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The Water Features Book

The Primrose Water Features Book

Inspiring Stories to Transform your Garden


The Primrose Water Features Book

With gorgeous photography and stories from everyday gardens around the country, The Primrose Water Feature Book will show you how a water feature can transform your outdoor space. Hear from our customers about how they redesigned their gardens and be inspired by the variety of features on offer. Plus get practical advice on everything from building ponds and planting around water to choosing the right material.

It’s no wonder that water features play an important role in garden design today as they have done throughout the ages and around the world. From elaborate Roman baths through to intricate Italian Piazza fountains, medieval stone drinking urns and classical statuettes, water has been nurtured in a variety of artistic ways for the pure delight and enjoyment of others.

Water has been used in this way and even worshipped by the ancient Greeks as nothing really signifies life and vitality quite like a bubbling brook, river or natural spring. Without water there would be no life and incorporating a feature (or two) into your garden, patio, balcony or even desktop space has the potential to instantly invoke a sense of calm and tranquillity.

Whether it’s a striking stainless steel sphere, a rustic rock waterfall or a classical figurine fountain, the sound and movement of running water can help you create a place of relaxation amidst the stresses and pressures of modern everyday life. Much loved by adults and children alike, nowadays features are much more accessibly priced and come in a wide range of sizes, materials, all-in-one designs and textures meaning you’re guaranteed to find something that appeals. You don’t need a large garden to own one. You don’t even need an outside space in fact, as there are many compact models specifically designed for desktop or indoor enjoyment.

Now more of us than ever can own a little backyard oasis from the hectic outside world. With so much choice and easy to install options available, the opportunity to create a beautiful, relaxing, engaging and therapeutic water blessed haven in which to restore the batteries and lift the spirits is well and truly within reach.


Resistance is useless. You have a water feature gene.

In 1993, two artists conducted a poll to answer the question, “What shall we paint for the perfect, bestselling landscape calendar?” The data told them that profits would be maximised by photo-realistic representations of wide vistas of lush grassland, abundant wildlife, clumps of low-branching trees and bubbling-brooks of running water.

Garden designers felt that the perfect English Garden was being described; replete with a bowling-green lawn, bird tables heaving with peanut suet balls and probably a classical, ornate three tiered fountain from Primrose.co.uk. While evolutionary biologists suggested that the calendar would have sold well to our hunter-gathering ancestors on the plains of Africa. Apparently the “perfect landscape painting” captures our primeval need for abundant food and water, long views to give maximum warning of danger and easy-to-climb trees to escape the hyenas.

So there it is: you’re genetically programmed to want a water feature.

Just like you’re genetically programmed to prefer chocolate cake over broccoli. But relax. Unlike the cake, there’s no need to resist your base instincts. As founder of the self-proclaimed “World’s Premier Water Feature Retailer”, I can assure you that having one in your garden is almost certainly essential to the health and wellbeing of both you and your family.

And as we’re talking about that perfect landscape lying beyond your personal back door, do make sure that you make the right choice.

To that end, may I commend the poetic penmanship of Kim Stoddart, and the fine photography of Alex Harvey-Brown, who I trust will inspire, inform and delight you as much as they have me.

Ian Charles


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Chapter 1 - A Place in Time

There’s something incredibly soothing about water. Maybe it’s because it’s such an essential element of life on our blue planet? Certainly the sight and sound of liquid tricking, bubbling or gushing provides a mesmerising delight. It can wash away any stresses and strains of the day, providing a calming balm for the soul. You can’t help but revel in the sheer natural pleasure to be had in any display.

Possibly, water invokes something different in us all. It could be a reminder of the sound of gently lapping waves on a recent beach holiday. Maybe it transports you to the wondrous waterfall on your favourite woodland walk. Or it could be the relaxing sight and sounds don’t make you think of anything, which is a pleasurable end in itself.

It’s no wonder then that water has been presented in so many different ways around the world and has played an important role throughout the ages. This means there is a wealth of history and cultural inspiration to be had in the features that we choose today, no matter where we live.

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Chapter 2 - How to Pick the Right Style for Your Garden

Pick the right style

Your outside space really is an opportunity to create your own little piece of Eden. No matter the size, shape or location, there are plants, features and personal details you can weave in to make it very much your own and it’s great fun to do so. We all have individual preferences in life and these can be reflected easily and effectively in your garden, balcony or back yard. So whether you like the idea of a classical fountain or figurine, a striking modern water wall, a Greystone Porthole Monolith, or a wall mounted Buddha, there is guaranteed to be something that truly floats your boat.

How you like to use your garden is also an important consideration when it comes to choosing. For example if you have a modern, uncluttered area which is mainly used for alfresco dining and entertaining, then you may favour a water feature that can make a stunning focal point with which to impress your friends. Conversely, if you have young children then it’s likely that something robust, and which can withstand a ball being kicked about nearby, would be a preference.

It could be you use your garden as a source of creative inspiration for your work, or that it is mainly a space in which to grow fruit and vegetables and so you’re keen to help draw in a range of beneficial wildlife to help keep slugs and snails at bay. Maybe your outside space is simply a relaxing and low maintenance haven in which to sit and unwind after work?

From country cottage, wildlife, classical or ultramodern through to pure relaxation or oriental-influenced design, whichever your taste, there is a water feature for you. Nowadays we’re positively spoilt for choice when it comes to styles, shapes and designs, so often the only quandary is working out which one to select.

One thing is guaranteed, regardless of whether you plump in the end for a bird bath, sphere, fountain, water wall, cascade, bird table, pond, waterfall or urn; your garden will bubble with life and vitality as a result.

Here are just some considerations to help you decide:

Features for family gardens

Primrose head of buying, Justin says

All water features act as natural magnets for your children. What’s most important is safety, so do select a fountain that is not going to topple over. For outside, I’d recommend something with a buried reservoir such as stainless steel tubes or a water wall. Bubble features are also good as they add colour to your surrounding and come with a remote control which can change the colour and speed, making them ideal for a summer party.

