April 5, 2016
Of all the elements that have borne the test of time in a garden, water has to be high up on the list. From the hanging gardens of Babylon to the formality of Roman pools and onwards in time to the landscape movements’ love of diverting a river or two to create huge lakes for the great and the good; water has played its part with gusto in some of our greatest gardens.
As a basic element, water, like fire can be mesmeric, but unlike fire it can be completely still and calm as well as wild and energetic. That flexibility means that water can be utilised in many ways in a garden. For quiet areas still, mirror-surfaced pools or wildlife friendly natural ponds provide tranquillity and reflection. These sheets of water echo the sky and create a constantly moving and changing art form in their own right. Fountains, where the sight of the water and the sound it makes lend themselves to more dynamic areas can be tailored to suit the space. The Emperor fountain at Chatsworth in Derbyshire is perfectly scaled for its immense setting but a version on a smaller (make that, much much smaller) scale will work for both domestic and commercial projects where the tinkling sound of the water can help to mask the hum of ambient urban noise (providing you do not find the tinkling too off putting).
There are no real hard and fast rules for water in the garden. It simply transcends taste and fashion too much to be typecast and can be melded to whatever style of garden you have. That said, it is potentially one of the most controversial elements in a new design especially for a scheme suited to a young family. As far as possible if water and children are to be considered together, then the water should be as child safe as possible either by having no standing water present above ground or by installing a metal safety grill just under the surface of any visible water to limit its depth. If you are creating a natural pond for wildlife then the same ‘safety’ precautions can be taken not only for small children but also to create ledges and steps that wildlife can use to get in and out of the water by – it sounds odd but if the water level is too low against the sides of the pond, small animals and amphibians will not be able to get out . Netting your pond will also help protect any fish you may have from sharp-eyed Herons.
However you choose to use water in your garden, a UV filter is generally essential (except in the case of naturally filtered ponds) to ensure a crystal clear effect. To help this process try to site your feature as far as possible from falling leaves and debris to help keep it clean and should your feature require a pump it should go without saying that a qualified electrician connects it for you. Water and electricity in the wrong hands are simply a recipe for disaster, if not time spent in A&E or worse.
Low maintenance, water features are definitely not but they really are worth their extravagance in a design for the timeless elegance they bring as well as their ability to create a sense of serenity – something that in our modern fast track age is to be cherished.
Kate Gould is an award winning garden designer with more than a decade’s hands-on experience transforming gardens of all sizes and a regular exhibitor at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show where she has been awarded three Gold medals.