By Mary Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener
What is a water feature? In basic terms, a water feature is a landscape enhancement that uses water and other materials to bring beauty and tranquility to the environment. Types of water features for gardens include ponds, waterfalls, and fountains.
Types of Water Features
If you lack space to dedicate a large water feature, you may opt for small features such as a container water garden, tabletop fountain, or a bubbling water container or urn. Small water features are attractive on a patio or deck, and most are large enough to provide the pleasant sound of bubbling or running water.
Small fountains and waterfalls are portable and ready to plug in straight out of the box. You can use one small feature or combine a collection of small features to add interest to a woodland garden or shady area.
Ponds are larger water features that require careful planning. Most need a circulation system to keep the water moving and a filtration system to keep the water clean. Fiberglass or vinyl liners or shells, available in a variety of sizes, shapes and prices, simplify the process.
Water Feature Ideas
Knowing how to use water features in the landscape will help you get the most out of it. An effective water feature is one that melds naturally with the environment. Locate your water feature away from areas where water runs from lawns or gardens, as the water may contain bacteria, chemicals, and messy plant debris. Creating a water feature away from shrubs or trees that shed leaves or pine needles helps to simplify water feature care and maintenance.
If your water feature is large enough, you may want to add fish, such as goldfish or koi, which require a pond with a depth of 2 to 3 feet. If you live in an environment with freezing winters, the pond needs to be even deeper.
Although it’s easy to create a miniature ecosystem by surrounding a small water feature with beautiful plants, a pond takes more planning. You can plant canna lily or taro at the edge of a pond. These plants do well with their roots in the mud and their tops in shallow water. Plants such as eelgrass or pondweeds actually live under the water.
If your pond is large enough, you may want to plant floating plants such as lotus, water hyacinth or water ferns. Plant carefully if your water feature is located near a stream or drainage area; some water plants are highly invasive.
As an added benefit, a water feature may attract frogs to your garden. Frogs provide natural control for mosquitoes and other troublesome pests. Even a simple birdbath is an attractive water feature, easily enhanced by surrounding it with plants or shrubs. Add a bubbler or mister to attract hummingbirds to your garden.