Ideas for Water Features into Gardens

Water makes a garden cool, even when it's hot, and brings a special sense of tranquillity, even to places which are otherwise not particularly special. Water features can be as simple and inexpensive as a dish of water beside a garden tap, or as elaborate and expensive as a swimming pool or large pond with waterfall and a cascading stream.

Water not only makes a garden look cool, but also makes it feel cool. Larger areas of water and splashing waterfalls or cascades have a very real affect on the temperature in your garden.


Water in any form will attract birds to a garden, but as with most good things there are also problems. Ducks and other birds may pollute a swimming pool. Areas of untreated water can breed insects, particularly mosquitoes, and if the natural balance of plants and animals is not right, a garden pond can become stagnant and polluted.


Most problems with pools or water gardens have simple solutions. If you get advice and buy from an expert, you can usually avoid these problems.



Leave a terracotta dish to collect rainwater in a cool, open part of the garden. This will attract birds for a drink, but should be emptied occasionally in warm or dry weather and filled with fresh water.

It's a good idea to tip the water out every week, wash out the dish, and replace it with completely fresh water. If the same water is left in a dish for too long, it may grow algae, or become stagnant and unhealthy for birds to drink.


Line the inside of a wooden tub with black plastic or bitumen paint to waterproof it. Put wire mesh on the outside of the tub and grow a climber over it. Place a layer of coarse aquarium sand (3 6cm thick) in the bottom of the tub and fill it with water. Plant a couple of water plants in the tub, perhaps a water lily and a water iris, and put in a couple of small fish to help keep the water environment in balance.

Water garden suppliers can give you more detailed advice on how to make this type of water garden work.



Include a spa in your swimming pool. Spas can be either built into a swimming pool, or kept separate. A built in spa uses the same water as the swimming pool, and the water flows from the swimming pool into the spa, and vice versa. A separate spa is a self contained system, which is not connected in any way to the pool.



Set a bird bath in a garden bed to attract birds. Birds are often attacked by cats in a garden though, so make sure there is plenty of open space around the bird bath, so the birds can see any approaching cats. There should also be safe places for birds to perch near to the water; perhaps a fence or an open (not bushy) tree branch.

A feed table near to the birdbath will help to attract birds even more. Like the bath, the feed table needs to be set above the ground in a place where cats can't sneak up on the birds. The table can be a decorative bird feeder, with a roof, or something as simple as a flat piece of wood on top of a post. Food should be put out on the table regularly, and at the same time of day, so the birds get into a routine. Don't put out too much though, or the birds can become over dependent upon your food, and loose the ability to find their own food in nature.



Design your garden so that features are at the far end of water, to create a reflection in the water. By thinking about what you will place beside water, where you are likely to be sitting or standing when you are near the water, and how the sun will create reflections at different times of day, you will be able to use reflections to create subtle images to enhance the character of your garden.

Think about the trees and other structures you place around water. Consider how they might shade the water's surface and diminish the reflections which are created.



Create a pebble beach alongside water. It is relatively easy to maintain and can enhance the character of the water. It's scale can vary from something only a couple of metres long and a metre wide to something ten metres or more wide and many times that in length, with large rocky outcrops throughout the beach and extending into the water.


Create an oriental affect with a red painted bridge. The size and style can vary according to your situation, though a curved shape with hand rails and finished (i.e.. smooth) timber are most typical. Red paint, perhaps with sections of either black or gold are traditionally used colours.



Create a flow of water into a pond through a bamboo tube. A thick piece of bamboo can be hollowed out using a long auger to drill through any blockages. Water can be collected by a submersible pump below the water's surface and pushed to the top of the bamboo pipe through a piece of flexible hose.

Running water like this is valuable in a pond. It helps increase oxygen levels in the water, which is necessary for healthy pond life. It also creates the noise of splashing water which is a soothing feature to be prized in any garden.



Install an above ground swimming pool, and build a timber deck around it to help blend into it's surroundings. The deck also makes it easier to get in and out of the water. Remember there are swimming pool regulations in many states which apply to even this type of pool. In Queensland for instance, you are obliged to fence and install an acceptable surface around a pool. It is advisable to check swimming pool regulations in your state with the swimming pool and spa association (S.P.A.S.A.) before spending anything, even on an above ground pool. Otherwise what started out as a few hundred dollars expense might cost a couple of thousand.


A traditional well is a relatively inexpensive way of bringing water to a garden. With a few goldfish and water plants, the water can be kept from going stagnant and be both a great feature and source of interest, particularly for children. A well can be a circular or square structure, built from bricks or stone cemented together and laid on a concrete slab foundation. Two timber posts are normally built into opposite sides of the wall to support a beam (traditionally to hold a rope and bucket), and perhaps a roof.

The inside can be made waterproof either of the following ways:

Line the inside with a pond lining material (available from water garden shops).

Render the inside walls and base with a layer of cement and waterproofing compound (NB: Waterproofing compound is purchased from most hardware stores. Added to cement it makes it waterproof).



Hide your pool filter and pump behind a rock garden. A pool or spa filter and pump are not attractive, but they need to be accessible. They need to be near power and thus are often sited up against the wall of a house. You may decide to build a fence or wall to hide this equipment, or even plant a hedge. Whatever you do, make sure there is adequate room to get in and around the equipment. Repairmen may need to work there from time to time, not to mention the fact that good ventilation is necessary for an operating pump to keep cool.



If your garden is in a traditional or formal style, build a formal pool to enhance that style. Symmetrical balance is achieved by keeping the pool in a regular shape, usually based on a rectangle or square. A high wall at the far end of the pool and identically shaped garden beds either side all go towards maintaining a sense of formal balance.


Escape the sun in your pool by building a water cave. An enclave can be created at one end of a pool with either large natural rocks or artificial man made boulders (created from specially treated concrete). There needs to be sufficient height inside to keep your head well above the water, and an underwater ledge to sit on is a must.

Unheated pools can remain very cold even over a hot summer if too large an area of the pool is inside the cave away from the heating affect of the sun.


Build a beach area with pool table in your pool, so you can lounge in the shallows with a cool drink on a hot summers day. An umbrella holder (ie. hole) in the centre of the table can give the area even greater attraction.


Install one or many water jets in the wall beside your pond or pool. In a swimming pool or spa, these jets are not only attractive, but can be used to gently massage the shoulders.




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