Picking the perfect water feature

The gentle sound of trickling water, sunlight reflecting off a glassy pool... a water feature can add interest to your garden and enhance its relaxing atmosphere. If you are thinking of adding a feature here are some ideas to help you decide what to buy and tips for installing your fountain, pond or waterfall.

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What water feature?

Modern water features are many and varied so it helps to know what you're looking for before heading to the garden centre. If you are keen to invite wildlife into the garden, a pond may be the best option. It is possible to purchase ready-made plastic mouldings for easy installation but if would prefer to design your own size and shape, opt for a flexible liner and create an individual design.

However, ponds aren't suitable for everyone and those with young children may be better suited by a waterfall or fountain-type arrangement, though these often require access to electricity and a reservoir tank. Your local garden centre will have a wide variety on offer, from pebble fountains to cascading waterfalls and what you choose will depend on the available space and your budget.

Creating a pond
Picking the right location is essential when creating a garden pond - though it will need daily sunlight, if your pond is constantly under a beating sun, you will find algae taking over and choking any fish and plants you have added. On the other hand, overhanging trees and shrubs should be avoided as fallen leaves can also cause problems. A happy medium is needed so that your pond receives at least five hours of natural light each day.

As mentioned, it is possible to buy ready-made pond mouldings (and even kits for a raised pond that requires no digging!) but if you have opted for your own creative design, you will need to be aware of a few important points. To create an environment that encourages wildlife, the pond should include shallower ledges around the edge (a maximum of 15cm deep). This will enable wildlife to hop in and out and allow you to add marginal plants.

Once you have chosen the site, make sure that is level. As tough as flexible liner is, you don't want to end up with a hole before you've even started so a layer of sand beneath the liner will help to ensure that it is protected from stones. An overlap of 15cm is advised and this should be weighted down with bricks before you fill with water. Surplus liner can then be trimmed away and pebbles or stones added to create a natural-looking environment.

A variety of plants can easily be added - marginals for the shallow edges, deep-water plants for the centre, submerged plants (essential for oxygenation if you are adding fish or hoping for frogs and newts) and floating plants. Be prepared to remove dead leaves on a regular basis though.

Running water features
The advantage of a running water feature is that it can be placed in partial or even full shade. Most fountains or waterfall features require a reservoir (often hidden) from which water is pumped and re-used. Of course, care is required when installing an electrically-powered feature - a residual current device should be included to ensure the power supply trips if exposed to water and the proper cable is essential. If you are in any doubt, employ a NICEIC-certified electrician.

Alternatively, you could opt for a more eco-friendly, solar-powered feature. With no electrical work involved, these are simple to install and there are no running costs.

Whatever your design you choose, whether pond or waterfall, a water feature can transform your garden into a haven of tranquility, perfect for relaxing after a hard day's work.