Water features are highly sought after landscaping design features, but they do provide a couple of challenges. First, it can be difficult to know what will and will not work in your own garden. Second, designing and installing a water feature can be a lot of work, especially if the project involves digging up and moving significant amounts of soil. This post will guide you toward the right water feature choice for your property, time frame, and budget. We also provide some handy safety and maintenance tips as well.
Planning and Designing Water Features
There are plenty of options when it comes to water features, so it is essential to have a proper plan before you get started. An up-front investment of design time will pay off later, as you avoid costly missteps. Here are a couple basic design considerations to take into account as you plan your water feature.
Moving Water vs. Standing Water
You should decide how you want the water to flow in your feature. A waterfall or burbling basin design can work well for those who seek a moving water feature. On the other hand, if you’re hoping to create a peaceful environment that encourages contemplative relaxation, a standing water feature, such as a pond, will better suit your needs. Understanding how the water will flow through this system (with the assistance of a pump) is a key design element that must be considered at the onset, as even standing water features require good circulation.
Consider Hiring Professional Help
Landscaping professionals appreciate which design choices will make for an enchanting water feature in your yard. For instance, a professional landscaper will understand how to match your water feature’s proportion and style to your home’s exterior space.
With those design basics behind us, let’s take a look at five different water features you can choose from for your project.
5 Different Types of Water Features
1. (Koi) Pond.
It doesn’t matter if you have a large or small space, with proper design almost any space will accommodate a pond. It is essential that the product you use as the pond liner is free of leaks. Finding or fixing a leaking liner can be a very tedious and expensive task. Also, make sure you can install a pump system for good circulation.
A few tips for designing a pond feature: First, put it close to the house, where it can be enjoyed from many different angles. Second, your pond should get some sun. Keep in mind that if plants or trees overhang your pond this will lead to extra maintenance down the road. Finally, having an electrical connection nearby will make it easier to run the ponds pump and lights.
For goldfish, you’ll need a pond that’s 18 to 24 inches in depth. However, popular Koi fish are larger, and need at least 3 feet of water. You can also add plants to your pond, but most aquatic plants do not like more than 18 inches of water, so it is best to build a shelf around 12 inches deep around the outside edge of the feature. This allows the plants to have something to sit on.
For this project you will need a flexible or hard liner, a pump, and possibly a filter. Use rocks and plants to decorate the edges and to blend the pond in with the rest of the landscape.
2. Waterfall Feature.
Waterfall features produce stunning results by allowing you to run water down a slope, but they are also considerably more complicated than a simple pond on a flat surface. Cascading waterfall features work great in limited spaces, and you can even skip the pond feature if you just want to have a waterfall by itself. The downside to this approach is that you are limited in terms of aquatic plants and fish.
While pondless waterfall features can cost more to design and install, they are easier in terms of maintenance because they do not have to run 24/7, and there is no complicated eco-system to manage.
3. Simple Basin with Fountain.
Basin-contained water features are comparatively easy and cost-effective to make. Basically, you’re creating a self-contained fountain that continually circulates the water with an internal pump.
Many different design choices are available to you here. Your basin can be made from old whisky barrels or wine casks. A ceramic pot with a sealed bottom will also work. Whatever container you choose, you’ll need to install a small pump and a circulation system. Again, the downside is that you won’t be able to keep fish, but the silver lining is that self-contained fountains are easy to shut down and disassemble.
4. Natural Water Feature.
Let nature do the work. Temporary water features don’t use a pump at all. Instead, they collect rainwater into a lower area, where it slowly dissipates into the ground. These so-called rain gardens can mitigate the negative environmental impact of storm run-off into the municipal sewer systems. As such, these natural water features are considered one way to make any landscape more eco-friendly.
5. Specialty Pre-Built Water Feature.
Specialty water feature designs abound. The Internet is a good place to gather ideas—online, you’ll find everything from premade cascading falls to water features that incorporate old bowling balls!
Safety must come first when installing and enjoying any water feature. A young child can drown in just a couple of inches of water, so if you anticipate having tots around, place your water feature in a location they cannot reach, or surround it with a fence.
Another important consideration is making sure that the water feature’s pump is in good working order, and that there are no frayed electrical lines. Finally, when working around and enjoying your water feature, ensure that there are no slippery stones that could cause you to fall into the water.
Landscaping Maintenance: Maintaining your Water Feature
If your design includes a pump, it will require regular maintenance. Additionally, if your water feature includes plants and fish, remember that it is a miniature ecosystem, and it will require special attention from you to stay balanced and healthy.
If you have a lot of birds visiting the pond, you may also choose to change the water more frequently. Ponds do require regular cleaning. Algae control may also be required, and you may need to deal with white scale, which is the result of calcium build up. Finally, if you live in a frigid locale, remember to drain your fountain, unplug the pump, and cover your water feature before the first freeze hits.
