – what could be easier!

So start planning a water feature for your garden or patio this summer, it’s easier than you think & the pleasure & magical qualities that it can bring will be there to enjoy year after year.

Angela Slater

Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas.