We love our water features at the Garden, especially in the heat of summer. The long, tranquil basin that greets guests as soon as they enter the gates, the gushing fountain that stands in the center of the Rose Garden, the serene koi ponds of the Japanese Garden—there’s nothing else like the relaxing sound and sight of water.
What if you could bring that peace and serenity back home with you? With a little time and effort, you can—with water features for your home garden.
“Water features are one of the most fun, relaxing and welcoming items you can place in your garden,” says Garden Projects Coordinator Stephen Haydon. “They can become a focal point that will bring great joy to your family’s experience outdoors.”
Before you dive into the wonderful world of water features, here are a few things you need to know:
Types of Water Features
Water features come in a wide range of sizes and complexity. The type of feature you choose will depend on your space, your budget, and the level of time you want to devote to maintenance.
The simplest and easiest types of water features include bird baths and tabletop water gardens. These are relatively small features that require little effort to set up. Maintenance is easy: you will need to replenish the water regularly and periodically clean the feature. Tabletop water features can become centerpieces for parties or gatherings; since they are small and portable, they are great for apartment balconies or small decks. Bird baths are larger and heavier than tabletop features, but they can be moved when necessary, making them idea for renters. You’ll be doing your feathered friends a favor, and you’ll never tire of watching the birds who will frequent your yard.
Slightly more complicated but still easy to create and maintain are fountains. You can purchase fountains and fountain kits at garden centers and home improvement stores, or make your own with supplies such as flower pots, inexpensive water pumps and simple tubing.
More elaborate and therefore more costly water features include ponds, waterfalls and water streams. Ambitious DIYers can tackle these projects themselves, or you can hire professionals to help you design, install and maintain these features. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to these more complicated projects. Want a formal European-style fountain like you find in the Rose Garden? Or a koi pond reminiscent of those in the Japanese Garden? Anything is possible.
Keep a few tips in mind before you install a water feature.
- Make sure the feature is safe for small children and pets. Consider installing pondless water features that don’t have standing water at the base. Educate children about drowning risks, always supervise children around water features and make sure you are trained in CPR.
- Get the right permissions. Large water features may require a permit from your local municipality. Homeowner’s associations also might have regulations you will need to follow.
- Don’t mess around with electricity near water. Follow safety instructions when completing DIY projects. For large projects, hire a licensed electrician to ensure all work is safe and up to code.
- Stop mosquitos from breeding. Mosquitos lay their eggs in standing water, so an easy way to eliminate the pests is ensure the water in your feature is moving. Keep your fountain or bird bath clean to prevent algae from forming, since mosquito larvae need it for food. If you are building a pond large enough to hold fish, they will naturally keep the water larvae free, but you can encourage other bug-eating insects and birds by surrounding the feature with native plants.
Sources online debate whether or not adding a water feature to your yard adds value to your property, but it can certainly add value to your life. The very presence of water is soothing. Birds, insects and other wildlife will benefit from a source of fresh water. The gurgling of a fountain or the splashing of a waterfall banishes the noises of traffic, neighbors and the city.
“People are naturally attracted to water,” says Haydon. “The next time you visit the pools and fountains of the Garden, we hope you are inspired create your own water feature to capture that feeling at home.”