There are plenty of variables to consider when choosing a water feature. With a bit of planning and dedication, your hard work will pay off, as your water feature will add beautiful sounds, sights, and the feeling of being closer to nature when enjoying your outdoor living space.
About the author: Steve Stewart is the president of at Landscape East & West, award-winning Portland landscaping and design experts. Visit LandscapeEast.com to learn about water feature design and maintenance, outdoor kitchen design, covered structures and more. All photos courtesy of Landscape East & West.
Even though we’re well into the Fall season, we’re still not in the clear from pesky mosquitos and ticks. Pests that usually die in the cold continue to spend the unseasonably warm autumn days breeding and waiting to feast. Still, we’re not about to let pesky bugs ruin the rest of the year’s backyard dinners and special events.
The worry of contracting diseases transmitted by mosquito and tick bites have become of increasing concern for humans and animals alike. Illnesses such as the West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and heartworm are unfortunately becoming more common in our longer summers and shorter winters. The West Nile virus is spread when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person. Although many people are bitten by mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus, most are unaware that they have been exposed. Few people develop severe disease or even notice any symptoms at all. Mosquitoes carry the highest amounts of the virus in the early fall, and the risk of disease only decreases when the weather becomes colder and mosquitoes begin to die off. Read more
Whether you’ve just moved into your first home or have finally settled into your last, it’s never a bad time to add a little panache to your backyard. Even the most immaculately decorated interior is incomplete without an equally beautiful counterpoint outside; however, re-thinking your landscaping need not be a Herculean task, nor an expensive one. Here are but a few ways of giving your backyard a facelift in ways that can fit any schedule or budget:
Deck out your landscape
Adding on a wooden deck may seem like a daunting task to the uninitiated, but anyone with patience and basic shop class carpentry skills can most likely hammer together a simple backyard patio. If you still really don’t feel up to the challenge, a deck is one of the most inexpensive fix-up jobs that contractors will do. However you approach it, a deck extends both the practical space of your home and Read more
When it comes to sustainable design, a rooftop garden can provide the ideal real estate for adding more green to your home. Instead of a traditional garden that requires a plot of land, a luxury that urban and apartment dwellers don’t have access to, the roof can be an ideal place to grow a garden. Designing a rooftop garden can be a collective effort that brings a community together, as the cityscape is reclaimed for a beautiful purpose.
What makes a rooftop garden so unique? Not only does a rooftop garden get plenty of sunlight, rain, and nourishment from nature, but it can also serve as an outdoor gathering space for your neighbors. A rooftop garden has the added benefit of reducing energy waste by creating a layer of green insulation that can be added to each season. From apartment buildings to commercial structures, rooftop gardens are leading the way to re-purposing valuable outdoor spaces. Read more
Incorporating water features into an outdoor space can be a refreshing way to liven up your backyard. And even if you are not quite ready to put in a pool, there are still plenty of other options.
For some people, home renovations are exciting and fun, even though they can take a lot of time and money. For other people, any home construction project is reason enough to run out the door screaming. All the noise, time, inconvenience and money can just seem like too much to handle. This is true no matter what the renovation in question – something small indoors like taking down a wall, or something much bigger outside, like installing water features. But outdoor landscaping can have a big impact on your home, your quality of life, and your ability to sell your house for a good price whenever it is that you finally put it on the market. And though these projects can take a lot of time, involve a fair amount of money, and make a big ruckus, they don’t need to be feared or escaped. Read more
Tired of spending so much money at the market? Try creating an edible landscape—before long, you’ll find yourself eating better for less! Plus, many edible plants are aesthetically pleasing, adding more than just fresh produce to your garden.
Going to the grocery store is not cheap, therefore, imagine if your garden was not only beautiful but it also helped you save money at the market. It might sound something like a fantasy but it’s actually a reality with an edible landscape. When choosing what plants to grow, select options that look great but instead of simply growing leaves and twigs, also grow lemons, oranges, or rhubarb! While it’s easy to assume edible plants take more effort and money to grow, the truth is that some of the most durable and low maintenance plants are delicious too!
The Versatility of Rhubarb
Rhubarb is one of the many edible plants that is easy to grow and does not attract pests. Unlike lettuce and spinach, these plants will last for years without any added effort on your part—providing multiple years of food. Rhubarb is less popular than other lettuce related plants but there are a number of recipes one can add it to such as wine, jams, and pies. For great rhubarb recipe ideas visit Rosalina Creasy’s site. A professional at growing edible landscapes, Rosalina suggests, “(Rhubarb) needs at least 2 months of winter cold and is not productive in areas with very hot summers…. choose an area with afternoon shade for coolness.” This being said, most edible landscape requires at least 6 hours of sun per day, although this is not a set standard so always look into the specifics for each plant. Read more
A garden is not complete without paths and walkways. These decorative areas offer a beautiful focal point, while also saving wear and tear on your garden! When properly planned and installed, pathways are affordable and full of benefits.