Young children are naturally drawn to water, they are positively fascinated by it in fact, which is great as long as your source is utterly safe. Self-contained features where the water is below ground, or out of sight in an enclosed reservoir, are ideal. The bubbling, flowing or trickling water above ground is still going to capture their interest and imagination, just in a way that is utterly secure.

Otherwise a robust feature is always a good idea as you don’t want anything too delicate when there are little ones pretend sword fighting or playing Pokémon battles nearby. With this in mind, wall mounted fountains or cascades work well, as do Millstones.


Coming in all different shapes and sizes, as a blade they can be attached safely to a wall, while as a feature many are made from solid metal such as stainless steel and as a result, incredibly robust.
Shop all Cascade Water Features

Project Idea - Making a Pond Safe for Children

If you’re set on the idea of an open area of water then a shallow pond is the safest option. Frogs can still lay their eggs and the resulting tadpoles are fascinating and educational for young children to watch. Otherwise existing or deeper ponds can be made secure with the addition of an outside railing (that little people can’t climb through or over) or added to a gated, separate area of a larger garden.
See chapter 7 for more information on ponds and how to build them.

Relaxation garden features

The sound of water is soothing, mesmerising and highly relaxing in itself but if it’s a little piece of zen calm you’re especially looking for then here are some design ideas worth considering:

Rock or wood effect waterfalls

These cleverly crafted, all-in-one structures exude a natural appearance which with the sound of water flowing through, will transport you to an enticing world reminiscent of bubbling woodland brooks. They are guaranteed to help one brush off the stresses of the day and ease into a state of calm tranquillity.
Shop all Rock Waterfalls
Shop all Tree Trunk Falls

Buddha water features

The Buddha symbolises a quest for enlightenment and an end to suffering. Its image is naturally soothing, representing serenity and relaxation within. These compact units often also come with built in lights so will help exude a more relaxed state of mind as required both day and night.
Shop all Buddha Water Features

Design idea — Create an inner sanctuary

Maybe you’d like to create a little meditative haven as part of a wider garden. In which case bamboo or trellis can help create a secluded sanctuary. A garden within a garden which can help provide seclusion as well as another layer of protection against any outside noise. All in one solar features provide greater flexibility in terms of location here as well.

Design Idea

Japanese gardens are synonymous with relaxation and it’s incredibly easy to create this aesthetic yourself if this is what you’re looking for. Rocks always play a big part in the design of these gardens, as do acers, rhododendrons and bamboo.

Water features for attracting wildlife

Having a wide range of wildlife either living in or visiting your garden can be hugely enjoyable. As well as creating a haven for a wide range of creatures and doing your bit for the environment, it can transform your patch into a place of wonder and natural curiosity.

Any water source has the potential to attract at least some wildlife but some features in particular will be especially attractive to a whole host of birds, butterflies, frogs, dragonflies and many more besides.

Bird bath

These simple but delightful structures can range in style from the classical to the contemporary and many come with a built in fountain which is powered by either mains electricity or self-sustaining solar power. Guaranteed to attract lots of feathered friends all year round who may just hang around and pick the slugs, snails, aphids and so forth off your plants by way of thanks.
Shop all Bird Baths


From extremely low maintenance (and easy to set up) pond in a pot kits through to moulds for more in depth build your own pond projects, there are a wide range of options available to buy. Whichever you choose one thing is certain however; build a pond and a whole host of fascinating little creatures will most likely move in.
Shop all Ponds

Features for a smaller space

It’s not true that water features are a preserve of larger gardens. Nowadays there are features suitable for every space and many self-contained units are designed to fit snugly into an existing flowerbed or patio corner without taking up much room at all. There are also many units which are ideal for indoor and even table top or desk use, so no matter where you live there will be a delightful water feature just for you.

All in one features

Nowadays many of the water feature units come with a built in reservoir. Those that have the reservoir blended into the design itself are perfect for patio, decking or small space use. Requiring no digging of any kind, it’s just a case of attaching to a mains power supply or finding a sunny spot for solar, filling with water and they are good to go.

Table top units

Coming in a range of designs and styles, these compact units are ideal for indoor use. Small enough to sit comfortably alongside your laptop on a desk, or to be positioned around your house as a calming stress reliever, they also enable anyone to tap into the marvellous delights of a water feature even if you don’t actually own an outside space.
Shop all Table top units

Design idea — Let there be more light

Still water has fantastic light reflecting qualities so can also be used to bounce light into a shady area of your garden, acting much like a mirror. It can also marvellously create an illusion of greater space. A small still pond is ideal for this purpose and stainless steel features also work well with their additional light reflecting properties.

Classical garden

Now we too can have a piece of country house estate or Italian piazza glamour in our gardens as with advances in materials and technology, beautiful statues, figurines and fountains are much more accessibly priced.

Customer case study—Neil and Sharon Forde and their water wall

Their garden has had a complete makeover recently. With help from a landscaper, and based on their own designs, they have created a thoroughly modern, attractive space for the whole family. Having a good idea of what they wanted, Neil and Sharon started with paper-based sketches before moving on (with assistance from their computer-proficient son) to a properly measured plan.

The old garden was full of shrubs and borders so not at all contemporary, and during the course of the transformation, about 20 tonnes’ worth of rubbish was removed, including the old topsoil, paving and brickwork edging. Only the old decking, summerhouse and some of the old shrubs were kept and added-to with perennial planting in striking orange and green pots.

Neil and Sharon Forde water wall 2

The garden landscaper also installed the water wall for the family – helped by the online information provided by Primrose. For Neil this feature was always going to be a big part of the new garden design. He explains: “we watch a lot of gardening programmes and get ideas from these. My brother in law has a pond and I liked the water but wanted something that made a bit of a statement. The garden looks a lot bigger since we’ve done this work and as soon as I saw this stunning 6ft water wall, I thought I’m having that.”

Neil visits a lot of gardens through his work as an estate agent and can tell those over which people have taken a lot of time and care”. Equally, he knows that an overgrown garden can put people off a property up for sale. For his own purpose he wanted something that looked great, but which was also very easy to look after. He has achieved his aim with a very low maintenance garden where the main upkeep involves a mere 20 minute mow of the lawn. For the water feature, Neil just has to add a little tub of chemicals once a month to keep the water clear and that is all.

