Whether your garden is chic city courtyard or sprawling country acre, an essential element to embrace is water. Annie Green-Armytage has some design ideas to inspire you
Annie Green-Armytage has some inspirational ideas for water
Deep in our collective psyche water has a powerful link to life and wellbeing and its presence has a profoundly calming effect on us. The character of water in gardens varies greatly – perhaps you are dreaming of a tranquil pool full of reflected sky, or contemplating a gently bubbling fountain, or a wildlife haven for crested newts and damselflies? Your vision will substantially influence the practical hard landscaping (which, by the way, are outside the scope of this piece and way outside my competence level).
The simplest of pools are made from a preformed fibreglass shell and will support a variety of aquatic plants, but
add a shallow shelf around the outside and you immediately increase your range to include marginals such as irises and marsh marigolds. If you are going for running water, then you will need a certain depth for the pump, and a route for electrical cables, unless the pump is solar-powered.
Siting your water is allimportant. For a pool, a sunny, sheltered spot, away from overhanging trees, is a good choice; a bubble fountain, on the other hand, may be better placed close to the house, visible from a window. If your garden slopes, a pond at the bottom of the slope will feel more natural than one at the top.
If you have the space, there is nothing so peaceful as a traditional pond. Make it look as if it has been there forever by planting with native water-plants such as bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) and marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris). Add texture and colour in the margins with candelabra primulas, hostas, and the graceful, cobalt-blue
Iris sibirica. If wildlife is your prime concern, make sure your pond has at least one side gently shelving, so that frogs, toads and small mammals can walk in and out easily.
For the more ambitious water gardener, a cascade or stream will provide movement and sound, and if you get the levels exactly right, you can get the water to stand in each level when the pump is switched off, rather than emptying down to the bottom of the run. The sound of running water will attract many kinds of birds but be aware that smaller creatures such as water-boatmen, pond-skaters and whirligig beetles are happier in a more tranquil environment. A friend of mine has a still pond at the top of her garden, feeding into a running stream, thereby getting the best of both worlds.
In a small urban space, a formal raised pool could be the answer. Soften the edges with pots of gentle bamboos and maples, or introduce a Mediterranean influence with spiky agaves or hardy palms (Trachycarpus fortunei). Create a contemplative element with a perfect circle or a formal rill uncluttered by plants.
If you’re on a budget, get creative with your materials. Make use of what occurs naturally, or even abandoned stuff laying about in your shed. Flints from the garden or tubular steel air-conditioning ducts make water features, recycled
engineering bricks make pond edging, a giant ornamental urn transforms into a mini-pond. Get that upcycling vibe going.
If fish are your thing, add koi carp into the mix. Surprisingly friendly creatures, koi will take bread crusts from your hand once they know and trust you. But be prepared to give them the crystal-clear water they need – you’re into a world of filtration and pool hoovers now (yes, really). And don’t expect to see many other pond creatures – the koi will have them for breakfast.
No room for a pond? Try a pebble fountain – not only is it
‘Perhaps you are dreaming of a tranquil pool full of reflected sky, or contemplating a gently bubbling fountain?’
easy to install, but this type of feature is perfect for a garden with small children as there is no standing water involved. Alternatively, create a minipond in a container. A lined half-barrel or a large ceramic pot will do the job nicely, provided you keep it topped up during warmer weather. Don’t be tempted to add fish here though; apart from the limited space, they are likely to expire as the water heats up.
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The stillness and reflectiveness of clear water creates tranquility in this garden. A woven willow bridge is teamed with a weeping willow (Salix x sepulcralis var. chrysocoma) on the right-hand bank
LEFT: Koi pond with bridge. Soleirolia soleirolii (syn. Helxine soleirolii) or mind-yourown-business covers the edge of the pond
BELOW: A colourful courtyard pond hidden behind one of the oldest houses in Norwich. Golden herons and frog statues add a little theatre, and plants include Campanula poscharskyana, cotoneaster, waterlilies, roses, valerian (Centranthus ruber), and lupins
ABOVE: Circular pool with reflected clouds. A stepping-stone causeway leads to central resting area with deck chairs LEFT: Lion’s head fountain with Hosta ‘Happiness’ at base
When they trust you, koi carp will take food from your hand