Adding water to your garden can soothe and restore, whether it's a splashing fountain, babbling rill or calming pond

The Cancer Research UK Pledge Pathway to Progress. Designed by Tom Simpson. Sponsored by Cancer Research UK. RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019. Stand no. 490 | Grand Designs

The Pledge Pathway to Progress show garden for Cancer Research UK at RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival 2019 by Tom Simpson Design

For some, a water feature in a garden may be considered a novelty – an extra element that’s a secondary consideration in the overall landscaping and planting design. However, there are lots of things to think about before simply purchasing one.

From planning permission to design and installation, take a deep dive into these key considerations...

Follow the rules

This stainless steel water wall by David Harber is made to measure and sold with reservoir, pump and LED lights. Fitted with a suitable water filtration and softening package, it needs to be drained a few times a year and refilled with fresh water. Use a lint free soft cloth to carefully clean the steel. From £17,544, including installation and UK mainland delivery.

This stainless steel water wall by David Harber is made to measure and sold with reservoir, pump and LED lights. Fitted with a suitable water filtration and softening package, it needs to be drained a few times a year and refilled with fresh water. Use a lint free soft cloth to carefully clean the steel. From £17,544, including installation and UK mainland delivery.

Planning permission is unnecessary for most water features, particularly if they are self contained and don’t require a mains water supply, you simply fill them with tap water and keep topped up with a hose. But if you are in any doubt, always check with your installer or your local planning office.

You must apply for permission if your property is listed or if it,or the surrounding area, has any of the following classifications: designated land, national park, green belt land or conservation area. Visit planningportal.co.uk for more details.

Under Building Regulations, water pumps and any exterior power source should be fitted with a residual current device (RCD) and electrical equipment must be maintained in a safe condition, with cables and connectors protected against the weather and accidental damage. Ask a qualified electrician to do portable appliance testing (PAT) once the water feature has been installed.

Also, if you intend to pump harvested rainwater via pipework to the feature, you must ensure that the pipework is entirely separate from the mains drinking water supply.

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Which design where?

A bespoke rill, designed and installed by Water Gems in a garden by Ruth Gebbie

A bespoke rill, designed and installed by Water Gems in a garden by Ruth Gebbie 

Choosing a design depends on how complex a project you want to take on, how much space you have and what level and type of water sound you want to hear, if any. When possible, try to listen to a similar example before you buy and consider how you want to feel as you sit beside it.

Also, do you want it to be the focal point or one of several features in the garden, and what should it be made of? Coordinating with existing materials will make it fit in more effectively and should prove more appealing if you decide to sell your home.

Still water solutions

The Zinc Water Surface fountain by Domani has a powder coated inner casing within a zinc outer shell and comes with stainless steel reservoir and pump. £8,795, The Chelsea Gardener

The Zinc Water Surface fountain by Domani has a powder coated inner casing within a zinc outer shell and comes with stainless steel reservoir and pump. £8,795, The Chelsea Gardener

For simplicity and cost effectiveness, choose a freestanding container such as a Corten steel dish, zinc butt, salvaged stone planter or trough. Placed at the corner of a terrace or at a junction, it can become somewhere to stop and linger. Site the feature away from falling leaves as they will turn the water to sludge, and empty it occasionally to scrub away any algae that forms.

Alternatively, use the feature as both the focus and the structure of the garden.‘The shallow, black painted steel pond in the centre draws you in while the top step, in Jura green limestone, wraps around the space to form a bench,’ explains Tom Simpson. The mirror pond is self contained and a design of a similar size, excluding planting, would cost around £7,000-£10,000.

For a naturalistic garden, a planted pond will require more maintenance, but can be installed in ten days if you choose an off the shelf kit.Try UK Water Features.To keep fish, incorporate an electric or solar powered filtration system and pump. Adding a pump powered fountain or water blade to recycle the pond water is better still, while oxygenating plants and barley straw will help keep the water clean.

The Silent Pool Gin Garden designed by David Neale for the Silent Pool Distillery at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

The Silent Pool Gin Garden designed by David Neale for the Silent Pool Distillery at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

For a more substantial design, along the lines of the Silent Pool Gin Garden by David Neale at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, commission an expert via the Society of Garden Designers. They can design and project manage the construction, including any necessary planning applications and tender processes, along with sourcing and buying the materials and planting.

Read more: How to successfully landscape a garden

Go with the flow

This combined planter/water feature uses water from the pool pumped up inside the structure and out through the blade that sits between the row of plants.The flow is powered by a small submersible pump concealed beneath a stone slab at one end of the pool. £5,000 for similar, My Landscapes. 

This combined planter/water feature uses water from the pool pumped up inside the structure and out through the blade that sits between the row of plants.The flow is powered by a small submersible pump concealed beneath a stone slab at one end of the pool. £5,000 for similar, My Landscapes

Easy to install and maintain, plug and play water features, which can be bought off the shelf or custom made, are self circulating and can be easily moved around the garden so long as a waterproof power supply is nearby. ‘Deionised water will control limescale on concrete and standard stainless steel or brass cleansers will maintain the metal spout,’ says Lisa Greenway of Solus Décor UK.

Grow herbs, flowers and vegetables in the pockets of Solaray’s Perth solar 4-tier herb planter cascading water feature. Connect the pump to a solar panel and place in direct sunlight. £124.99, Primrose

Grow herbs, flowers and vegetables in the pockets of Solaray’s Perth solar 4-tier herb planter cascading water feature. Connect the pump to a solar panel and place in direct sunlight. £124.99, Primrose

‘The sight and sound of water walls are captivating – perfect for quiet contemplation and relaxation,’ says sculptor David Harber, whose mirror polished stainless steel feature relies on water pumped from a subterranean reservoir. Reservoirs or water storage and catchment containers are used for many off the shelf options, as well as DIY or bespoke designs. The reservoir needs to have enough capacity to fully and consistently submerge the pump, and if your water feature shoots up into the air, the storage diameter should match the water height. Try Water Gardening Direct for a range of different types.

Considering a water feature for your garden? Let us know by tweeting us @granddesigns or posting a comment on our Facebook page. 

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