Neil and Sharon Forde water wall 3

The family has a couple of raised borders and a lawn, complemented with a seating area and a pathway that leads from the house to the water wall outside, which takes pride of place. The house has French doors which open out onto the garden, so to Neil and Sharon the outside space feels very much like another room to their house.

“We use the garden for socialising a lot, and anyone that comes round for the first time is blown away by it.” Neil reveals, “It’s so tidy, smart and modern. My son and daughter really enjoy having their friends around as well. I barbeque a lot, and have a small pizza oven and the water feature is on a lot of the time because even if I’m not outside I can see it from the kitchen and use a remote control to turn it on from the house. Even when I’m walking the dog,

I have it on, any excuse to enjoy it. I’ve also installed LED spotlights nearby so even when it’s dark you can see it. It really looks the business.” The couple get an immense out of pleasure from their garden, they see its recent transformation as a real financial and lifestyle investment for the future. They are very happy indeed.

About the vertical water wall

A stunning contemporary addition to any garden, the mirrored feature comes with a reservoir and pump which can be installed underground for maximum visual impact. As Neil has done, pebbles or slate can be used once everything is in place and provide an attractive addition around the water wall, also acting as a cover for the feet and pump underneath.

The high quality stainless steel sheets which form the structure are extremely resistant to corrosion and when turned on, the water will cascade gently down both sides of the feature, creating a relaxing and mesmerizing display from all angles.

It’s ideal for outdoor use and guaranteed to create an attractive visual focus and easily maintained. A keen talking point for many years to come.

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Chapter 3 - Stone vs Plastic

Stone v Plastic

You hopefully now have an idea of the types of water features that interest you. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming knowing which one to choose as there are so many available. To help you decide which one might be best here’s a look at some of the different materials used in water feature construction and the different qualities of each.

Nothing says classical water feature like a figurine or ornate fountain carved out of stone or marble. It affords a little piece of renaissance magic and indeed country estate class to your outside space. However, just because it looks like sandstone or granite doesn’t mean that’s actually what it’s made from, as polyresin (a form of plastic) is fantastic at recreating the look of all manner of natural materials and intricate shapes. It has also had a big hand in helping to make ornate statues, previously a preserve of stately homes, much more accessible to us all. There are also benefits to plastic that might make it a more attractive choice for your garden or patio than the pure stone alternative. Or it could be stone ticks more boxes in terms of personal preference.

Here’s a look at the highs and any lows of each material to help you decide:

The low down on stone

It could be said that a real stone feature conveys a sense of history, representing decorative water fountains and statues which have been enjoyed throughout the ages. Much heavier than plastic, this totally natural material can provide an elegant, classical look that is hard to beat. Of course it is more challenging to move about because of its weight but if you know just the perfect spot then that really doesn’t matter. Over time stone can attract lichen and moss growth which may need to be removed but otherwise once in place it will also stand firm against even the strongest winds, making it a reliable, very resilient option.

The main types of stone available include:

Cast Stone

Strong and low maintenance, this is known as one of the most reliable materials when it comes to building anything so it’s able to handle the unpredictable British weather with resilient gusto.

Primrose water feature buyer, Vincent says

We offer a lot of polyresin water features with a real-stone effect. They are lighter than natural stone but heavy enough to ensure stability in your garden. Other materials like Glass Fiber Reinforced concrete combines the finish of stone but with a much lighter material, which makes it much easier to handle during the installation, or at a later stage if you wish to change its location in your garden.

We’ve been designing water features for more than a decade, and we are always looking to improve the quality of the finish of our features. We are working very closely with our factories to ensure our demanding quality standards are met during production (not only the visual finish but also the sturdiness of the product in harsh conditions). We’re regularly looking at new materials to use in order to create new astonishing and unique designs!

Stainless steel is a great option for a sleek modern design, while zinc or corten steel will bring a more industrial rough-looking touch to your garden.

Polyresin as a viable alternative

A long lasting form of plastic, this clever material makes an attractive and viable recreation (and substitution) for a number of natural materials including stone, rock, fossilised wood and ivory. It can effectively adopt the rough texture of water-eroded rock which looks as though it has been maturing nicely in your garden for years, as easily as it can transform into the smooth, polished finish of a classical ivory figurine. More lightweight than real stone, it is extremely portable as a result. This may in turn make it a more practical option for your garden, especially if you’re planning on moving home at some point in the future and really don’t want to leave your water feature behind.

The material is also durable with UV and frost resistance, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.


For a lighter-weight-granite-effect we have developed “Stone Touch” — this is a method of electroplating stone powder onto stainless steel giving the advantage of being more portable and easier to install, whilst retaining the full look and feel of real stone.

Cast limestone

A product which has a similar surface texture to Portland stone.


No two sandstone pieces are ever the same which is part of its charm. Due to natural mineralisation the material boast variety in colour, pattern, texture and veining. With the application of water varying shades of grey, black, pearl and copper almost magically appear.


Beautiful, durable and naturally very weather resistant, it makes a nice choice.

View all stone water features.

Primrose head of buying, Justin says

As with most items, there are water feature trends which seem to go around in circles like fashion; copper is on the up, corten has seen a revival which is now starting to diminish.

Modern design materials

Stainless steel exudes contemporary, and this material is used to great effect in a range of attractive, modern water features. From stunning water walls and spheres to tubes, cascades and many more design-led shapes and structures besides, it’s no wonder these statement pieces are popular with garden designers. Yet you don’t have to be a professional to easily incorporate one into your backyard.

Customer case study — Roger Warner and his polyresin waterfall cascade

Cascade effect water feature

A big fan of water features, Roger has a total of seven in his back garden, including this one. He was looking for a more powerful display with a built-in pond to add to his collection, and as such this waterfall really caught his eye.

The inspiration for this most recent addition came by way of his local garden centre where he was browsing for ideas. Although taken with the selection they had on offer, Roger was most delighted to save a considerable amount of money by purchasing it instead by way of the Primrose website.

