Garden Design (2015)
A blade of water disturbs the reflective surface of a stylish contemporary formal pool designed to intersect with an intimate fern-edged patio.
DESIGN BY DENISE CADWALLADER
BRINGING SPARKLE and sound to your garden, water can energise a design with splashing symphonies from fountains and cascades; increase light by mirroring the sky; or infuse a design scheme with quiet calm from a reflective pool or a wildlife pond.
Water is one of the most life affirming and dynamic elements you can introduce into a garden and when used creatively with sensitivity, skill and panache, it is also one of the most potent. Water takes on different persona, depending on how and where it is used: formal, geometric pools and fountains can be serious and powerful; meandering streams and plant-filled ponds lend a serene and natural look. Moving water can be playful too. Jets and cascades sparkle with light and create a comforting sound, and they can be programmed to turn on unexpectedly, creating surprise and excitement. Agitated water produces ripples that transmit hypnotic movement, while water walls, with films of water running over textured backdrops, create glistening, sinuous patterns.
You can also use water to convey a mood or ambience. Features can be personal and intimate, such as a rill designed to drip into a hidden pool, or triumphal, with cascades thundering into plunge pools, gurgling and boiling amongst imposing sculpture or dramatic ornament. Still water is often used to enhance contemplative landscapes, the surface reflecting the surrounding world, or romantically capturing blue sky and scudding clouds. But when contained within a dark vessel, the water becomes quiet and mysterious, mirroring all, but communicating little.
“Ponds with shelving banks planted with marginals are perfect for bathing birds, thirsty animals and emerging dragonflies, while pools edged with rocks offer amphibians shelter, and those fringed with meadow grasses are ideal for baby frogs’ first steps.”
Essential for life, water is a magnet for wildlife, but the degree to which birds and beasts will visit your feature depends upon the design. A raised fountain may only attract a passing bird to drink or bathe, but a permanent pond with gently sloping sides or a beach area will draw in a host of creatures, including amphibians, such as frogs and toads, and small mammals. Avoid steep-sided ponds, which pose a hazard to wildlife, as many animals will be unable to escape after being lured into the water.
All water features will turn green eventually when colonised with algae and other organisms, unless the water is moving constantly or circulated through a filter system. Water walls, rills and unplanted features can be chemically treated to prevent discolouration, but in natural ponds, where wildlife and plants would be harmed by chemicals, you can use plants to create a sustainable ecosystem that will minimise algae and weed growth. Oxygenating plants, such as hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) and water violet (Hottonia palustris), are particularly useful, as they mop up the nutrients weeds need to thrive.
MAKING A WATER FEATURE
Ponds can be constructed in a variety of ways to suit all pockets. Fibreglass preformed pond liners enable quick installation and come in a wide range of shapes, from formal to naturalistic. Although useful for small features, they can look artificial and be difficult to integrate into a design. Most ponds use butyl rubber liners, which offer a flexible way to create ponds of any size and shape, including bog gardens for moisture-loving plants. The butyl comes in a range of thicknesses and prices.
Shapes for the pond need to be carefully sculpted, with deeper areas for fish and shelves at various levels for baskets of pond plants. Before laying, clear the site of sharp objects that may puncture the liner - the main drawback. Then lay the liner on a bed of soft sand or capillary matting as a cushion. For a natural look use cobbles or gravel over the liner edges to create a seamless union between water and the surrounding garden. Raised water features, such as a brick- or stonewalled tank, are best undertaken by an expert landscaper.
Always consider the safety of a pond - water features are best avoided in gardens used by young children.
Formal pool planted with water lilies by Sarah Massey
A restless film of water flows over the textured base in this formal rill, creating a powerful, dynamic feature between the flight of steps and filling the garden with sound.
DESIGN BY JOHN WYER
Recreating the ambience of a romantic past, the stone edging on this canal-like raised tank, planted with water lilies and irises, provides seating for conversation or quiet contemplation.
DESIGN BY NIGEL PHILIPS
As if defying the laws of physics, a granite pathway stretches across a small pool, the effect heightened by allowing water to penetrate between each sett.
DESIGN BY CLEVE WEST
Films of water glide effortlessly over the mirrored surface of this elegant feature into a pool below, creating impact and reflecting light into the intimate space.
DESIGN BY ANDREW FISHER TOMLIN
Mimicking wild landscapes, naturalistic pools should be located at the lowest point of the garden and reflect the contours of their surroundings. A bridge provides access and a key viewing point.
DESIGN BY JAMES SCOTT
By intercepting water from an adjacent building this rain-fed, richly planted pond is ideal for wildlife. Excess water flows into a nearby culvert.
DESIGN BY CHERYL CUMMINGS
The centrepiece of a period formal garden, this sunken water feature acts as a focal point, its mirrored surface reflecting the ever-changing sky.
DESIGN BY AMANDA PATTON
Cascades create drama and incident and through careful design can be fitted into small, truncated spaces, as well as more generous locations.
DESIGN BY ACRES WILD
A pool contained in a large metal bowl makes an incidental feature among low planting. Marginals and dwarf water lilies extend the border into the water.
DESIGN BY IAN KITSON