Have you ever been in someone’s yard and wondered how to get from where you currently stand, to another location without stomping over any bushes or getting your sneakers muddied up in the wet grass? Without paths and walkways, a garden is incomplete—leaving visitors unsure how to get around. While this is bad news for your plants and grasses that are sure to get stepped on, this also means that your yard is lacking that extra pop of style that a pathway will add.
Reasons to use Garden Walkways
Although commonly forgotten, there are a number of reasons to use paths and walkwaysthroughout your landscaping. For starters, if garden visitors have no place to walk, they will tromp over your flowers, and stomp through your bushes. On the other hand, with a walkway conveniently accessible, your plants receive less unnecessary strain. Another reason to create a pathway is to add an air of mystique. Pathways lead somewhere, and invite the visitor to explore. Opportune indeed, walkways are also an easy way to add detail and style to your garden. Unlike plants or grass, many paths require little to no maintenance on your part—you don’t have to water or fertilize concrete! To some the thought of pouring concrete is enough to forget the idea of a pathway altogether, but there are many other ways to create walkways, most of which can be done with your own hands, based off of your own creativity, and at extremely affordable prices. Read more
Invite a world of flying flowers into your garden. Butterflies in the garden are a lovely accessory and a fail-proof friend; learn how to attract butterflies to any space—big or small.
Butterflies in the garden provide an amazing touch– they are beautiful, harmless, and oh so magical. It is simply amazing how they start off as a long, fuzzy caterpillar, and then climb up into their cocoon and become a lovely winged spread of unique colors. If you have children, there’s no better chance to share the natural wonders of the world—one of which just has to be the butterfly. Yet even someone as fantasy-driven as I knows that you can’t just ‘add’ any wild, free-spirited, life into your garden without his or her permission! If you want butterflies, or rather flying flowers, in your garden you will have to create an environment that is welcoming to them.
Buy a Butterfly Kit
Attracting butterflies to your garden has never been easier! Okay, so to some this might qualify as the cheater’s way to collect butterflies but it’s a great (and very easy) way to assume a large butterfly collection. Kits are for sale online, in fact as a child I had one myself and it was great fun! As soon as the kit arrives, you and your loved ones will watch the caterpillars from the wee-stages as they morph into something else entirely—simply by sprouting wings. Once your butterflies are in full-wing action, let them free in your garden. So long as you have some optimal food options for them, the majority will likely stick around. Read more
Backyard mosquito control is not hard work, it’s consistent work—learning what attracts bugs to your property will properly prepare you to ward them off!
While enjoying your outdoor patio, sitting out with friends and family on your Oxford Garden benches and chairs, the last thing you want is to be pestered by a slew of bugs—namely flies, nits, and worst of all—mosquitoes! In order to successfully manage backyard mosquito controlthere are a number of precautions you can exercise. Keeping out mosquitoes is quite similar to keeping out many other bugs, therefore by simply making a couple of adjustments to your property you can live a life relatively free of insects!
Not only do bug bites feel itchy and look icky, they can also be dangerous to our health. Bugs don’t have much preference when it comes to dinner, they might feast on diseased road kill just before coming after your arm! Since mosquitoes are known to spread West Nile virus and even Hepatitis, backyard pest control is a must. Of course, depending on where you live, the problems can be much worse—although the solutions remain the same! While you can look to chemical pest control methods, such as DEET, there are ways to organically keep your yard pest free. Read more
You work hard making your yard look great, therefore you deserve to relax in it. In fact, relaxing in the backyard garden has a lot of benefits, your health and wellness included!
Relaxing in the backyard might seem like a pastime, reserved for when you were a kid—carefree come summer with nothing better to do than sit out on your lawn chair and catch some rays. Just because you have grown up and obtained a world of new responsibilities does not mean that you should deprive yourself of the ‘old-world’ pleasures! In fact there are a number of ways to relax in your yard, just as there are a number of reasons why doing so will benefit your overall health and well-being.
The Importance of ‘Me’ Time
Taking out some ‘me’ time is becoming more and more difficult, especially with cell phones buzzing their incessant rings and computers luring us with their bright screen faces. Even if you have to turn your phone off or schedule a time, going outside to simply relax is possible and it is necessary. Oftentimes we get in a bad mood and we don’t even know why—try some alone time, it truly helps!
Being alone with yourself and your thoughts is a good way to sort out what is truly on your mind, and to become tuned into your own wants and needs which can get placed on the back burner throughout the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While alone time is great in general, spending this time out in nature is even better. Surrounded by the birds, bees, and all of your hard gardening work, you will feel full of light and happiness, not to mention pride! Plus, when you treat yourself to ‘me’ time you are voicing that you matter, not only to yourself but to your loved ones as well—this might seem minuscule but it’s vastly important in regards to your overall happiness and self-worth, which in turn morphs how others will treat you.