Roger’s mother was a keen gardener and it was when she died that he started getting into it himself. Over the years, he has modified and designed the outside space single-handed, and his tastes have evolved and changed. Friendly with Patrick Moore, Roger used to be really into astronomy which was reflected in the domes he had in his garden at the time. More recently, water features have become a prime focus. For his latest addition, Roger designed a rockery area complete with a small hydrangea, rosemary and assorted planting.

He explains, “The assembly of the feature was dead easy. It’s quite loud when the water is flowing down into the pond below, it’s really nice. You can also adjust the flow if you prefer a quieter sound. We have it switched on all the time we are here unless it’s raining. People tell me how lovely it is and I think at least one of my friends is now interested in getting one for themselves as a result of seeing mine.”

A keen wildlife photographer, Roger travels a lot in search of his latest picture. When he’s not out tracking kingfishers or wasp spiders, his back garden affords him with an equal sense of back-to-nature enjoyment. With its beautiful lawn and low maintenance water feature-themed aesthetic, Roger and his wife enjoy spending a lot of time here.

In nice weather, they’ll sit outside on sun loungers, enjoying the sight and sound of the running water. When it rains they are still able to appreciate the view over lunch or dinner by way of their log cabin which looks out over the space. Roger has installed thousands of lights all the way round the garden so at night time the whole garden is lit up in a vibrant display.

The space itself also attracts a lot of wildlife with birds in particular drawn to the water features there. Frequent visitors include pigeons, robins, dunnocks, sparrows and blue tits so there’s plenty of wild inspiration for Roger as he plans his next photography expedition.

“I’ve always been a creative person,” Roger reveals, “I do most of the work myself and get appreciation from that. My wife enjoys the space but I’m the gardener. I’m really happy with how it all looks and so pleased to be keeping alive the green-fingered-tradition of my late mother.”

About the feature

Crafted out of high-quality polyresin to create a rock-like pool, this waterfall cascade makes a stunning addition to Roger’s garden. It’s fully self-contained which means that no additional reservoir is required; the water gently flows through the stone-effect tiers before being recirculated around to the top again via the base. The large pool can also be used as a pond if so desired. The structure comes with an attractive life-like moss effect and is UV- and frost-resistant so very suitable for outdoor use.

As Roger found it is also incredibly easy to set up. Simply remove from the box, connect it to a power source, add water and within just a few minutes it will be up and running. Then all you need to do is to factor in time to sit and enjoy the highly relaxing spectacle.

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Chapter 4 - Solar vs Mains Powered

Solar v Mains

With innovations in materials and technology over the years, water features have moved from an exclusive preserve of the wealthy to a much more affordable option for your everyday garden lover. Solar has played a significant role in helping to widen that reach even further, making it possible for people to have their own little oasis without the need for the installation of an outside power supply.

The only requirement is sun, and as many of the solar water features now come with built-in rechargeable batteries that store energy, solar enables you to potentially delight in the beauty of running water on even the greyest of days.

Of course a mains-powered feature can be turned on at any time all year round, whereas a solar-enabled fountain or cascade will run if either it’s sunny or the battery has been charged. It stands to reason that the greater the pump requirements, the more power will be needed in order for it to run, so therefore most solar options are for water features at the smaller end of the size scale, where they work much more effectively. Conversely, a large majority of mains-powered features are positioned very close to a house, as this makes it easier to provide an outside electricity connection and reduces the amount of digging required to bury connecting cables.

At the end of the day there are reasons for and against each, it really comes down to what you want for your garden, how you’d like to use it and the logistics in terms of how to power it for your outside space.

When to consider solar

These units are much quicker and easier to install generally than mains powered features. There is no need to call out an electrician, no need to dig or lay cables, just choose a sunny spot and away you go.

Not everyone wants a water feature right outside their home. If you have a favoured area at the back of your garden where you like to sit because it’s a suntrap and especially quiet then a solar option is probably best.

Environmental concerns can help fuel a purchase because of course solar technology is much gentler on the planet with power generated from a completely sustainable source right there in your back garden.

Generally, solar is lower voltage so could be considered safer than mains electricity (and an outdoor power socket and cabling), especially if you have little ones running around nearby. Maybe you’d like the option to move your feature about the garden, depending on how the mood takes you. In which case, most solar options are all in one and can follow the sun around your garden, depending on where you’d like them placed.

It could be that you find out there are utility cables buried in your garden where you were thinking of having a mains-powered feature, in which case this could be your best bet as there is no digging required.

Last but certainly by no means least, it will save you cash in the long term as there are no energy charges whatsoever. With the seemingly ever increasing cost of energy, power that comes for free courtesy of the sun seems like a sensible choice.

View all solar water features.

Project Idea

Did you know that old mains electricity powered water features can also easily be converted to free-to-run solar energy? It’s simply a case of buying one of the new solar water pumps kits, preferably with battery backup included and swapping it over.

When mains powered features are the best option

If you would like a larger water feature (which has greater energy requirements) then a mains electricity supply would be recommended for all-round reliability.

Equally, if you would like to use your water wall or similar feature a lot and would like a guarantee that this would always be possible, then mains would be best.

It could be you already have a safe, weather-proofed outdoor electricity socket, in which case it will be fairly straightforward to connect your feature.

Likewise, if you really want to have your new addition very close to your house so it can be enjoyed from inside as well as out, then the logistics in terms of power connection will be relatively straightforward. An electrician will be able to advise and enable safe installation.

A lot of features now come with built-in lights which allow additional after-dark enjoyment, which is great but which means they use up extra power.

Additionally, a lot of people like to add additional lights around their little piece of oasis to showcase it even further, in which case an outdoor power source would certainly be recommended.

View our favourite mains water feature, the Kendal Cascade.

Primrose water feature buyer, Vincent says

Our solar panels use high converting efficiency polycrystalline solar cells, protected with special toughened glass, UV and weatherproof materials and a durable aluminium alloy frame to ensure the product will withstand harsh weather conditions year after year. We make sure every single piece of the solar panel is tested during the production process.

