Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Backyard Oasis...

Water in the garden...
It's presence is as natural and undisputed as that of sunlight and fresh air - it's there at your leaky hose bib, in ephemeral footprints by the pool, in the birdbath, in the very air around us (thank you, Maryland humidity!) And as the mercury rises water becomes our refuge and ally - it's brightly reflective surface dances with light in defiance of the sun's heat, and the sound of its bouncing drops making their way to some cool basin is often enough to whet if not our bodies than our minds. And what better way to gain admittance to this solace than by adding a water feature to your garden? Today I'll run you through the basics of selecting and caring for your own backyard oasis - it's easier than you may think!

Dreamy water features...
Just add water! There are fountains, and there are FOUNTAINS (like, big/scary/wonderful/ expensive/amazing/sometimes-pain-in-the-butt water features...) What works best for most gardeners and homeowners who want a bit of splash are freestanding water fountains, which belong firmly in the former category. These types of water features are generally more affordable, easy to install and maintain, and are portable.  Setting one up is literally as simple as adding water and plugging it in. No additional plumbing is required because the pump, which is hidden within the fountain, recirculates water from it's basin. That's one of the greatest features of the portable fountain - you can place it anywhere you like.
Free standing fountains from Campania International
Many of our customers seek fountains for the relaxing sound of water near an outdoor seating area, which can also help to mask unwanted noises from the street or neighbors. Others simply want an elegant focal point for the garden which will entice those who wander it's paths. It is important to have a general idea of location when setting out to select a fountain for this very reason; if sound is important, certain designs will lend themselves better to your purpose, and it is important to either hear it in person or speak with someone knowledgeable about the fountain design - trust me you do NOT want the "toilet bowl effect"!
Can you imagine having something like this in your garden?! Magical...
If you are searching for a fountain as a unifying garden element or focal point, size then becomes the dominating variable. Often the size of the fountain is decided by the intimacy of the area, the surrounding architectural features, and the existing plantings. A low fountain can serve to bring your eye downward and direct focus to surrounding plantings, meanwhile adding a sense of height to the area via open air space above the feature - this type of fountain is most effective in an intimate or secluded area of the garden (my opinion anyways - if the space is right for it a low basin fountain can work anywhere!) A taller fountain is effective when it will be viewed from a bit of a distance - the added height will bring the feature closer to eye level, lending stature and providing focus. I could go on and on about things like verticality, dimension, formality... but I think that would not only be pointless but more confusing all at once. For the most part, the best person to decide what will fit in the setting of their home is - you guessed it - the homeowner! But for those who are not quite sure or are afraid of making the wrong decision, my best advice is to chat with other people - bounce your ideas off others, bring photos and pick's a great way to make a decision you feel confident about.
Fountains and features both whimsical and classic
After the fun part of choosing which fountain to bring home, the next set of questions I get are all about care; both summer and winter will require some maintenance, but not much. The biggest responsibility you will have in the summer is to keep your fountain full; the water will evaporate and splash out over time and the pump should never be allowed to run dry - it will overheat and DIE...egads! Other than that, your fountain may need a little scrub-a-dub once in a while to control algae (you can also add a cap-full of bleach or an algaecide such as this one from Lowes) and perhaps a periodic skim to remove debris from nearby trees. When it starts to get chilly out you'll want to put your fountain to bed for the winter - leaving water in any kind of basin can spell trouble (i-c-e!) The absolute easiest way to winterize a fountain is with a fountain cover - they protect the entire unit from wintry conditions and save you the trouble of disassembling in order to remove the pump. For smaller fountains removing the pump and the plug which retains water in the basin is not such a big deal, so many people opt for this winterizing routine. If the fountain is small enough, sometimes it is easiest to bring the entire unit indoors to a garage or hook it up for hibernation in a sun room.

Just gorgeous...loose formality and the focal point of the stunning fountain really tie the disparate textures and elements together here

And that, my friends, is the basic run-down on fountains and their care! It's very do-able, depending of course on how complex your feature is. If you've ever visited our store, I'm sure you know we are all about making life easier and more enjoyable at once, so naturally we advocate the freestanding style of fountain. That's not to say, however, that in my dream garden I wouldn't head straight for, say, the piano waterfall option! I hope you both learned something and got a little inspired (for more photos, as well as the sources for those featured in this post, visit our Water board on Pinterest) - thanks for reading!


If you're thinking of adding a water feature to your garden or patio, allow me to suggest some helpful links:

Campania International - we have been carrying cast stone statuary, urns, birdbaths and fountains from this company since our opening in 1999 and they are an excellent source for garden ornament. They also provide fountain covers and replacement pumps.

Lilypons Water Gardens - Lilypons has been in the water gardening business since 1917 in Frederick, and are THE place to go for pond supplies and aquatic plants. If you are considering a larger, more permanent water feature they are worth a visit!

 The Dutch Plant Farm - Another local source for fountains, just down the street from us. I believe they also carry algaecides (which we, unfortunately, no longer do!)