WATER GARDENS


Water is a bonus in any garden. It can be a most restful and relaxing feature. It attracts birds, moves in the wind, reflects the light and overall creates a cooling atmosphere. You can have water in your garden no matter how small an area you have. A ceramic dish or clam shell under a tap or beside a path will catch rain (or tap) water. A bird bath similarly provides a small simple basin of water.

These smaller water areas do need to be cleaned or emptied out periodically or the water can go stagnant or grow slime. Polluted water like this not only looks bad, but can poison birds, dogs or other animals that drink from it. For larger water areas, the inclusion of aquatic plants or animals will make it far less likely to go stagnant.

The options are limitless with water (e.g. fountains, streams, ponds etc.), and the possibilities are usually only limited by space and money available. In fact, many garden designers, around the world, consider that a garden without a water feature (i.e. a stream, pond, fountain or water fall), is simply not complete. As with all other elements of the design, however, ensure that the water feature included blends with the landscape overall.

CHOOSING A WATER GARDEN


The type of water feature you choose to have in your garden will depend on a variety of things. You need to consider:

Location
Where you put water depends on its purpose. Usually informal ponds are best located in depressions or low points, never on top of a mound. Formal ponds can be located at high or low points. Streams obviously start at higher ground and run to a lower point. The start and finish of a stream should normally be hidden from view, usually with heavy plantings. Water features create a focal point in your garden and will be better appreciated where they can be seen, such as from inside the house, or perhaps from an outdoor living area.

Reflections of light are better from water in a sunny spot, although a poorly maintained pond will tend to grow more weed and algae in a sunnier position. Water features can also be attractive in shady areas, such as a fernery however, you are unlikely to get many of your aquatic plants to flower in shaded conditions.
 
Cost
Water features do not have to be expensive. Cheap, prefabricated ponds can be purchased from a range of different water garden specialists. On the other hand, it is possible to spend thousands of dollars on large elaborate water gardens which can transform your garden into a showcase.

Size
The depth of water is important, particularly with ponds. If a pond is to shallow, it is too hard to develop a balanced ecology that will keep the water, animal and plant life in a healthy, self- sustaining condition. Ponds should be at least 35 centimetres (or 14 inches) deep. This depth is necessary over as much of the pool as possible. Just one deep pocket is insufficient. Water lilies and many other aquatic plants will not grow in very shallow water. Fish need deep areas to provide protection against predators such as birds or cats. Shallow ponds are more difficult to keep clean.

The overall dimensions of a water feature are also important. They should `fit' the scale of the garden they are going to be established in, for example a large pond or fountain will likely look out of place in a small courtyard garden, whilst it may be extremely difficult to create a balanced ecosystem in a very small pond. The smaller the pool the harder it is to establish fish. As a general rule a fishpond should have minimum surface dimensions of 1.2 x 1 metre.

It should also be noted that once a tool is installed in the ground it will look about one third smaller than it did out of the ground, so it is best to carefully measure the size of pool that you want.

Ease of setting up
Plastic or rubber liners are the easiest to install. They are very flexible and can be readily formed to the desired shape. Prefabricated ponds, waterfalls and stream systems made from fibreglass are also fairly easy to install. Concrete requires considerably more construction effort.

Moving or still water
Moving water can be provided by installing a fountain, a waterfall or a flowing stream. Moving water requires a pump and that is an added expense, however moving water is much easier to keep clean. It is also easier to grow fish and plants in.

Plants and animals to use
Your choice of water plants and animals will depend on the size, depth and position of the pool. Fish are useful to control mosquitos. Water snails can also be an important part of the ecology of a balanced system; they eat some algae and decaying plant material. They can be a problem, however, if there are no fish to keep them in check.