The Beauty of Water

Few significant gardens do not contain water as a key element of their design and almost every garden can be improved by the addition of water.

Water is endlessly versatile – a tiny bubble fountain can suffuse a small patio with the relaxing sound of moving water while in the larger garden, a natural swimming pool may provide a stunning centrepiece.

Formal or informal, calm and soothing or full of ceaseless activity, a noisy torrent or a reflective, limpid pool, haven for wildlife or home to fish or aquatic plants – water features offer endless possibilities.


Water has a unique ability to reflect light, brightening up a dark corner, increasing the impact of a feature of making the garden appear larger than it is. The constant changes in colour and texture of the surface make for fascinating shifts in appearance. Water is also a powerful conveyer of mood. An expanse of still water, such as the magnificent pools at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, can create a sedate, almost sombre atmosphere, while a stream of fast moving water or noisy fountain introduce life and freshness into the garden. Many people find the sound of moving water soothing and it can also be used to help mask less welcome sounds, such as traffic noise from a nearby road. The presence of a water feature cools the air on a summer day and is often welcomed by human visitors and wildlife alike.


Even a small water feature can be a great draw for thirsty wildlife, whilst a full-size pond offers a habitat for frogs, fish, and inverterbrates (dragonfly, left), as well as a watering hole for birds and small mammals.

Ponds intended for wildlife should have gently sloping sides so that small mammals and birds can reach the water easily without falling in and frogs and other amphibians can climb out easily. They should be not be positioned in full sun, as this will heat the water up too much, but avoid positioning near large trees that might fill the pond with leaves in autumn.

Wildlife ponds also provide a perfect spot for aquatic and moisture-loving bog plants.

Water in Garden Design

Water works just as effectively in a small garden as in a vast acreage. A simple, water-filled container such as a half barrel or a boulder drilled to make a miniature bubble fountain can transform the tiniest of spaces.

In general, the water feature should be in keeping with the style of the garden and in proportion to other features. An informal pond will always look uncomfortable surrounded by the clipped box hedges and straight gravel paths of a knot garden, just as an elaborate sculptural fountain is not a good companion for the riot of planting in a busy cottage garden.

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