Thaumas P. Ehr, Landscape Architect

Choose Your Water Features Carefully!

Water features can bring interest, beauty and wildlife to a garden, but they also can be work.That's why many homeowners are choosing relatively small options such as fountains, bubbling urns and waterfalls, rather than ponds and streams, a big backyard pond takes a lot of time to clean.With ponds you have to consider native animals, keep the water in balance and prevent algae from building up.


You have to do special things in winter to shut it down and again in spring to set it up. It can get pretty expensive if you want to hire someone to do al that. Some problems arise from unforeseen circumstances. These can be caused by chipmunks or other animals nesting and chewing on the liner, or even by herons deciding to go fishing in your pond.

Bubbling urns or boulder water features have a below-grade plastic composite basin that is not easily damaged.


Consider these factors when deciding whether to landscape large with ponds or small with fountains:


Work. Water features are a labor of love, and many homeowners enjoy the activities required to keep a smooth-running pond, creek and waterfalls. As people work more hours and feel the pressures of balancing work and home life, they are looking for the benefits of a water feature without all the work of a full-blown pond.


Safety. Consider any risks to your own or neighboring children. Many municipalities are considering ponds of a certain size to be swimming pools, and therefore they need to be fenced like a pool.


Price. Fountains cost less to buy and install.Ponds are the most expensive item per square foot commonly installed in the landscape -- more expensive than flagstone patios.


Energy savings. Fountains require less power to operate than ponds.They use a smaller pump since they have less water in them, and the pump can be set to run only during the times when someone is likely to view the fountain.


Accessorize small water features with plants generally found near ponds. That would include lotuses, lilies (Tropicanna cannas), bog plants and other moisture-loving perennials and annuals.Groundcover plants, bulbs (Siberian iris) and grasses (Black Mondo or Blue Fescue) also enhance fountains and bubbling urns.

When constructed with some shallow areas around the edges, they will provide attraction for wildlife and amphibians and animate your private garden.