How battery backups work

Solar-powered structures with rechargeable batteries enable you to enjoy your water feature regularly, regardless of whatever the weather happens to be doing. As long as there is enough charge to run the pump, the feature will happily flow away. The feature can be turned off so that on sunny days, when not in use, the batteries will fill with energy until you are ready to switch them on again.

A look at solar lighting options

Again, if you don’t have an outdoor electricity supply and don’t want to go to the hassle of calling out an electrician and running cables through your flower beds, these are well worth considering. This environmental alternative also comes with a built-in, feel-good factor along with money-saving to boot.

Solar lights are also incredibly portable and many come with a built-in battery with an on/off switch so power harnessed on a sunny day can be enjoyed on a dull, overcast day as and when required.

Primrose customer case study — Steve Anns and his pond in a pot

Originally, the space was going to be used for a koi carp pond before Steve realised that would involve a lot of work, especially with upkeep, and decided against it. For a short time, the bed was used as veg patch before being transformed into the beautiful water feature display that it is today.

A keen gardener with a love for making his creative ideas a reality, Steve built the base himself out of railway sleepers with decking on top and decorative stone which makes a great surround. He found the water feature itself through an internet search and knew on sight that it would fit perfectly in his intended spot. As it’s in partial shade, water planting was chosen with this in mind and ongoing maintenance-wise, it’s just a case of keeping it topped up with water every now and again and that is all. As Steve explains, “It’s really easy to maintain, very attractive and fits in well with the rest of the garden. I live in a quiet spot and really enjoy the sound of the water fountain, it’s nice and gentle, I often sit on the decking and have a cup of tea when I’ve finished gardening.”

His dad had a greenhouse and enjoyed spending time in the backyard so has definitely been a major influence in Steve’s love of the great outdoors. As he tells it, “Gardening is my main hobby, I’d say I spend about half a year out in the garden, I find it very enjoyable and therapeutic. It’s such a relaxing place in which to be.”

Steve really enjoys coming up with new ideas for his outside space, adding plants and little touches that complement what is already there. More recently, he has created a feature at the back of the pond with pebbles and broken pots and there are plans to replace his patio in the very near future. He now has a couple of thousand plants in his garden. He favours perennials rather than annuals nowadays and likes planting based on colour matching with yellows and reds and blues and whites. The garden bursts with creativity and has lots of different areas of interest, and seating to best enjoy the sound of running water in a tranquil setting.

About the pond in a pot

The fibreglass pond comes with a solar-powered water pump kit and a selection of six plants chosen to be suitable in a semi-shaded spot at the seasonal time of purchase.

As Steve confirmed, it’s incredibly easy to set up and totally free to run with the accompanying solar-powered pump kit. It’s just a case of keeping the water topped up during a dry spell and protecting the plants against any frosts come winter. Otherwise it includes everything you need to have your charming water feature up and running almost straight away.

Just some of the delightful pond plants that could be included (depending on the time of year of dispatch include):

Heart Shaped Houttuynia — Houttuynia cordata ‘Plena’

Featuring delicate white petals with yellow spikes at their base, the heart-shaped leaves combined with the orange scent make this a delightfully aromatic and aesthetic addition.

Common Cotton Grass — Eriophorum Angustifolium

Looking like cotton with a hairy texture to the flowers, this plant blooms in summer and provides a nice visual contrast to the other darker foliage.

Golden Creeping Jenny — Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’

With its small green leaves and fast-spreading yellow, cup-shaped flowers this is an attractive, easy-to-grow plant for your pond.

Water forget-me-not — Myosotis Scorpioides

The pretty miniature sky-blue flowers bloom in summer through to autumn and feature a distinctive central yellow eye. They can reach up to 50cm in height, and their spread can extend up to 50cm.

Carnation Grass — Carex Panicea

Ideal for small ponds and water features, this slender blue/green semi-evergreen will provide foliage throughout milder winters.

Water Hawthorn — Aponogeton Distachyus

Good for attracting wildlife to your pond, the green, glossy leaves of this exotic plant feature forked racemes of small, fragrant, white flowers with purple anthers. The leaves themselves can spread up to 1m so also help to provide shade to the water below, thereby helping to reduce algae growth.

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Chapter 5 - Where to Put Your Water Feature

Where to Put Your Water Feature

So you’ve chosen (or have a good idea) which feature you’d like for your garden and now want to figure out where it should go. Or maybe you’re undecided and would rather choose a suitable spot first before making that decision. Don’t worry, either which way is fine, we all work differently and this is about you and your garden, so it’s good to make the design decision very much your own, starting with the planning process itself.

It might be that you’ve been inspired by a TV gardening show or a display seen at a show or online. Maybe it was a visit to a country estate that first whet your interest in water features, certainly such prestigious piles used to host a feature or several, as doing so signified status and wealth. Nowadays, you’re just as likely to pick up ideas from a friend or neighbour, as through modern technology and more accessibly priced materials, we can all tap into the many rich benefits of incorporating a pond, fountain or water wall into our back gardens. There’s a welcome and beneficial place for a water feature (or two) wherever we happen to live and however we like to use our precious outside space.

First things first

Are you looking to redesign your whole garden, or just to add a feature within your existing layout? This is the first, most important consideration along with the practicalities of positioning such as: is there an outdoor plug socket nearby, and if you plan to position the feature reservoir underground, then are you sure it’s a safe place to dig? The section on safety below explains this in more detail.

Positioning as part of a complete garden redesign

If it’s a complete makeover you’re after, then it’s worth considering using a water feature as a central focus and drawing plans with this in mind. For example, planning seating areas nearby, all the better to enjoy the view, and pathways positioned to lead to and from the display in all its glory will help reinforce its place at the centre of your garden universe.

With additional LED lighting, it’s often the case that a feature can be enjoyed from various angles come day or night, including from inside the house itself.

