It might appear to be just another little water feature to everyone else, but it means the world to me, and it has broken my mold as a water gardener forever. I built this pondless water feature a couple of years ago with size in mind. After all, adding a lot of noise to the property might upset the neighbors. It measures 8 feet long by 5 feet wide within a maximized space, because we’ve got to allow the water to meander from side to side. Building a stream in this limited amount of space between two lots of concrete would also have to please my hardest critic of all — the one who looks back at me in the mirror every day.
If you don’t know me, here’s a little background. I have been building water features in England for more than 25 years, so I have seen a lot of stuff. On this little island, space is usually at a premium, and we have to be creative to overcome the lack of workspace.
My approach to building this little water feature was fairly new at the time in England. Up to that point, I had relied on traditional European water feature construction methods — the lengthy process of using mortar-fixed rocks as the stream bed, with a concrete box to house enough water and a fabricated steel cover to hide it and make it safe for visitors to stand on.
I am amazed to this day by the number of pond contractors in the U.K. that still use inflexible concrete products to direct flowing water.
If we had a small pond, it would not look right. The aesthetics would be all wrong, with the water level constantly fluctuating due to flow and evaporation. Instead, we created a hidden reservoir, holding the water in the ground by installing Aqua Blocks and a vault chamber to house a water feature pump. Thus, the water level in the reservoir itself doesn’t matter, as it can actually run with very little water. All the working parts are hidden, and the feature ends up looking magical.
When I built this feature, I was very excited to make use of new and exciting products, such as waterfall foam, which was relatively new at the time. Waterfall foam has since changed my pond-building methods forever.
As the water feature was going in right outside my front door, it goes without saying that it had to be just right and live up to a very high standard, or else it would not last. Ask any artist — unless it comes from the heart and is a pure joy to behold, the work probably will not be on display.
Most of the 12,000 liters (3,170 gallons) flows up and out of the main spillway, but I installed another little water outlet adjacent to the spillway to make it a bit more interesting and give it a bit more of a natural feel. Breaking up the focal point is the trick here, so the eyes don’t focus on a single thing and instead flow with the energy of the water.
Both are connected to the same valve, so we can regulate how much water comes in. We actually ended up turning it down, because it was too noisy.
Today, it’s still flowing right next door to my new, freshwater rock pool. Let me tell you — I love watching it change each season. I built it right outside my front door to show off my skills to every visitor who comes in search of what real water gardening is all about. Most people in the U.K. can’t believe it’s man-made, as it goes against the other traditional features here in the Midlands.
What I actually like doing most with this water feature is playing with it, because it’s not high maintenance — it’s very, very low maintenance, in fact. It’s easy to collect a few leaves in the bottom when they flow down and settle on top of the reservoir. We also get quite a bit of rain here in the U.K., so we never have to top it off.
I was super excited to play and learn in my own front garden, but I did not think it would be the feature that would put traditional, long-standing building techniques to bed once-and-for-all.
I have always enjoyed playing in the garden with water, but this little creation would end up being a turning point in my career. All I can say is, I must have been destined to help change the way we Brits build and enjoy water features.
The moral of this story is, if you have the space get creative, even if it has to be your own property, it’s much easier to sell a cool water feature if you live the water gardening lifestyle. Don’t stay in your comfort zone. Sometimes by changing your grip, you can make waves.
To anyone not using waterfall foam these days — just get out there and try it for yourself. You will be amazed by the cure speed and how simple it is to use. If you love moss like I do, just stick it on top of the cured foam, as the foam will hold all the water it needs.
We’ve had some fun with it over the past few months; we’ve actually dyed it red to make it look like Ribena — which is a great idea for Halloween!