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Splashing Water in Gardens


Splashing water is one of the most enticing ways of bringing movement and sound to a garden. A splashing water feature can be as small or large, simple or complex as you desire. You may decide on an inexpensive wall plaque with spouting water, a formal traditional fountain or perhaps a naturalistic waterfall. Whatever the choice, you should keep the following points in mind:

- The feature should be in keeping with the scale and style of the surrounding house and garden. A small wall fountain is best suited to a courtyard where it can be viewed up close, while a large fountain generally looks better in a more formal spacious setting, where it can viewed, and its impact most appreciated from a reasonable distance.

- In an open area, spray may be blown around, particularly from large water features with a tall drop, such as fountains or waterfalls. The droplets may end up where you don’t want them – splashing people, seating and pathways.


A fountain is generally the focal point of the garden and so needs to be sited carefully. There are three main types – wall fountains, freestanding fountains and pond fountains.

Wall fountains – These are generally inexpensive and well suited to small courtyards. The most common type of wall fountain is shaped to resemble a spurting fish or lion’s head, and is attached to a plaque on the wall. The water drops from the single outlet into a trough or small pool and is reticulated via a submersible pump placed in the pool.

Freestanding fountains – Most freestanding fountains are traditional in design and are sited in open formal areas where they can be shown to their best advantage. As a general rule, they need a space around them of at least twice their height, but even more space may be needed for very large fountains. The surrounding bowl needs to be large enough to catch most of the spray.

Pond fountains – These are single or multiple sprays of water coming from fountain attachments on a submersible pump/s placed in the middle of the pond. The height of the spray can be adjusted to your liking. Other configurations are possible – for a more formal modern look, small fountains could be placed at regular intervals in a long rectangular pool. Underwater lighting could also be used to make this a stunning garden feature.

Water Staircases, Waterfalls and Cascades

These are water flows over a series of drops. The drops can be evenly spaced (as in a series of stairs), in which case each splash is similar in sound, or of varying heights (as in a cascading section of a stream), in which case each splash makes a different sound.

A water staircase is formal in appearance. They feature geometric straight lines and paved surfaces, for example, polished stone, bricks or tiles. The run (or tread) can be straight or sloping if you wish.

A cascade or waterfall is generally less formal, giving the appearance of a natural stream with a series of drops. Rocks are the preferred construction material. River stones placed at the bottom of each drop will help to create the sound of a babbling stream.


Pumps – Two types are readily available – submersible and external. Submersible pumps are generally used for gardens – they are cheaper, quieter, easier to install and will readily handle the volume of water used by garden waterfalls and fountains. As the name implies they are placed under the water, hence muffling the sound. Most submersible pumps used in domestic situations operate on low voltages to minimise the risk of electrocution.

Power supply – The power point and/or underground cables for supplying electricity to the pump. Electrical connections must be installed by a licenced electrician.

Tap and hose – A nearby tap is needed for topping up fountains which can lose a lot of water through evaporation and spray loss.

DIY fountain kits are readily available from garden centres and specialist water garden suppliers. The kits include a fountain head, basin, submersible pump and wiring.

Article by John Mason Dip.Hort.Sc.FIOH Principal ACS Distance Education

For more information on courses and books offered world wide through John’s school, see www.hortcourses.com , www.acsgarden.com , www.acsbookshop.com

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