Adding a water feature to your existing space

In this case, it’s worth walking around your garden and considering how you use it now, before thinking about where your new structure should go. There’s little to be gained from placing something so potentially beneficial in a rarely visited part of your garden unless it’s a birdbath which is more likely to be used by said feathered friends in a quieter corner. Otherwise, near existing seating, closer to the house, is often a popular choice. Of course seating can easily be moved about but most likely you already have it placed in the best spot. This is why working around what you already have makes a lot of sense so you can fully enjoy the hugely relaxing and entertaining benefits that a little piece of garden oasis is guaranteed to bring.

Positioning practicalities

As the previous chapter on solar vs mains electricity outlined, an outside power source isn’t always essential. It also partly depends on the type of feature you’d like and how you plan to use it realistically as to whether a solar-powered option would work for you. If you do require mains input then a waterproof outside plug socket is likely to be necessary. If you don’t already have one then an electrician will be able to install one for you suitably near to your chosen spot. However, the further away from the house that happens to be, the more work that this will most likely entail. This is why a lot of people have their features close to home, which also has the added benefit of enabling them to enjoy the visual spectacle from inside as well as out.

Equally important to bear in mind is that if any digging is required in the installation of your feature, you’ll need to first check where any underground drains or electrical cables might be and make sure you dig away from them. If you’re not sure then it’s worth contacting your local service providers to check. Again, this often makes nearer the house a better option.

Primrose water feature buyer, Vincent says

The important thing when you decide where to install your water feature is power supply. Whether it’s a mains powered water feature with wiring to consider, or if it’s a solar water feature which requires direct sunlight, you need to think about it.

Other considerations

If you are using planting

If your feature will incorporate plants, either within (such as a pond in a bowl) or surrounding then a sunny spot will be necessary to enable the plants to prosper and grow.

Avoid overhanging trees

Avoiding an area with overhanging trees makes sense in the majority of cases as fallen leaves will create more work; falling in the water, potentially clogging the pump and landing on the feature itself. Also, an area close to trees will most likely have large roots underground which will make digging difficult and, over time, could cause damage to any buried reservoir as the roots widen and grow.

Other ways to use your feature

If you have noisy neighbours or can hear the sound of traffic nearby then a water feature with a stronger flow especially can be used to help draw attention away from the troublesome distraction and into the calming sound of the water. If this is the case for you, then positioning the feature furthest away from the source of irritation near to a seating area can be combined with the use of hedges or fencing and indeed internal garden screens to create a haven of calm in your midst.

If you have an unsightly area of your garden, or your space overlooks something not quite so easy on the eye, then a large feature which commands attention can also be used to draw focus in and away.

Additionally, some people use water, which often sparkles in the sunshine, to bounce light into darker, shadier areas of an outside space. While if you have a veg patch, then a little wildlife pond positioned nearby will be perfect for drawing slug- and snail-eating heroes such as frogs and newts right where you need them most.

Primrose customer case study — Paul Smith and his water wall

Water features have always been a garden must-have for Paul and his wife. Wherever they’ve lived, they’ve had at least one. As Paul explains, “Alfresco dining plays a huge part in our lives for relaxation and socialising. My wife, Julie, and I are enthusiastic gardeners, not very knowledgeable but dead keen on having a lovely laid-out and practical garden to use all year round. We try to sit out most nights. I like to come home from work and eat dinner with a nice glass of wine outside. Wherever I sit, the sound of the water is very soothing and the sight gives that all important wow factor. Our water wall is simply stunning and sets off the whole garden.”

Their 4ft polished stainless steel wall has been given pride of place in the centre of their garden. Around it, they have added lights and created a central boardwalk with lots of shrubs, annuals and grasses which leads to three different social zones for eating, seating and entertaining. It has been designed in such a way that the feature can be seen and heard wherever you are. Their gazebo, which has heating and lighting, means the garden can be enjoyed whatever the weather.

Inspired by the orient, the garden has an almost Japanese feel to it, especially in one of the zones where this has been made an integral part of the design. Plants have been chosen accordingly with the likes of Japanese acers providing the right aesthetic.

The couple had their eye on this water feature for a while and found it relatively straightforward to install themselves. Paul elaborates, “As a very capable DIY person, it was quite easy to fit. The most important thing was to ensure the 200 litre water table was 100% level. It did require two people at one point. We have the water feature running 24/7 because this is best for the pump; switching it on and off can reduce the pump’s life.”

All friends, family and guests love the feature which very much provides a central focal point to this garden. It also affords a great talking point and Paul’s sister-in-law likes it so much she is planning on getting one for herself.

About the double-sided vertical water wall

The stylish, modern design makes this a popular choice and has seen the water wall featured in many publications and on TV by way of popular ITV gardening show Love Your Garden with Alan Titchmarsh.

It is extremely resistant to corrosion and therefore ideal for outdoor use in a range of settings. The water feature comes with a large 200-litre capacity reservoir which can be hidden underground, leaving only the stunning water wall visible to the eye. Once fixed into place, pebbles or slate can be used as an attractive, decorative display around the feature, still enabling easy access to pump and reservoir beneath.

Made from only the highest-quality stainless steel (grade 304), which is the type used for hospital surgical equipment, it comes with a strong chromium content which reacts with oxygen to form a protective layer and which provides all-important extra resistance to corrosion.

Guaranteed to make a striking, contemporary addition to any outside space, the water catches the light as it gently cascades down both sides of the wall, creating a truly mesmerising effect.

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Chapter 6 - Step by Step Installation Guide

Installation Guide

So many of the all-in-one features are very straightforward to install nowadays. Once you have established what you would like, and where, then it’s just a case of connecting to a power supply (electric or solar), adding water, maybe some planting, lights and decorative pebbles and it’s good to flow.

Sometimes a little more work is required if for example you want to bury the reservoir, add lighting or position a feature in a flower bed or mount it onto a wall. In the case of connecting to an outdoor or indoor power supply, an electrician will most likely be required. Otherwise here’s a look at how installation can easily be undertaken at home with just a little effort and care.

Primrose water feature buyer, Vincent says

Some water features may require a little more installation; we offer 10 meters of cable with most of our water features. This gives you enough freedom to install the water feature wherever you need to. As far as the installation and the wiring is concerned, each case can be different so we recommend seeking advice from a qualified electrician to make sure the installation is safe and complies with legislation (part P of the Building Regulation).

