Today, a water feature is an affordable luxury — and a garden design must-have
Story: Rebecca Calvert
In the midst of the worst drought in recorded history, water seems to be coming up everywhere in residential gardens throughout Australia — in the form of water features. Supplying tranquillity and creating an air of extravagance, water features have become a popular and affordable luxury.
There are several contributing factors to the recent rise in the popularity of water features. As land values continue to climb, the size of the average residential block keeps shrinking, allowing less room for pools and spas. This makes water features a space-saving way to bring water into a garden, courtyard or rooftop. Water features also offer a soothing sound that masks the noise of traffic and the bustle of urban life that often surrounds us. In addition, water features add movement to landscapes, are more cost-effective than pools and spas, require minimal maintenance and are easily installed once professional advice has been considered.
Matthew Griffiths of Water Features Direct says: “Water features have now become an integral part of residential garden design. As space diminishes for large gardens, new focal points have emerged. Water features are one of those new focal points. The obvious aesthetics and tranquillity a water feature provides draw people into their garden area.” The types of water features currently available are as diverse as the people installing them and the trends in design are constantly evolving. At present, there seems to be a shift from ponds and poolside waterfalls to cascading water walls and stand-alone planter tubs with spouts. There has also been a major movement towards the incorporation of natural stone, copper, stainless steel, glass and lighting.
Talei Dunne of Universal Rocks (a company specialising in replica-rock water features) and Matthew Griffiths of Water Features Direct offer some pointers when choosing your water feature:
• Have a clear idea of what you want your water feature to achieve. Ask yourself, what is its purpose?
• Take a long look at your backyard and take into account all areas the feature will be viewed from.
• Have a think about the colours, shapes and textures currently in your yard and what type of water feature would best complement that mix.
• Armed with the above information, seek guidance from a professional water feature designer, manufacturer or retailer to ensure you haven’t overlooked any key factors.
They can also talk you through the technical side of things, such as choosing a pump.
Griffiths suggests: “I think the most important aspect of choosing a water feature is that it makes the statement you are wishing to achieve. Clients must ask themselves what it is they want from such a feature.”
If you can’t find exactly what you want off the shelf, then, adds Griffiths, “Take your ideas to a company that can mould them into a water feature that will live comfortably in that landscape for many years to come.”
Once your design has been decided, it’s important to take some time to ensure that the installation and positioning have also been carefully considered. A properly installed, well-positioned water feature should require minimal maintenance and waste next to no water. That said, it’s a good idea to check with your council if water restrictions are in place, just to see if there are any regulations you need to take into account.
When selecting the perfect spot for your water feature, you want to do more than ensure it can be seen from all desired angles. If possible, place your water feature out of direct sunlight to avoid excessive evaporation. You may also need to consider the location of underground utilities such as electricity and gas.
The depth of the water is crucial, as exposed shallow water will heat up and evaporate very quickly. The water needs to always cover any pumps in the water feature to ensure no damage occurs and, if any wildlife is being added, the minimum water depth required is 45cm.
Your water feature should not create any splash. Splash leads to a large amount of water wastage and can be picked up in the wind, which can mean water-spattered guests. The choice of a smaller spout or bubbler should prevent any water wastage problems. “I think the best tip for those wishing to install a water feature is to first seek consultation with a professional in the field,” says Griffiths. “The mechanics of such a feature need to be perfect for the most desirable impact. Consideration needs to be made for space, sound and visual aspects. Water flow, levels, pump pressure and placement are but a few of things people need to consider prior to installation.”
As far as maintenance is concerned, all your water feature will require is a wipe-over every now and then and the occasional top-up. To prevent the growth of algae and to keep the water clear and sparkling, ask your local water feature supplier about the most appropriate kind of water treatment.