Pacific Islands

Splash Out on a Water Feature

Carolyn Ernst knows what your garden needs – it’s all about sight, sound and smell. A water feature can provide all three and act as the centrepiece of your garden. There are many plants and fish which are happy in garden pools it’s just a matter of making the right choices.

January 31, 2019
Rebecca Murphy

Rebecca Murphy

January 31, 2019

A garden must always satisfy the three S’s: sound, sight and smell. Water is an essential element to any garden. Firstly, it is required for plant growth. Secondly, there is nothing like the smell of a garden after a shower of rain. Thirdly, the sound of water adds the final dimension to every garden. I am lucky to have a river run down one side of my property, so the sound of the river is now an integral part of my life, both day and night. I leave the bathroom door open so the river sounds lulls me to sleep every night.

If you don’t have a river or sea to provide this feature naturally to your garden, then there are many ways to incorporate water features into your garden or home, no matter how big or small. Water features come in a zillion forms, big and small, simple and complex, cheap to very expensive, there is one or several out there for you. Depending on your budget and handyman skills, you can either make them yourself, have them constructed or purchase them ready to go, whatever suits you.

I suppose when we first think of water features we all remember the large ponds or lakes found in the parks where we grew up, some with amazing water fountains and often with ducks to feed. These large expanses of water were home to a large range of wildlife and were always great places to go and play.

Very few of us can have anything of this size but if you have the room then it is possible to have quite large pools of water in your garden. Your soil structure gives the answer to the cost and ease of which you can do this. If your soil has a high clay content then it might be possible to not have to use a pool lining. You see this in some areas with farm dams, just a matter of digging the desired shape and depth, compacting the clay and filling with water.

If you live in an area with soils that do not retain water, like many of us in the Pacific, then you will need to use either a concrete base or buy a pool lining. Concrete can sometimes appear to be the easiest option but with our earthquakes prone areas, you will have to be very careful with the thickness, reinforcing and quality of the concrete used. The other option is to use linings, which come in various forms and prices and you will need to choose the one that best fits your purpose. The range of products available is changing, so even if you think you know what you need, take the time to update yourself with the latest products.

There are also quite large price differences between suppliers so this research will also tell you the right place to buy the right product. Remember you get what you pay for, so if you want your pond to last do not skimp on this basic, many of the cheaper options are not UV treated and so will break down quickly and only last a couple of years.

Things to think about when planning a water feature, is the size of your property: you want it to be in proportion. The depth of water: this is important for several reasons, some plants like lotus require a reasonable depth of water and in our warm climates the deeper the water the less likely it is to overheat and make it difficult for fish and plants to survive so do the research to find out the best depths for the size of your pool. One other factor you need to consider is, children’s safety, this depends on the size of your water feature and the accessibility and number of children around.

You will also need to find out if there are any rules and regulations in your area that govern water safety, as there are in some places, with the legal requirements that you must have in place if you have a swimming pool. Also if you want light features and water fountains, the availability of power is a consideration although there are now many solar operated options available.

In the design phase you need to consider the shape, myself, I don’t like sharp corners and prefer sweeping curves but if you have a formal garden, then a square or rectangle or more formal shape may suit your garden better. If you are going for the more natural look then you will need to have varying depths as there are many plants that like growing in the shallows.

The balance between temperature and light is important. Too much shade and your water lilies will not flower and some plants like black taro will not colour-up as much as you might want. A little bit of overall shade for some part of the day is ok and if you want you can provide an overhanging rock, or two, to provide not only shade for your fish but also to provide them a place to hide from any predator birds.

Once your pool or water feature is built and in place, then comes the really fun part, the selection of plants. There are plants that will suit even some of the smallest water features, just check out what is available to you. If one thinks water, the first thought is water lilies and there are an amazing range of colours and types so you can be sure to find one that suits your climatic situation. There are also lotus and a large selection of other flowering aquatic plants. Next there are your plants for the shallows, a wide range of reeds and rushes, water taros, the list is endless. These come in all shapes, heights and colours so your options are numerous.

Try to control yourself, as it is very easy to over-plant your pond. One important thing to remember is if your pond becomes overcrowded and you have to weed out some of the excess growth, please be very careful with disposal of these plants, as in many areas these introduced species have become a huge problem in our local waterways.

If you get the right balance of water temperature, light, plant and fish life you should not have any issues with algae growth. Over feeding of fish and bird life can upset this balance, and this can become a problem. Also everyone is different in their expectation of the clarity of the water. I have a friend who wants the water to be crystal clear and clean, while I am not so particular. If water clarity becomes an issue then there might be a need to oxygenate the water and/or filter it.

Oxygenation of your pond can either be done with a pump that bubbles air into the water or you can achieve the same result by using a fountain. This allows the increase of water to air surface. Water fountains come in a huge range of sizes and shapes, some of the more artistic ones are truly spectacular and can be the centre piece of the whole garden. Just make sure that you get the right size pump for your needs, too big and there might be issues with your fittings or you will spray the water outside of the pond and too small and your spectacular water feature will be nothing but a trickle. Depending on your pool size, filters come in many sizes and forms, you need to do the research and find the right one for you.

Now it is time to enjoy your water feature, perhaps at the end of a busy day, sit down and look at the colour and beauty, breath in the scents and listen to sounds of your garden and if you are like me, the taste of your wine.


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