By nature, people want to be near water. Think of all the great travel destinations around the world; all the best ones are places that bring people near oceans, rivers, or lakes. Why should your landscape be any different?
Personally, I think bringing the presence of water into your landscape is one of the biggest-impact features you can add, with an option for every price range. Better yet, the benefits go beyond plain old looks.
Benefits of Water in the Landscape
When the weather is hot, what do we do? We load up the car and make the drive to the beach. What about when it’s 30 below? We pay an arm and a leg to fly down to the shores of the Caribbean. It seems that no matter what life throws at us, we crave the presence of water. The sound of water is truly therapeutic—it calms us, it improves our mood, and it makes us feel connected to the natural world. No wonder so many of us like to fall asleep to the sound of a babbling brook. It’s the auditory white noise we instinctively crave!
In the landscape, water serves more needs than our own. A water feature or water garden also nurtures the wildlife that visits our yards. Birds, for example, love to be near a source of moving water where they can drink and bathe; and so do pollinators! Accommodating those needs means spotting more of your favourite species, but it also means enjoying the tangible benefits of better blooming gardens!
Then, of course, there are the benefits to your garden beyond simply bringing more pollinators. Tropicals and humidity-loving plants flourish in the presence of moving water, and you’ll even notice that more local and hardy plants will also need less watering, with more available to them in the air. A water garden also adds biodiversity to the landscape and gives you a chance to experiment with aquatic plant species.
“Water feature” is a broad term for any permanent element in the landscape that incorporates water, typically moving water, into the landscape. There are so many beautiful new water features available these days, you can find something for any budget and footprint. Some really popular ones I love are:
Water Bowls – I’m not talking about the one you set out for your dog (although, water features can be a great spot for your pup to grab a much-needed drink after a game of fetch in the yard). Garden water bowls are much larger and create a beautiful, serene scene in the yard. They are available in all kinds of colours and materials, from copper to concrete, and have recently become very trendy for adding a minimalistic water feature to the landscape.
Bubbling Rocks – One of my personal favourites is a simple rock or boulder with a pump built in that cascades water over the rough surface for ultimate looks and auditory appeal. Dave and I recently installed one in our yard and kept in on all winter long because we just couldn’t get enough of the beautiful effect it had. We live right on a highway and, I swear, you wouldn’t be able to tell, as the relaxing ripple of the water washes all the sound of racing cars and leaves us transported to an oasis of our very own!
Solar Fountains – An ingenious idea for smaller spaces, solar fountains fit into an existing bird bath and use solar power to operate the fountain pump. With quick installation, they transform a standard birdbath into a sustainably-powered fountain. The benefits are two-fold, as birds prefer moving water to standing water and the motion prevents mosquitoes from using the baths as nesting grounds.
It’s nice to add a little element of water as an accent, but I love when a good water feature is the focal point of a landscape’s design. A water garden completely transforms a space and offers a real taste of that “riverside” ambience. A talented landscape designer will work with the space you have to blend the water garden into the surrounding landscape, but the main features of the water garden are up to you. You might dream of things like:
Ponds – Who doesn’t find joy in watching koi as they swim under a group of pretty lily pads? Ponds turn a garden into a tranquil setting for pondering life’s big questions.
Foot Bridges and Stepping Stones – Add a charming touch to a water garden by making it interactive. Bridges and stepping stones beg you to explore the water by giving you a different vantage point.
Waterfalls – It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful natural phenomenon than the sight of water cascading over a stone ledge. The way the water sparkles in the sun, the sound of the moving water, and the combination of movement and stillness is nothing short of breathtaking. Why not recreate it to enjoy at home?
Maintaining Water Features
Water features do need regular maintenance to keep their magic alive. Some of the maintenance you’ll need to do will depend on whether or not animals will live inside the feature, like in a koi pond. It’s best to chat with one of our specialists at Royal City Nursery to help you choose the right products for the everyday maintenance of your water feature. If you prefer a little less do-it-yourself and more done-for-you, we also offer a water feature maintenance program to keep your feature looking its best even when you don’t have the time to keep it up.
If your feature uses a pump, it’s best to keep the pump running continuously rather than starting it and stopping it regularly. Stop the pump to clean it, of course, once or twice per year. It’s also crucial that you keep the water level consistent in the water feature. Letting too much water evaporate can damage the pump, meaning you may have to replace the parts before you need to. Top up your water feature any time you notice the water level has gotten lower.
You may think you need to clean your water feature thoroughly on a regular basis, but this is not the case. You don’t need to be regularly emptying, scrubbing, and refilling your pond. You’d be much wiser to simply clean out the muck layer at the bottom once a year, and give the rocks a bit of a scrub to remove old algae debris, replacing no more than 50% of the water volume at a time.
Check your sponge filter weekly and clean under the tap when it is gross and gooey, but clean the biological filters (rocks, sand, or plastic balls) no more than half at a time. When the time comes, come into the garden centre and we can show you the products you need to keep your pond ecosystem balanced and clean while ensuring the local wildlife can enjoy your water feature along with you.
Before the frost, decide if you are running your feature year round. If you need to turn your feature off over winter, leave the tubes in place, and bring the pump inside for storage. Cover the water feature to keep snow and debris from causing problems in the spring. If you’re interested in keeping the impact of moving water in your landscape for the winter, though, you can also leave the pump on for year-round effects!
Once you’ve incorporated the sound of moving water into your landscape, you’ll never go back. Water features add an entirely new sensory dimension to your outdoor space while relieving stress and enhancing your sense of well-being. Now, if only you could claim the installation as a medical expense!