Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – Water in the Garden

– Posted in: Garden Design


Sure, I’m a fan of water in the garden. Right now, after five weeks of essentially no rain, I’m a really BIG fan of water in the garden. Especially if it would come in the form of a gentle, soaking rain. Maybe 2 or 3 inches, over the course of two or three days. Is that too much to ask? Apparently, it is. And I don’t want to wish too hard and have those of us in Pennsylvania get inundated like those of you in some areas of the Midwest, Southeast, and New England states have been. Still, it’s hard not to get a little cranky about the latest forecast for another week of “beautiful” weather.

But I digress. The point of this month’s Design Workshop is water as a design feature, not a necessity for plant survival. On this use of water, I have little to contribute, because I’ve never really had a water feature in my garden. I enjoy seeing water very much in other people’s gardens, though, whether it’s in the form of an intricately planted water garden…


…an elegant container featuring just a few plants…


…a simple reflecting bowl creating a pretty vignette in a border…

…or just a plain water-filled container bringing a bit of blue sky down to ground level.

Now it’s your turn to share your experiences with water features in the garden. Tell us about your pond, your waterfall, or your container water garden: maybe how you chose it, how you created it, or how you maintain it (or all three). Have any of you tried to build a bog garden? If so, how’d it go? What are some of your favorite plants for water features? These are just some ideas to get you thinking about the topic; anything to do with water is fair game. Oh, I will add one other challenge: Try to convince me that I really can’t survive another growing season without some sort of water feature in my own garden. (Bonus points if you can convince me I’ll be able to take care of it properly too, so it won’t get all green and icky.)

If you’re new to the Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, here’s how it works: Write a post on anything related to water in the garden on your own blog and leave a link here (already-archived posts count too), or jot down your thoughts in a comment below. At the end of the month, I’ll gather all of the links into one summary post for easy reference. If you’re interested in checking out previous GBD Workshops, you can find them here:

Paths and Walkways
Fences and Walls
Arbors and Pergolas
Color in the Garden
Container Plantings
Front-Yard Gardens
Stone in the Garden
Decks, Porches, and Patios
Garden Whimsy
Trellises and Screens

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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21 comments… add one

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our friend Ben September 1, 2008, 8:19 am

Ha! I’m right with you on the crispy-fried lawn and gardens. Grrrr!!! But water features are essential, Nan!!! I’ll have to try to write a post that convinces you. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see everyone else’s water features. Great theme!

It shouldn’t be too hard of a sell, because I’m already aware that I’m missing out on the whole water-feature thing. I too am looking forward to seeing what everyone has to share.

Frances September 1, 2008, 10:46 am

Okay, this one I can do. I have even been saving photos just for it. Convincing you should be a snap. As for keeping it clean, have fish and don’t feed them, let them eat the algae to keep the balance that nature intended. Sorry about not posting on the trellis topic but will make up for it on this one.

Sounds great, Frances – I’m ready! I hope you’re going to tell me how big of a feature I need to support fish, and what I do with the fish for the winter.

Benjamin September 1, 2008, 3:07 pm

Oh, that last photo has some lovely stone water bowls–I want one! I keep looking for one, but my lord… nothing local, and to get one shipped is extortion (that and the original price of like over $100). I might have to start using old detergent jugs instead.

Ooh, yeah, aren’t they cool? We’re going to be getting some in at work this fall, so next time you’re in PA, you could pick one up and carry it back home with you! (Uh huh, right.)

Dee/reddirtramblings September 1, 2008, 5:53 pm

Cool-a-rama. I have a few water features. I’ll work on a post and let you know. BTW, those are pretty.

Super, Dee – I look forward to your post!

Shirl September 1, 2008, 7:25 pm

Hi there Nan I’ve been working on a pondwatch in my garden for the past week. I’ll see if I can join you for this one.

Hope you had a good summer 😀

Hey there, Shirl! How wonderful to hear from you again. I look forward to hearing about your pondwatch.

ESP September 1, 2008, 10:46 pm

Hi Nan.

Well I hope I am doing this right, posting my water gardening links in here? I have a couple for you, anyway here goes, this is how it all got started:

and for some recent water garden problems:

and the solution:

I hope I have done this right!

Perfect, ESP. Thanks ever so much for sharing these links!

Ewa September 2, 2008, 1:37 am

Hi Nan,
Water in the garden is essential. I have build the pond of size abt 20m2 surface and 1,3m deep.
It gives me tremendous joy, but also I had different kind of troubles with keeping the water clean. In fact learning how to keep the proper chemical and biological balance of the water in the pond is a separate project.
My set of posts about is here:


Ewa, that’s terrific! I’m really interested in hearing about your experiences with your pond. Sounds like you may answer a lot of my questions.