It is important to make sure cables are protected, and if they are buried that they are deep enough to avoid any risk of damaging the cable during installation. There are a range of solutions available in DIY shops to make sure your installation is safe, such as waterproof connectors, armoured cables and outdoor plugs.

Mains pumps can be wired into a junction box within the garden, fed through a house or garage wall or even plugged into an outdoor socket. Wherever the pump is plugged into we recommend fitting the plug with an RCD.

How many people are required for installation?

You may need the assistance of an electrician for the power supply, otherwise most features can be installed by one person. It’s only the larger structures where two people may be needed to get everything in place.

#No water supply required

Nowadays it’s rare for a mains water connection to be needed. Instead, just fill the feature reservoir with water from a tap and this is all that is needed for circulation by the pump. Just remember to keep it topped up so the reservoir always stays full.

Power supply

Most mains electricity-powered features come with a 10-metre cable which can be used to connect to an outdoor socket, or power supply in a garage or shed. The cable can be extended if required and armoured trucking around the cable is recommended if it is to be buried in the ground as this provides protection against accidental damage.

A solar feature however doesn’t have any cabling and comes instead with either a built-in renewable energy capability or an accompanying panel with which to harness the sun’s rays.

How to install an underground reservoir

In the case of some larger features, it looks best to have the reservoir below ground so just the decorative structure itself is in view. This will involve some digging and potential burying of armoured (protected) cables in your garden to present and power your feature in all its glory.

Water feature installation step 1 Step 1 – Check there are no utility pipes or cables in your chosen spot, then dig a hole, larger than the reservoir.

Water feature installation step 2 Step 2 – Attach all the fittings together and lower the reservoir into the hole. Making sure it is level.

Water feature installation step 3 Step 3 – Attach the pump to the bottom of the water feature.

Water feature installation step 4 Step 4 – Attach the feature now to the pump.

Water feature installation step 5 Step 5 – Fill the reservoir with water and place the lid on top.

Water feature installation step 6 Step 6 – Kick back and enjoy your delightful water feature.

How to install a wall-mounted fountain

A picture hanger or hook on the feature is attached to the wall by way of a securely fixed screw or nail. The all-important pump itself is then housed under the water and not normally at all visible to the eye. A small tube from the submerged pump then feeds the water up behind the back of the feature so it can cascade down with the help of gravity from the top.

Design tip

Water features look great surrounded by at least some planting, pebbles or as part of an existing flowerbed.

Primrose customer case study — Colin Doyle and his cascade blade

Colin Doyle has lived at his home in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire for more than 30 years and his Cascade water feature has pride of place. In fact, it’s the first thing you see as you enter his garden from the house. Situated in such a way that it can be enjoyed from inside as well as out, Colin loves opening up the patio doors from his living room of an evening so he and his wife can enjoy the delightful garden view whatever the weather.

The garden was a clay pit when they first moved in, and over the years they’ve built a patio and carefully developed, shaped and stocked it to their taste. The couple really enjoy watching gardening programmes and seeing the show gardens at Chelsea Flower Show. They are always thinking of and getting inspired by new ideas.

For Colin, his garden is also a very therapeutic space where after a busy, sometimes stressful day at work he can spend time pottering around with his bedding plants, perennials and flowers as well as relaxing as he soaks it all in. Even when he’s not outside, he can now enjoy some of these benefits from the house. The water feature is clearly visible as you look out into the garden from the living room and has been customised with a lovely glass image of a tree so that it almost makes you feel as if you are already outside, without moving a step.

The Cascade can also be illuminated and this works especially well at night time, when it really draws the attention. The pump itself can also be turned on and off and again, Colin tends to have this switched on as and when they want to enjoy the full effect, so this is normally when they have people round or just want to enjoy it themselves of an evening or weekend. Popular with friends and family, Colin’s nephew and nieces are especially fascinated by the water.

Never ones to stand still, the family have many plans afoot including the sourcing of a selection of vinyl glass backdrops so they can be alternated as the mood takes them. This clever customisation of the water feature affords a great example of how it can be individually adjusted to suit one’s own taste. Just some of the ideas Colin is contemplating include a vinyl of the garden in bloom and a Father Christmas backdrop to add that festive touch for younger family members during December.

Like most water features, the Cascade can also be used as a relaxing distraction against surrounding noise pollution such as noisy neighbours or a busy road nearby. It can however also be enjoyed as a gentler trickle of water, which is the Doyles’ personal preference.

As first-time purchasers of a water feature, the couple really benefited from the advice and information readily available via the Primrose team. From helping to decide which product would work best for their garden in the first place, to what pump to go for and electrics, Colin told me it made the decision-making so much easier.

When it came to the actual installation, a couple of friends helped out and they all found it straightforward in the extreme. The water feature may be a relatively new addition in Colin’s garden but as he told me, “We are delighted with everything about it - I just can’t believe we’ve waited this long to have one.”

About the cascade blade

A very versatile product, as Colin has demonstrated it can be used in a variety of ways in a garden. When used without a vinyl glass backdrop it will create a beautiful sheet of water (or blade) which can cascade into a pool or hidden reservoir below. When mounted above a pond this can make a distinct waterfall feature, which also has the added benefit of oxygenating the water below. Alternatively, when situated above a reservoir or pebble pool, the water will make a modern effect, appearing to vanish into the ground as it is recycled round to enable a continued display.

Easy to install against a wall or existing structure, it can also be illuminated at night with an LED kit or spotlights to create a vibrant and indeed colourful evening display to be proud of.

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Chapter 7 - Pond Life

Pond Life

Whilst the majority of self-contained water features are incredibly straightforward to set up and low maintenance overall, a pond can require a bit more time, thought, attention and care. It’s completely worth the investment however, as having one will open up a whole new world of water plant growing and wildlife spotting opportunities. Tranquil, beautiful and teaming with life and vitality, these open water sources are often a majestic sight to behold.

