The Coast News Group
Local Roots

How to create the perfect water feature

I have come to find out that most people enjoy the movement of water. Why? Who knows, maybe it has to do with the sun glinting off the water as it does in a beautiful mountain stream or the movement of the waves on a wide open sea.
Perhaps it touches the cord within all of us that an oasis is near and that the prospect of a cool thirst-quenching drink is close by. Whatever the reason, man has built and employed fountains throughout history from the ancient to our present day civilization.
Many factors come into play when it comes to creating a renewable, attractive, low-maintenance water sculpture. The first thing you need to consider when choosing a fountain and installing it is where it will be placed.
Feng shui mindset strictly requires that any moving water in the landscape be directed toward the house and not away from the structure. This means that the chi energy exhibited by the moving water will be deposited or directed into the home and its occupants.
This is very important to the Chinese and has been a belief passed down for generations. Another more practical tenant for the location of a water feature has to do with the amount of sunlight it will receive. The more sunlight a water feature receives, typically the more algae and maintenance it will require.
If you don’t mind cleaning the fountain and pouring copious amounts of chlorine into the water on a regular basis, then you will be good to go. However, if you are low-maintenance oriented like me, you will place your water feature in at least 30 to 60 percent shade during the daylight hours. This will help prevent moisture loss, slow down the algal bloom in the water, lower the water temperature in the fountain and keep the water relative clear and clean.
Mystery is a key element when it comes to working with fountains and water features. I personally like fountains where the water disappears into an underground vault through some rock or natural stone. Here you can hide the pump, eliminate algae and create a basin for collection where a hidden auto fill float valve can replenish the water in the fountain that is lost to evaporation.
Remember, there is nothing less sexy than an ugly dry fountain stained white with mineral deposits because the pump failed when it ran out of water.
Another great way to design a fountain is to hide the water source and let it magically bubble up from inside a ceramic pot or a group of rocks in a natural setting. Natural cascading waterfalls are often the most beautiful but often require regular maintenance and care due to sunlight exposure and root penetration through the rubber liner underneath the waterfall.
The hot tip for root penetration prevention while you are creating your waterfall on or in the hillside is to lay down a chemical root barrier beneath your rubber liner. This will prevent roots from growing into the rubber liner itself. The root barrier is fabricated with chemical pellets attached to a roll of fabric that percolate an enzyme into the soils near the barrier. This herbicide prevents cell multiplication at the tips of any new roots along the barrier and thusly promotes root growth away and in the opposite direction.
These root barriers last many years and will not adversely affect the health of any of your plants located nearby. This technique is also very helpful for ensuring the longevity of French drains, seepage pits and water vaults as well as fountains based upon rubber liners in soils.
One of my favorite fountains to install in the garden is the copper fountain made from ordinary copper pipe and thin gauge copper sheet metal. These usually have a set of copper cups that catch and cascade the falling water individually down the fountain from cup to cup.
This copper turns a beautiful rich brown color and inhibits algae growth. While light passes through the pouring water and sparkles in the early morning or late afternoon sun, hummingbirds will come to these cups and treat each one as a private Jacuzzi.