How to Choose the Right Water Feature for Your Garden

From small garden ponds, to large pools that incorporate showpiece fountains, water features have so many benefits.  With so many to choose from, how do you choose the right water feature for your outdoor space?  When choosing a water feature, you should consider the style you want to achieve as well as the size of your space, budget and installation requirements.  Here we share our top tips for choosing the right water feature for you.

What are the benefits of having a water feature?

We all know that watching and listening to the gentle flow of water encourages relaxation and promotes a calming effect.  This is just one of the many reasons why adding a water feature to your garden is as popular today as it was hundreds of years ago.  The ancient Greeks had numerous sea deities, including Poseidon, and first started installing pools and water features into their own landscapes for aesthetic purposes.

“The fountains of water, whether of rivers or springs, shall be ornamented with plantings and buildings for beauty”, Plato, Laws.

Water creates a uniquely distinctive energy, adding movement and breathing life into any outside space.  The ambiance created by gently bubbling fountains, and the vitality created by stronger sounding larger showpiece fountains can also help to reduce noise pollution in urban and noisy neighbourhoods.

As well as providing a focal point to create interest and draw the eye, water features, fountains and ponds can also provide a self-sustaining ecosystem that will attract and sustain native wildlife in your garden.

What water feature are available?

The most common types of water features are:

Ponds, natural pools and pool surrounds provide limitless choice for anyone that wishes to introduce water into their garden as they can be installed to almost any size.

Perfect for nature lovers, a large pond or pool surround can be filled with brightly coloured koi carp and many pool and pond owners introduce water lilies or other aquatic planting to their water feature, providing a haven for native birds, insects, frogs and butterflies.  Please remember that garden ponds and pools present danger to pets and young children.

There are three main types of fountains available:

Today’s centrepiece fountains are inspired by Rome’s magnificent Trevi Fountain, the Apollo Fountain at Versailles and the opulent fountains of Peterhof Palace in Russia.  There is a huge array of designs available, from decorative bowls and ornate scalloped shells, to dolphins, animals and figurative characters.  All centrepiece fountains will require a pond or pool surround underneath to capture the flow of water that falls from the fountain.

Self-contained fountains work well in smaller areas such as courtyards and on patios.  Easy to install and maintain, self-contained fountains require little space and are ideal for anyone considering purchasing their first water feature.

Wall fountains offer lots of versatility and can be built into a new or existing wall with a pool or bowl underneath, or installed as a self-contained option.  Available in a choice of sizes and styles to suit any space, wall fountains work well both to enhance outside spaces, and inside to breathe life into conservatories, orangeries and pool houses.  Nymph’slions and characters in classical mythology are popular choices in traditional settings, whilst non-figurative styles work well in more modern landscapes.

Rills have become increasingly popular in contemporary landscapes, acting as an unyielding alternative to natural streams.  Often shallow and narrow, they channel water in a straight line and are often used to draw attention to a focal point in a garden such as a sculpture.

Waterfalls offer a more natural style and are generally created using natural materials including, boulders, rocks and aquatic planting.  The advantage to installing a waterfall is that you can create it bespoke to suit any style and size of space.  Any waterfall will require a pump and generally will need a stream at the base to capture the overflow of water.

How do I choose a water feature?

With so many water features available on the market, it can be difficult to decide which style is most suitable for your outside space.  Each water feature has different benefits, depending on the look, style and ambience you are trying to achieve.

Here are our top tips to help with your decision:

  • Consider the size of your outside space – large pools and ponds are perfect for wide open spaces, whilst smaller self-contained fountains work perfectly on small patios and in courtyards
  • Personal style – traditional, contemporary or classic?  Water features can either complement your existing space, or even provide an interesting contrast against the design.
  • Budget – when choosing a water feature it’s a good idea to consider the cost your chosen design, necessary installation and any ongoing energy costs

How do I install a water feature?

The water feature chosen for your outside space will determine the amount of effort and expense involved in the installation stage.   By far the easiest water features to install, self-contained fountains require little or no excavation work and more often that not do not need to be installed by a specialist.

You will however need access to an electricity point to power the pump, and we recommend seeking assistance from a professional electrician when fixing the plug or armour plating.  Aside from a couple of hours work, a self-contained fountain is one of the simplest water feature designs to install.

For other water features such as ponds, pools and wall fountains, we recommend employing the help of a water feature specialist, who will be able to discuss your unique requirements and help with professional installation.

Where should I install my water feature?

Above all, a water feature should enhance and complement your existing space, and its location is paramount. Outside dining and seating areas can be transformed by the relaxing and tranquil sounds of a fountain, whilst a pool surround positioned centrally in a front or back garden will add instant impact.

Fountains that require electricity will need to be sufficiently close to an electricity point and it’s worth considering some minor excavation work to hide unsightly cabling.  Again, we recommend seeking the professional help of a qualified electrician.

Do remember that water features positioned under trees will collect fallen leaves and branches, and are likely to need more maintenance to keep them operating efficiently.

What pump do I need for my water feature?

An electric pump is usually required to power a self-contained fountain and are usually designed to fit discreetly inside the water feature.

Most water features will require a pump and we recommend discussing the correct pump for your water feature with the manufacturer, or seeking the advice of aquatic specialists for bigger pond or waterfall projects.

How do I maintain my water feature?

Freezing conditions can cause serious damage to water features, in particular to the electric pumps. For this reason, it is important that water features are properly prepared for the onset of severe winter weather.  Although many water features are frost resistant, they still require protection from freezing water.  Ideally, water should be drained off before winter every year and not replaced until spring when any risk of hard frost has passed.

If you are unable to fully drain down a fountain, other measures must be taken to ensure water does not freeze solid in the bowl.  For example, during mild periods of frost, a tennis ball placed in a fountain bowl will gently agitate the water to prevent it from freezing.  This is particularly important for pool surrounds, wall, bowl and trough fountains.

Alternatively, smaller fountains can be emptied using a sponge before covering to prevent them filling with rainwater. The winter is also the ideal time to dismantle the pump for a thorough clean and any limescale should be scrubbed off using a mild, non-toxic detergent, paying particular attention to the impeller/rotor.

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