According to the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, flowing water brings with it health, happiness bring the beneficial and harmonious sound of running water to your garden is with a water feature. A well-placed water feature can also become a garden focal point.
Water features add texture and form which is continually changing, and they appeal to all our senses. A water feature can be integrated with an abstract sculpture, mounted on a wall, be part of a swimming pool — or it can be a standalone garden feature.
Water features can be made from a range of materials — natural stone, glass, glass-reinforced concrete, pre-cast concrete, steel or copper — and either pre-fabricated or constructed on site.
WORLD OF CHOICE FOR WATER FEATURE
You have a wealth of water feature options to choose between, including:
• Water walls: Typically, this involves a steady stream flowing down a facade into a hidden reservoir or pool where the water it is then reticulated. Another option is a rain curtain which creates the illusion of falling rain.
• Waterfalls and fountains: Sheer-descent waterfalls look fabulous flowing directly into
a swimming pool. Standalone fountains, whether single or multi-tiered, suit formal spaces. Many are sculpted pieces of art that bring beauty and sound into the garden.
• Water spouts and taps: Arcs of water cascading into a pool or reservoir from a wall are one of the original types of water features from the early Roman era. For a modern twist, stainless-steel spouts combined with a rendered wall can look great.
• Water bowls, pots and urns: Sometimes understated looks best — perhaps a water bowl as a table centrepiece or an urn placed near an outdoor lounge. Even a simple birdbath connects you to water and nature.
• Unique pieces: For something to become a water feature, it need only be watertight and allow water to flow thorough or around it. Preloved kettles, barrels and even wine bottles can be cleverly fashioned into water features, or have one custom designed.
- Determine your water feature’s purpose. Is it to screen out noise? To add ambience to an alfresco area? To add a playful element to your pool?
- Keep in mind that the water feature should harmonise with the overall style, colour scheme and materials used in your garden. And it should complement the design of your home.
- Don’t make the mistake of buying a feature you like and then look for somewhere to put it. Plan where you’d like to position it first as this will influence the size and style you choose.
- Consult with a water feature or landscape design expert. They can offer guidance on what’s available to suit your budget and offer advice on pumps, filters and water quality issues.
Water features can flow, trickle, stream, bubble or arc, creating a varied symphony of sound. The height of the falling water, rate of flow, and whether the water is falling directly into the water or onto something else like rocks, dictates the sound it makes.
Ideally, it should be easy on the ear and not too noisy as it might drown out conversation.
The flow of the water should evoke feelings of serenity similar to the relaxing sounds of the
gentle pitter patter of raindrops on a roof or waves rolling into the shoreline.
Before you commit to a particular water feature, listen carefully to the sound it makes. Is it soothing to the senses or is it a bit jarring? Also see how much water will splash outside the confines of the feature onto grassy areas or tiles.
Aside from the sound and aesthetics, position and proportion are important. A water feature should sit comfortably in the space, not overpower it. The water feature needs to be scaled correctly so it’s not too small and insignificant or too large and dominating.
A well-placed water feature should be able to be enjoyed from many vantage points, including from inside some of the rooms of the home as well as from outdoor entertaining areas. Avoid positioning it in a high wind area or you could get drenched if the water feature is too close to your dining area. And if you don’t want to spend your spare time scooping out leaves, position the water feature away from trees.
It’s also best if the feature has a relationship to the architecture of the home and the landscape. For traditional or period homes, key components of classic architecture come
to the fore. Fountains with brass taps, bronze elements, masonry and ceramic usually mean there’s an aged component. It’s very different if you were having a conversation about contemporary style — that’s glass and stainless steel. The clean straight lines of steel-framed and pattern-etched glass
or stainless-steel mirrored walls with water flowing down can look very dramatic.
For Eastern-inspired landscapes, bamboo water pipes flowing over rocks or curved ornamental bowls work well, while country-style homes suit cascading rocky water features.
BEING WATER WISE
With precious water a valuable commodity, some homeowners might be concerned that
water features use too much water. It’s a popular misconception. In fact, they use very little. However, if you’re concerned, a pondless or enclosed feature will have less water evaporation.
While water features aren’t maintenance-free, a dual-pump system (one to run the feature, the other to filter water) reduces ongoing maintenance. The second filtration system runs separately, taking water out of the reservoir and running it through a UV filter and back so the water is turned over
constantly. You’ll also need to top up water levels as needed and skim leaves. What other ongoing maintenance will be needed will depend on the type of feature so check with your supplier.
LIGHTING THE WAY
The soft luminescent glow of lighting is both enticing and inviting and it helps to set the mood. From festive lighting on a pool water feature to get the party started to warm intimate lighting on a wall-mounted feature, there is no shortage of ways to shed some light.
You can highlight a water feature by lighting it from above so the surface of the water sparkles, or below so the play of light and shadows creates movement. Lighting is part of great design. Not to over-illuminate the water feature. The idea is to highlight particular elements of the feature by illuminating them and allowing the rest of it to fade to black.
SOMETHING TO PONDER
A pond creates a calming oasis and brings a garden to life with colour, reflected light and movement. From a simple water bowl planted with miniature lilies to elaborate natural freeform ponds with waterfalls and exotic fish, a pond has universal appeal.
Ponds and even streams are now a much-loved, now we’ve come so far from just having a little hole in the ground down the corner of the backyard.
A MATTER OF BALANCE
There are many variables that create a healthy pond. With the correct ratio of plants and fish, adequate sunlight and the right pond depth, your pond can naturally evolve into a healthy ecosystem. They key here is balancing the elements. Fish forage for food, their waste is consumed by bacteria, which converts into nutrients for plants to grow and the cycle continues.
If your pond is in a sunny location, aim for 60-70 per cm water coverage with plants such as water lilies, as too much direct sunlight can promote green algae and cause other water quality issues. Your pond also needs to be situated where it won’t be subject to soil or fertiliser run off, which can adversely affect water quality. But with the right location and a healthy ecosystem, a natural pond can bring countless hours of pleasure.