There's little doubt that the sight and sound of flowing water brings another dimension to a garden. Self-contained water features can be stunning focal points or discreet ornamentation. They add animation to a garden, kindling visual and aural interest in areas that have previously lacked a spark.
Water features that act as focal points can take various forms, such as a fountain, bird bath, wishing well or sculpture and these may be ornate, plain, discreet or flamboyant. So the choice that's available is huge especially when you consider they might be made from a range of materials.
Classical, Contemporary or Oriental
The term 'water feature' can encompass many different designs. Cast limestone, resin and stainless steel are used extensively to create classical or modern artefacts, whether to replicate the original materials or craft contemporary water features in their own right.
A fountain is probably the most recognisable and traditional water feature. With one tier or with water flowing over multiple levels, fountains can be as decorative or as simple as you prefer. Some resemble ones that Louis XIV might have commissioned for Versailles, others reflect far more contemporary taste.
There's a multitude of resin animals with water gushing from their mouths and trunks but classical water features might have dolphins or lion heads spouting water over ornately decorated dishes. Contemporary items can be impressive examples of fashionable sculptural art and modern design.
If you hanker after an oriental themed garden, you'll probably already know that water is a vital ingredient. It has a calming effect in serene surroundings. Typically oriental icons in the shape of a Buddha or pagoda can be employed, while other water features have representations of bamboo or are just eye-catching sculptures.
Many water features also take advantage of white or coloured LEDs. Rock formations with cascading water are extremely realistic reproductions of the real thing and then there are pots, bowls, troughs and urns, all using water and light to fashion purely artistic ornamentation. Other pieces featuring chrome, granite and similar materials can also look fabulous when illuminated.
One effect that seems to be ever present at the Chelsea Flower Show is the wall of water. Sheets of water create a curtain in front of a solid piece of stone or shining stainless steel. The water's shimmering appearance is even more pronounced with the use of light.
Most water features are powered by mains electricity through a low voltage transformer. However, solar power is becoming much more popular, this will save you money let alone saving the earth. Solar panels with photovoltaic cells convert energy from the sun into electricity. So after the initial outlay, there’s nothing to pay. Even better for those people who are not electricians or DIY enthusiasts, there’s no mains electricity cables to worry about.
Solar powered ornaments come in many forms and feature cascading water from various items such as bowls, plant pots and over artificial rugged stone. These are designed with great care from different materials including glazed ceramics and resin with a variety of finishes.
The only downside is that the solar panels won’t store electricity and performance is directly related to the amount and strength of sunlight received. However many solar powered water features features have a battery back-up so that they will operate in cloudy weather. Batteries are good for six hours and will recharge when switched off.
Freezing weather, snow and ice do a water feature no favours and there will be inevitable deterioration and grime degradation. So, after draining your feature for the winter, it should be protected by one of several covers that are available.
Clean water is obviously a good idea to stop features from discolouring and slowly collecting the sludge that causes bad or even irreparable damage to the pump. So it's a good idea to keep water crystal clear with a water treatment as and when needed or as part of a regular maintenance regime.
Other treatments will eliminate water dulling soaps and oils at the same time as improving filter efficiency. They can also be useful if green water and algae are a problem, but always check whether they are wildlife friendly.
Especially in hard water areas, lime scale and mineral deposits will build up, buy a lime scale remover and not only will the feature look far better, any moving parts such as the pump will have its life extended.
If you’ve neglected the water feature for a while, it will probably need a wash and brush up. Specialist cleaners will be just the job, removing stubborn dirt and algae and, what’s more, preventing re-growth. Cast stone surfaces from time to time will need revitalising if they have been dulled with age, exposure to the sun and weather. A spray brings a faded star back to life and protects it as well.
Regular checks on the pump will pay dividends. Check the water flow, if it’s sluggish clean the individual parts removing any collected debris or else clogging might cause the pump to fail.
Even if you have been careful to maintain a water feature, spare parts are sometimes necessary because of wear and tear, and these are widely obtainable. From hoses to clips, valves and connectors, through to individual items specific to certain products whether under guarantee or not – they are all available online