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Water in the garden

Next to rockeries, inexperienced gardeners seem to want a water garden more than any other feature, usually without understanding what they are letting themselves in for. Admittedly there are very good arguments in favour of considering water when planning your garden:


  • The effect of light on the surface and reflections in the water give a feeling of tranquillity.
  • The sound of running water from a fountain or cascade is very pleasing.
  • It gives you the chance to explore new aspects of plant cultivation.
  • You can introduce wildlife into the garden in the form of fish (and the tomcat from next door, and the heron which clears out your collection in one sitting!).


  • A pool must be maintained properly at all seasons or it can quickly become an eyesore.
  • If you are intending to make a boggy area and have no suitable natural part of the garden, you will have to rely very heavily on regular irrigation during dry weather or the plants will die. To provide moving water in a garden, you have to install comparatively expensive equipment and know what you are doing regarding the electrical supply to this, or alternatively pay for a qualified electrician to do the job for you. Where small children are concerned, you will have to fence off any water deeper than a few inches if you are not to keep them under constant supervision – it is surprising how shallow a depth of water a child can drown in.

How to use water in the garden

for sound. If you just want the soothing sound of splashing water without all the hassle of maintaining a pool, there are many pieces of equipment these days which can enable you to do this. A typical example is a fountain kit attached to a sunken reservoir, on top of which is some stone feature, probably containing cobbles or similar. The water is pumped up through the fountain and runs back through the cobbles into the reservoir. This is essentially a formal feature, probably best situated in a patio. On the other hand, if you want sight as well as sound, you can achieve this by installing a fountain in a conventional pool, and/or pumping the water up to run back down the face of a rockery through a channel and rock pools back into the pond. This has the additional advantage of aerating the water, which is of considerable benefit to any fish.

As a formal feature.

In this case, the shape of the pond is confined to a geometric shape. The edges are best kept plain by paving. This type of pool can be quite satisfactory as an inset in a terrace or patio and can be raised above ground level.

As an informal pool.

Possibly the most successful for the majority of gardens. The shape is asymmetrical and can be sited in grass and/or surrounded with informal paving or stones. The ‘spoil’ from the excavation can be used, if it is suitable, to create a rockery area flanking the pool, in which case it can contain a waterfall if required.

As a moist bed or border area

Here the pool excavation is not filled with water, but with soil which is kept moist all the time. An area such as this may be attached to an informal pond, or can be a feature on its own, without the inclusion of a piece of open water.


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