Just add water

Water gardens: your own corner of paradise

By Karen Long | Photography by Michelle Adams

We're surrounded by water. In the atmosphere and in our bodies, this essential element brings life through texture, sound and motion. It also brings a unique dimension to outdoor living: nothing relieves tension and says exhale, take a load off, chill out, like a splashing fountain or calm pool reflecting the setting sun.

The shape of water gardens is as fluid as the element they channel. Rivulets of water chuckle out of multi-tiered basins into a common pool where koi sketch an ever-shifting abstract painting in spatters of red, black and white. A slab of stone forms a bridge between two lily ponds. A stream in miniature slaloms between rocks, dappled by swaying shadows of leaves.

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.
 Loran Eisely, The Immense Journey, 1957

It's alive; it's constantly moving and changing, says LaLana Moore, owner of Scenic Landscapes Water Garden Nursery. Whether it's the waterfall itself or the fish that are swimming through it, or the blooming that goes on with the plants. Scenic Landscapes specializes in unusual aquatic plants and fish, from aquatic orchids, pitcher plants like Venus Flytraps and tropical night-blooming lilies to Japanese koi, orandas goldfish and tadpoles.

DIY Water Gardens

Moore and her husband, Mark, have designed and installed water gardens for 21 years, and they also teach weekly workshops for those who want to create and maintain their own aquatic oasis. Scenic Landscapes teaches eco-friendly maintenance techniques like using beneficial bacteria and naturally filtering plants instead of chemicals.

Having your own water garden might be easier than you think. All you need is a 3 x 3 space with the right mix of shade and sun, and the ability to dig a 3 deep reservoir. You can do water gardens in really tiny, tiny spaces, says Moore.

Dave Martine of Treescapes has a full-service garden design department, but he also gives water the modular treatment in the form of pond-less water features or fountainscaping. These are by far the most popular now, says Martine, because it's a self-contained pit that's very easily dug into the ground and then you put whatever water feature on it you want, whether it's a fountain that spills over, or a vase, or a bubble rock or anything.

Treescapes offers an even simpler treatment that doesn't require digging called a patio pond. Retail manager Pam Garcia describes it as a 32 or 40 round fiberglass or composite bowl into which you just add a pump and plants  and of course, water. Perhaps even a small bubbler fountain  a hose that breaks the surface of the water by an inch or so  to provide the water music. The pond with the plants in it is really pretty, says Garcia, but it doesn't give you the motion of water or the sound of water, which is what a lot of people are looking for. The patio pond is lightweight enough to be stored away for winter.


Some theories claim that water lowers blood pressure or releases a spray of refreshing negative ions into the air. The term feng shui literally means wind-water in English, and water is at the center of this tradition believed to create harmony and prosperity. Whatever your leanings, there's never been a better time to add the soothing splash of water to your outdoor living experience.

Moore agrees. It's just beautiful; it's like a part of nature in your back yard.

live  |  shop  |  dine  |  play  |  home  |  magazine  |  calendar  |  about  |  your turn