James Golden September 2, 2008, 7:41 am


I took, I hope, a sustainable approach and used only natural clay for my pond when we dug it last April. I’m new to this, but the pond has been holding water for 5 months now, needing only a little weekly topping off during our hottest and driest weather. I don’t recommend the linerless approach for most people – only those who have a high water table and a really sticky, hard clay.

During July I began to get a slight green color in the water, which had looked muddy all summer. Suddenly, the water cleared. That happened after I added three large containers of water lilies. I believe the foliage decreased the sunlight penetration, stopping the algae growth and leading to the clearing of the water.

But that’s only speculation.

The pond is a delight.

Very cool, James. I’ll be over to check out your post!

Frances September 3, 2008, 3:10 pm

In case I forget to include this info, your pond needs to be at least two feet deep so the fish can get down into the mud at the bottom and go to sleep for the winter. We keep our pump running, not going through the waterfall and frog mouth during the cold months here, October through late March. That bubbling keeps the water from freezing solid. You might need a heater in yours if your zone is too cold, but our friends in Berwick let theirs run all winter with fish in it and theirs is totally above ground, not dug in like mine.

I appreciate you sharing the info I asked for, Frances. Er, would it be too picky to add that I’m too cheap to pay for the electricity to run a pump and/or heater? Yeah, I thought so. I’d feel crummy treating the fish as annuals, though. I can see that this is going to require a lot of thought – which probably explains why I haven’t made any progress on a water feature to date.

Michelle September 6, 2008, 3:03 pm

Restful, Contemplative, Exciting, Quiet and Reflective.
These are terms I use to describe some of the water fountains that are posted on my blog.


I have no doubt that we *will* enjoy your slide show, Michelle: We always do! Thanks so much for putting this together.

Frances September 8, 2008, 6:41 am

Here’s my post. Hope you like it. Save your pennies for the pump. Ours cost $40. The power it uses is minimal. You could spend more than that of course too.

I very much enjoyed reading the saga of the Faire Garden water feature, Frances. Those glass bubbles are a perfect finishing touch!

David September 8, 2008, 1:28 pm

I just finished a couple small water features. One was for myself and another was for a client who wanted a birdbath with gently bubbling water. Be sure to check out the slide show.

Thanks, David – the slide show was very helpful. A project this scale definitely seems do-able!

patientgardener September 8, 2008, 2:59 pm

Hi – see my post about my wildlife pond.

Thanks so much for sharing the ups and downs of your water feature. I’m thinking that a natural-looking pond like this might be a good option for my own garden!

Craig at Ellis Hollow September 9, 2008, 8:05 pm

I put my water garden post up tonight:
Water gardens, from puddles to pools

Thanks again for hosting these great workshops.

What a great variety of shapes and sizes of water features, Craig – something for everyone. Thanks for the link!

Michelle September 10, 2008, 2:21 pm

I think that you may have left a question on my photo page about a specific tile used on one of my fountains.
The deco tile was created by Sonoma Tile Makers. The color is ‘burlap’ and the name of the ‘spout tile’ is called Camelot.

It wasn’t me, Michelle, but I appreciate you leaving the info here. And thanks again for the link to your photo gallery of water features – what a treat!

Craig at Ellis Hollow September 11, 2008, 7:50 pm

Hi Nan: I posted about a water feature at Cornell you may want to include. It’s here:

Thanks for this one too, Craig. I’d definitely walk a little out of my way to see this every day!

Doctor Mom September 12, 2008, 1:33 pm

Water in the garden? Yep, got that. Details of transforming a boggy area in the lawn into a raingarden are blogged at:

Thanks for the links, Doctor Mom! You’re the first one who’s chimed in from the rain garden angle, and it’s intriguing to see your progress.

Lois J. de Vries September 12, 2008, 5:47 pm

Hi Nan,
Hope your readers enjoy my post about our bog garden at

A good story, and a great solution for a soggy spot. Thanks for sharing the link, Lois!

gardener September 13, 2008, 12:34 am

Beautiful examples of pond possibilities. A smaller scale to consider from a balcony gardener in Canada at

I appreciate you sharing the link, BG. Not just one container water garden, but four!

Andrew Bunting September 15, 2008, 10:21 am

I, too, have always been attracted to water and water features in the garden. Read more about some of my favorite water features at

Hi Andrew! Thanks for joining us at GGW and sharing the link.

Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden) September 19, 2008, 9:30 am

Gail suggested that I visit since I posted my waterfall and stream today on my blog, Defining Your Home Garden.


Thanks for the link, Cameron. I enjoyed reading your post and seeing how well you’ve blended your stream and waterfall into your plantings.

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