Sunday 4 December 2016

go with the flow

A water feature can bring peace and calm to any garden, writes Marie Staunton

Marie Staunton

Published 13/08/2011 | 05:00

There are plenty of ways to add a water feature to your garden, but making it look as if it was always there is a job that can take a bit of time.

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If you are a potterer like me, who likes to take their time creating something new, then this could be the perfect project for you.

Next time you are in Dublin, head up to the Botanic Gardens and have a look at how they crafted theirs -- it might just inspire you to create your own.

If you have a garden that slopes naturally, then this will be an added advantage when you set about making your flowing water feature. I've said it many times, but water -- and the sound of it -- can bring a feeling of calm into the garden.

It also attracts an array of wildlife to give the younger members of your family something to get interested in too, which is always a bonus.

If your garden is large, then water winding its way down through the garden from an elevated position, such as a rockery, could be the way to go. A flowing water feature should go in and out of about three small pools on its way down to the bottom reservoir pool.

A flexible hose attached to the pump at the bottom is brought up to the highest position along a trench to the side of your feature and disguised under a rock at the top, so the water can flow down magically without anyone knowing where the source of the water is.

It all sounds so easy, doesn't it?

It will provide yet another area of interest in the garden, and just think of all the exciting plants that you could use to make it all come together.

A moving or flowing water feature will take up a lot of space, and to plant it up properly will require a bit of care. The use of Japanese maples -- which are small trees, very slow-growing -- will give a lushness in spring and vibrant colour in the autumn, so these should be top of your planting list.

Try Acer palmatum var dissectum atropurpureum. This one has fiery red foliage in autumn that is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Or try Acer japonicum 'Aureum', which is really slow-growing.

The foliage is a vivid lime green and will give an oriental feel to your garden. I know the Latin names are a bit of a mouthful, but it's better you have them when going in search of these trees, otherwise, you may end up with something very different.

The use of these small trees will give your water feature maturity, so invest in a few; the price, depending on size, can start at around ¤20.

On the shaded side, consider hostas or ferns -- there are loads to choose from, and the variegated hosta will add light to a shaded area.

In the reservoir pool at the bottom, put in some water lilies; they will multiply over the years, so only buy a couple to start off with.

Hemerocallis, with its sword-like leaves and bright yellow, orange, red or pink flowers, will give a bit of height to your planting scheme, as will the Arum lily with its beautiful, glossy green foliage and white flowers in early summer.

It will reach a height of around 90cm and it loves a moist soil -- it's a bog plant really.

Alchemilla, or Lady's Mantle, will do very well in moist soil, as will Astilbe, but one of my favourite plants for any garden -- and it works so well if planted close to a water feature -- is called Angel's Fishing Rod, Latin name Dierama.

The reflection in the water of its bell-shaped flowers and the long, wispy, rod-like leaves is just magical. It likes full sun, so plant it where it will make the most impact.

If your garden is small and you would still like to include a flowing water feature, just scale everything down. There is no reason in the world why you couldn't use smaller versions of some of the bigger plants that I have mentioned.

Think bonsai -- grow your Japanese maples in pots, which will restrict their size, and place them at intervals alongside your water feature.

Rock plants will do well in the drier areas along the feature and will add colour at various times of the year.

Anything is possible, provided the interest is there. As I get older, I'm spending a lot more time on things that I'm passionate about.

The rest, such as the ironing, will just have to wait.

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