Garden Design

Add a Water Feature to Your Garden

Few garden features provide the appeal and pleasure of water in the landscape. From the cooling touch of a pool to the sound of birds splashing in a birdbath, water adds enchantment to our budding backyard retreats.

A powerful focal point is achieved by the artful arrangement of water, stone, aquatics, fish and landscape plants. Add a comfortable piece of furniture and a cool drink and worries are but a memory.

If you are not blessed with a natural water feature like a pond, stream or babbling brook, there are ways to improvise. No matter what your budget or skill level in gardening, there is a water feature just for you.

It can happen as early as today if a birdbath will do. Forget the pedestal, choose a high profile location in the garden, create an earth mound and nestle the basin in a sea of groundcover. Add a few dwarf shrubs, perennials, annuals, a stone or two, and voila…. instant water garden. Thinking larger? Purchase a molded fiberglass form or a flexible pool liner and the essentials, including underlayment, skimmer, pump, and assembly kit.

Before you grab the car keys and run out the door, scout out your yard for potential water garden locations. Take a pad and pencil to sketch out ideas and create the materials list. Key elements in locating the water feature are angles of view, topography, sun and shade, electrical accessibility and safety. Check local ordinances and codes that affect location and pool depth.

Material selection for the surrounding hardscape includes slate, stone, brick, tile, gravel, wood or mulch. The more thought given to detail and finishing touches, the more ultimately satisfying your project will be. Put your plan on paper if the project is complex. Consider hiring a designer to expand and verify ideas even if you plan to install the project yourself.

Water plants range from annuals for seasonal color to aquatics found native to this region. Japanese maples, grasses, iris and groundcover junipers are just a few of the plants available to landscape the water garden. To complete the project, fish, plants, waterfall and fountain kits are great pool additions.

Add furniture, lighting and garden accessories to set the mood. Create a space that provides a warm invitation to visitors and becomes the ‘ooooh – ahhh’ part of the garden.

Check out a book or search the web for maintenance tips and hints to keep your new water feature in top condition. A neglected pool can be an eyesore and at the same time provide a first class resort for mosquitoes. Then again, maybe that easily installed and maintained birdbath is the best solution for you.

Hoyt Bangs, a Raleigh native and landscape designer is owner of WaterWise Garden Design. You may reach him at

Copy link