Water in the garden

There is nothing so comforting as the sound of water in the garden. Water is a fundamental part of nature that appeals to the calm, meditative side of us. The sound of water is cooling and soothing yet rejuvenating, whether rippling, running, falling or quietly lapping against the sides of a pool. Water brings another type of movement to the garden, different than the swaying of branches and the fluttering of leaves.

Garden water features range from formal waterfalls to streams, still pools, and simple tub gardens and fountains. Add fish, toads and salamanders and you have a wonderful ecosystem in your yard.

Where in your landscape, how much time to maintain?

As you begin to plan for this new element, it’s essential to think about its place in your overall garden design. You also need to be honest with yourself about how much time it will take to care for it.

Most water elements will be much more successfully managed if they are in full sun. Site your pond or stream as a natural focal point in view of the house and outdoor entertaining areas yet away from natural traffic patterns, children’s play areas and buried cables.

Wide open spaces

Try to avoid areas with trees because of leaf drop, and make sure the site has plenty of good air circulation. Also, make sure it’s accessible from three sides.


Design the largest pool that you can possibly handle since larger a pond will be easier to keep environmentally balanced than a smaller pool. The minimum pond size for ease of maintenance is about forty to fifty square feet (about 400-800 gallons). If you want to keep fish in the pond, it needs to be at least 18″ deep to avoid the temperature extremes of a shallow pool that can damage or kill plants and fish. Otherwise, it’s necessary to remove all plants and fish for the winter. Avoid the temptation to site your pond in a low area which may be a collection spot for debris and pollutants in runoff. Although some ponds make use of aerators and filters to keep them absolutely clear, skillfully combining plants and fauna can achieve a natural balance that needs no assistance

Tub gardens

Even small tub gardens can be effective garden design elements as long as they are cleaned regularly. They will seldom be balanced, and it’s not a good idea to use fish because of the temperature extremes that can occur in a tub. Putting in a small pump makes it into a decorative fountain and helps keep the water clean by aerating it.


Streams add coolness and motion to the garden, and even if adding water would be difficult, a dry stream bed gives the illusion of movement. A naturally occurring stream is a treasure and can be taken advantage of by adding stones of differing sizes and shapes to offer pleasing textures and to vary the sounds the water makes as tumbling over them.


Planting pockets directly in the stream or pond can hold root-emerged plants such as pickerelweed and watercress. Pockets of soil along the edges can hold taller root-emerged plants such as water iris and water arum. Moisture-loving plants such as astilbe and summersweet beautifully adorn the upper banks. A particularly attractive feature is to position plants and stones to give the illusion that the stream is actually a spring coming out of moss-covered rocks. For the garden without a natural stream, recirculating pumps can provide water for a small area.

Cucumbers remind me of the coolness of water. Here’s a delicious summer soup to enjoy beside your fountain:

Cucumber bisque

This is a lusciously creamy summer soup. Feel free to substitute any vegetables that are available. You can also season with fresh herbs of choice. Basil or dill make delicious additions.

2 seeded cucumbers
1 ripe avocado
½ c. sour cream
1 t. Sriracha sauce
¼ c. chopped red onion

Blend until smooth. Serve cold with baguette slices brushed with garlic and olive oil and grilled until crisp.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s