Water Features in the Landscape

Water in the garden is an essential element in creating a space for people, animals and insects. A water feature enhances a well-designed garden as well as offering a soothing place for relaxation, a play area for children and water for animals – wild and tame.

As with most elements in the landscape the water feature can be ambitious and expensive or relatively simple and inexpensive. The suitability of the site, the budget, and the energy level and life style of the homeowner are factors to consider in making plans. Natural resources – water and electrical power – are involved so keep that in mind. Will your water feature look good as a dry creek bed in a summer when we are on water restriction? How about a solar unit hidden in the landscape to move the water during sunny weather? (see Solar in phone book)

FIRST! Take a class or read a book. Constructing or building water features is a ‘hobby’.

Saturday classes are given during the summer at Hughes Water Gardens, 25289 S. W. Stafford Rd., Tualatin, 503 638-1709. Other nurseries also give classes.

The Range of possibilities for water features include:

  • Bird baths and found objects made into bird baths.
  • A beautiful pot filled with water, a few water plants and a handful of gold fish.
  • Dry creek bed with a water bowl or two in it. Fill with garden hose.
  • Scupper: A scupper takes water off a roof and replaces the downspout. Think of a gargoyle on a 16th century church spitting water away from the edge of the cathedral.. Vladimir Sumchenko, 360-798-3411, makes fanciful and elegant copper scuppers that can be attached to the roof gutter system. Using a scupper, the roof water can be caught in a vessel, bog or pond and is a waterfall during a rainstorm.
  • Self contained fiberglass naturalistic waterfall. Suitable for a deck. (Jeffrey Allen, Home & Garden, 503 968-7299 (I saw these at the Home & Garden Show, Oct. 2004).
  • Self contained water features are available at many nurseries and garden shops. There are many different forms and styles. Plug in and fill with water from the garden hose. Easy to cleanout and empty.
    (Hughes Water Gardens, Portland Nursery, Tsugawa Nursery, Woodland, Wa., to name a few).
  • Bubbler: rock with underground reservoir. See below under CHILD SAFE
  • Bog garden: An especially boggy place in the yard can be planted with water tolerant plants. May have standing water in wet season.
  • Wetland: More water than a bog and heavily planted in the water and on the bank. There are many sources for learning more about how to preserve or create a wetland.
  • Pool with spitter to aerate the water and keep mosquito larvae out.
  • Creek – Waterfall – Pond: The biggest hobby, the most ambitious way to go.

There are many contractors who do beautiful rock and water work. See their work and check them out as you would any contractor.

For the do-it-yourselfer this can be a rewarding project. Get directions and allow more time than you might think. You might hire a contractor to come for a consultation to get you going on the right track. Stone masons apprentice for years to learn to work with rock, so go slowly and keep referring to photos of wild water courses.

You can read  tips for Sustainable Gardening, including choosing the right plants for your garden, soil preparation and other tips here!