Fountains

The sound of water brings your garden to life.

By Zazel Loven

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Is something missing from your garden? Gardens everywhere have the same basic elements--plants, air, sky, earth. What's missing from this bucolic picture is the fifth element--water.

Benefits
"Sounds and movement, that's what I love most about my fountains," reports Houston gardener Larrisa Gleason. "The sound of water brings my garden to life," she gushes. A fountain also provides a three-dimensional focal point in the landscape. With a soothing sound and an interesting visual, it is an easy feature to add without a major investment. Fountains also bring life to the garden, a goal for many of us. Birds are drawn to moving water, bathing, playing and drinking. Gleason uses her fountains in different ways--the larger noisier one sits closer to the street so passers-by can enjoy the sound while it drowns out the cacophony of traffic. Deeper into her yard the fountain is smaller so the gentle trickle is not so loud it makes conversation difficult or interrupts quiet contemplation.

Materials
Choosing a fountain by material, the materials often reflect the style: classic stone fountains are styled after those in Europe's oldest gardens while resin is often used for fountains featuring figures. Slate works best in a more natural or contemporary design that incorporates a flowing waterfall. Cast stone, cement, slate, and wrought iron are traditional looking, heavy, enduring, and expensive. Clay, ceramic, and terra cotta fountains are less expensive and more delicate, reports Liz Lawrence of Gardener's Supply in Burlington, Vermont. Manmade materials such as resin and fiberglass are lightweight, molded to look like stone, and won't chip, though they don't have the same sound when the water hits the bowl as more traditional materials.

A fountain can be made from just about anything, adds Lawrence, even a funky container picked up at a garage sale--all that is needed is a pump.

Choosing the Right Fountain
Without the help of a designer to tell us what to do, we are faced with an overwhelming selection of garden fountains. First of all, advices Gleason, don't overpower a small space with a large fountain. Smaller fountains work best in shaded area while larger ones are best in direct sun because of water evaporation. Size will also be determined by what you would like to achieve: To both see and hear the water? It's very much about your own personal taste, says Peter Cilio, the creative director of Campania, makers of garden fountains. Match the fountain to the location and to the style of your house and garden. Contemporary interpretations of classics designs are popular in today's gardens, and work well with any style house.

Maintenance
According to our experts no fountain should be left outside in cold weather because of the danger of a water pool expanding when it freezes. This can even happen with slate, stone, and manmade materials though vertical objects enhance the winter landscape. If you do not want to (or can't) bring the object in, constantly check for and remove any standing water and take in the pump so it doesn't freeze. Pump maintenance is at the top of the list of things to do to prevent stagnant water: Make sure it is always clean and clear and the pump is immersed in water so it doesn't burn out, says Lawrence. She surrounds her own pump with panty hose, adding an extra filter to prevent debris from flowing through. Even sand and pollen can cause a pump to break down. For safety's sake, ground fault circuit interrupters available in electrical departments of home store must ground the electrical outlet. If you like the look of algae just leave it, a quick scrub with a brush will get rid of it.

Water is fascinating to people. We can gaze at it, relax in its ambience, and take comfort in its sound for hours at a time. In the ancient art of Feng Shui, water is an element that creates wealth or prosperity--and it attracts birds, considered lucky. Imagine the positive effect an easy-to-install fountain will have in your outdoor space.

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