Ornamental Water Features for the Garden: Choosing the Right Water Feature to Suit Your Garden Design

The sparkle of a fountain in the sun, the music of a waterfall or tumbling stream, the gleam of a fish gliding beneath a lily leaf or the plop of a frog diving into a pool’s shady depths.

No garden seems quite complete without the element of water, and it needn’t be a full scale water garden.

There’s an infinite range of choice in garden water features from the lake in the garden of a stately home to a free standing fountain sparkling on a small garden patio. Here are some of the water garden design options.

Formal Ponds

These come in all shapes and sizes and may be raised or sunk into the ground. Simple round or square shapes are easiest to build, and most suitable for a small garden, but more complex shapes, or patterns of interconnected pools may fit well in a large formal garden.

Large ornamental pools call for the sweep of a big lawn, drive or paved area as a setting, but a small round or square pond can easily be included in a small garden or even a patio area.

Formal ponds can be bought in preformed shapes, but are also easy to build for yourself. Building your own raised formal pool is probably the easiest of all water gardening projects.

Informal Ponds

Informal pools come in an even wider variety of shape and sizes. Their natural appearance makes them appropriate in a wider range of garden situations and hence they tend to be more popular. There’s a wide choice of different pond building materials. It’s possible to buy preformed pools, which need simply to be sunk into the ground. Creating an informal pool to your own design using pond liner or concrete is a little more difficult, but most water gardeners consider it worth the effort

Wildlife Ponds

A wildlife pond may be formal in design, but is more normally informal. In either case the principal considerations must be the habitat required by the species you hope to attract, particularly security from enemies, food sources and access into and out of the water. Creating a wildlife pond can make a genuine environmental contribution, and is a particularly popular project for children.

Bog Gardens

Essentially a wildlife pond without open water, bog gardens are particularly useful where the safety of young children around water is a concern.

Streams and Waterfalls

The magic of moving water is the essence of a classical water garden. Streams and waterfalls may be part of a formal design, as in the rills feeding formal pools in Moorish gardens like Spain’s Alhambra. Normally, however, they are informal, used either alone or linked with an informal pond or ponds.

You can buy them preformed, but creating your own from liner fabric, rocks and concrete, fed by a pump, is often more successful.

Fountains and Self Contained Water Features

A fountain’s water, arching in the sun, and dappling the surface of a pond is not only a delight but also serves to aerate the water for fish and plants. The range of different types of fountains is immense; from a simple spray of water to complex patterns of dancing spouts and sprays; water alone, or water gushing from or playing across a statue or sculpture; a fountain within a pond or standing as a self contained feature.

Fish and Water Plants

Ponds and other features may rely for their interest on water alone, or may contain fish or ornamental water plants. For fishponds in particular, it’s important to create a suitable aquatic habitat.

Safety in Water Gardens

Children can come to harm in even shallow water. Unless they can always be closely guarded around water, it’s wise to erect barriers or choose features like bog gardens or pebble fountains, which don’t involve open water.