African pots
An ingenious small water feature utilizes African pots and the concept of a pebble garden

3 Easy Small Water Features

For those who do not have the time or space to construct a lavish water garden, here are 3 easy small features that will transform dull corner of the patio or garden. There are numerous ideas around but these we have chosen as the three easiest for anyone to do. These range from a simple stone basin to small spurting ornaments which may be part of a larger feature. The projects are ideal for amateurs and can be tackled in a single weekend.

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Plain, but not ordinary, this feature is perfect for the smaller patio

Many small water features may be part of a larger water garden, but most will stand on their own, enlivening unexciting patios and uninteresting corners of the garden. A little tub or bowl filled with water can sparkle with life, while a miniature pond will capture interesting reflections.

Various materials may be used to create small water features, from tubs and basins to bamboo and old railway sleepers. Pumps and fountain fittings can be used although they are not essential.

It may seem unnecessary to plan a small feature as carefully as a full-scale water garden, but it is worth assessing the style of the finished design. Most will fit into any outdoor location, but some might look a bit out of place. On the other hand, a little contrast can be invigorating.

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A mass of plants add interest to a precast concrete fountain feature.

The first step is to decide what you want. All kinds of containers, such as barrels, basins and troughs, may be converted into mini-ponds. Suitability is determined largely by durability and impermeability (water tight) of the vessel, and additional waterproofing may be necessary. It is also important that they are non-toxic and will not corrode over time. Before you get to work, check what was stored in the container previously; anything with poisonous preservatives or oil should be avoided.

While you will want to position an attractive container where it can be seen, more ordinary vessels may be buried in the ground to create a miniature pond. You could sink a few more containers alongside it and convert them into small ‘bog gardens’. Just remember to drill a few holes in the base of those to be planted, and be sure to keep the soil moist.

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A handmade ceramic fountain is a simple but effective water feature.

A mini-pond will enable you to have a water feature in the tiniest of areas. Most of these are too small for fish, but they can be effectively planted with aquatics.

A word of warning: small water features are not necessarily safer. Remember that babies and toddlers have been known to drown in a bucket of water.

The safest water features for small children are those which incorporate hidden reservoirs of water. A pebble fountain (see our pebble fountain) or millstone feature are two popular options. The water and a pump are contained underground in a precast receptacle. The surface is covered with the millstone and/or pebbles and the water pumped through pipework to the surface. Fountain heads may also be used, and a tulip- or dome-jet is particularly attractive.

Bamboo is another useful material for the smaller feature, especially when a japanese style effect is required. There are several possibilities ranging from the traditional tsukubai, made with bamboo pipework and a hollowed stone or water basin, to pivoted pouring devices originally designed to frighten deer and other animals (shishi-odoshi). Both pour a constant trickle of water through hollowed bamboo, although the tsukubai is static.

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A precast fountain feature is the focal point of this herb and flower garden.

A number of ingenious designs are possible on a small scale. Exploit the hidden reservoir concept and pump water behind a bush or boulder and into a pot which spills onto pebbles or into a small pond below. Or pump it up behind logs or railway sleepers set upright in the ground, allowing the water to trickle back over the wood.

You can set an attractive pond ornament over the tiniest pool, drawing up the water with a small submersible pump, so that the ornament becomes the focus rather than the water.

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