Water features are tantalizingly beautiful. They fill the air with the music of rushes and trickles, reflect sunlight on the surrounding foliage and, in some cases, even cool you off with a gentle mist on hot days.
It doesn't take much to get the full effect. A brimming urn within view of your kitchen window becomes a glistening gemstone, beckoning you outside on the crankiest of summer days. Fill a glazed ceramic pot with water and pond plants, and you have not only a miniature pond but also a cheerful little cherry to top off your Sunday afternoon.
With a variety of accessible options available, there’s bound to be a water feature for you.
Indoor water gardens
Indoor water gardens can be as easy as sticking stems in water. Cut off some lanky stems of a vining houseplant, trim the lower leaves and place the stems in a vase for a living floral arrangement.
To take it a step further, place aquarium plants in a tall glass hurricane, line the bottom with gravel (available at a pet store) and add a betta fish to get the effect of a koi pond in a bottle.
For a living centerpiece, place floating aquatic plants (like water lettuce) in a large, flat bowl, and place it on your dining room table. You don't have to stop there - with the right plants and materials, plus a little research, any aquarium can be turned into a miniature ecosystem complete with waterfalls, frogs, fish and, of course, lush foliage.
Dry water features
If maintaining and powering a water feature seems like too much of a hassle, consider using good old-fashioned rainwater and gravity instead. Replace your downspout with a copper rain chain to create a larger-than-life water feature for rainy days. Or create a dry creek to attractively direct rainwater into a rain garden that's been planted to look like a pond.
These rain-powered water features are every bit as beautiful as their wetter counterparts, but they also reduce runoff, pollution and, yes, even your utility bill.
Because aboveground ponds are, well, above ground, they're easier to maintain for gardeners with chronic pain or disabilities. If you don't have an antique clawfoot bathtub sitting around, rest assured that any sturdy, durable and watertight structure will do the trick.
Repurpose a wine barrel, feeding trough or even a hot tub for a rustic look. Or, if you're an able DIY-er, build a sleek, boxy structure that looks as if it were made specifically for your home.
Whichever method you choose, make sure it's watertight before landscaping with marginal and aquatic plants. To keep the water from getting nasty, add a pump for circulation, and keep the water shaded so algae doesn't take over.
If you have space on the patio and an outdoor power outlet, then you can enjoy the sound of trickling water. Some manufactured features look (somewhat) like natural waterfalls, some resemble classic fountains and others take a more modern approach.
It's hard to give molded fiberglass anything more than a passing resemblance to the real deal, however, so consider buying a pump kit and making your own free-standing water feature. It could be a rustic contraption with pipes, watering cans and a galvanized steel tub or a sophisticated piece of art with water racing down a handcrafted mosaic.
If you've ever seen a brimming urn or a gushing millstone emptying water directly into the ground below, those were likely so-called pondless water features.
Here's how it works: The water is pumped up from a submerged basin before emerging from your structure of choice and falling back through river rocks to the basin below. In addition to looking like a natural spring, the pondless option is appealing because it's safer around small children, it loses less water to evaporation and it’s less likely to become infested by algae or mosquito larvae.
You can purchase a kit with all of the materials or, better yet, add your own personal touch by pumping water through an old urn, drilled boulder or just about anything you can dream up.
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Originally published May 11, 2017.