Although it can be a very complex subject, with a myriad of different choices and decisions, especially if you’re thinking about keeping ornamental fish, here is a fuss-free look at how a pond can easily be incorporated into a garden, patio or even a balcony space.

Pond in a pot

First off we have the most straightforward option of all – which is buying a ready-made pond in a pot. This all-in-one fibreglass pond comes with a choice of water plants suited to your chosen location so all you have to do is add water, the plants and your own little oasis is ready to go.

The kit also comes with a solar-powered pump and is an extremely low maintenance option overall.

Primrose plants buyer, Alex says

The most popular oxygenating plant was ELODEA CRISPA for many years but an EU directive came into force in 2016 banning its sale across Europe. Water Moss or FONTINALIS ANTIPYRETICA is a very attractive plant with the capability of taking up the mantle as top oxygenator. Its delicate structure and vibrant green colour also make it a favourite for designers.

Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides is also a strong alternative with a very different aesthetic. Larger leaves look a bit like coriander and it protrudes further out of the water. Sales of this have certainly seen an improvement since the ban.

Interestingly, Ramshorn snails have been outselling most plants recently. They are strong oxygenators and do a great job of cleaning the water.

Building a pond – what to consider

Choose your spot

Pond plants need a lot of sunlight to prosper and grow so a sunny spot is highly recommended. Ideally it’s best to avoid an area with overhanging trees, simply because you’ll be making work for yourself each autumn otherwise, with leaves to dredge out and clear. Otherwise, as with any water feature, it’s important to consider how you intend to use it. So for example if you’re planning on adding a fountain then you might want it to be visible from the house or by a seating area. If its main purpose is to attract wildlife then a more secluded part of the garden where it’s quieter will be more attractive to a wide range of creatures. Otherwise safety for any likely young visitors should be an important consideration. See Chapter 4 for more practical advice on choosing a location.

What type of pond?

A small still pond can be either built raised on a patio or lawn, or buried into the ground with the use of a liner, or mould. There are so many different sizes, shapes and possibilities from which to choose, the main thing to bear in mind first is what you want your pond for. If it’s as an attractive design feature then a smaller formal structure will work nicely, adding something really special to your garden and giving you the opportunity to grow plants such as water lilies within. These normally have patio stones or paving around the outside to complete the symmetrical, design-centred look. A still body of water can also be used to reflect light and create an illusion of more space so it’s suitable and indeed beneficial for even the smallest patio or garden.

If it is movement and the sound of flowing water you really hanker for, then a small fountain can easily be incorporated within. Such a pump powered system will also work to aerate the water, helping to keep mosquitos and stagnation at bay. In a small pond do be careful with floating plants near a pump however; they could be sucked in as well as the water in the surrounding area which could cause problems for the pump as well as the plants themselves.

An informal pond as they’re called, which in my mind means more of wildlife pond, is normally made using a liner dug into the ground and surrounded with large rocks or stones. If it’s a lower maintenance option you’re looking for then it’s worth bearing in mind that larger, more naturalistic ponds require less ongoing upkeep than smaller ones as the ecosystem within will most likely be more balanced.

View all ponds.

Do you want fish?

If so you’ll need to plump for a larger pond ideally with a depth of at least 3ft or 90cm for larger fish such as koi – or 45cm for smaller fish like goldfish and brush up on the subject much more besides.

Building a pond – step by step installation

1 If you’re digging down then first check there are no utility pipes or cables below.

2 If using a plastic mould then you’ll need to dig out a shape larger than the pond itself to enable the mould to fit. You fill in any gaps later with sand or soil. Then ensuring the pond is level using a plank of wood or spirit level is sensible. If you’re using a flexible liner instead then you can just work around the shape and depth you decide upon.

3 A layer of sand or pond underlay is then recommended to help avoid ground stones from scratching and damaging over time your preformed pond or liner.

4 If using a liner, weigh down the edges with stones and use a hosepipe to fill your pond with water. Non chlorinated rainwater from a garden butt is preferable but not essential here. It is recommended that you fill it to roughly 2-3 inches from the surface before leaving it 24 hours for the pond to settle.

5 Next it’s time to create your edging which very much depends on the type of pond you have in mind. For a formal look, paving slabs, tiles or cement work well, otherwise for a more naturalistic aesthetic then stones or boulders are just the job. Liner edges can also be covered and held firmly in place this way. Mortaring stones together is also an option.

6 Planting looks delightful as well as helping to reduce water evaporation in the summer and providing protection for wildlife or fish down below. Aquatic plants are generally fairly low maintenance as long as you have the right balance. For example too many plants will choke the life out of a pond, whilst too few will likely mean there isn’t enough oxygen.


Make sure to use special aquatic compost or garden soil if a growing matter is required as normal compost will be too rich and will damage the pond.

7 If you want to have movement in your pond then a submersible pump is best attached to a solid base (such as a brick or slab of concrete) so it can sit submerged in the water. The base avoids the pump picking up and debris from the bottom.

8 Solar pumps make a good choice if your pond isn’t near an outdoor socket.

9 As a final touch outdoor lights will make your pond come alive after dark.

Case study — My own water features

As a gardening writer, I love experimenting with new growing and design ideas. It provides material for my work, as well as creating a nice and productive outside space in which to be. Now that I’m also running a range of gardening courses for the general public as well as therapeutic gardening sessions, the enjoyable, invigorating and soothing properties of water, and features in all their exciting different forms, have become more important than ever.

With an extensive veg patch, polytunnels and a small orchard; attracting pollinating insects and beneficial wildlife into my gardens has always been important. The two ponds that I have in the garden do their job well, providing a desirable habitat for frogs, newts and dragonflies, to name but a few. These creatures in turn help to create a balanced ecosystem on my plot, eating slugs, snails, aphids and so forth so their numbers don’t get out of hand and eat all of my crops. Very informal in nature, these ponds have been created simply using pond liner held down at the edges with stones and require very little upkeep at all.

It never fails to inspire and delight, coming across a frog or newt whilst working in the gardens. Or hearing the chatter and song of the birds as they fly over to drink or splash in the water nearby. The dragonflies that emerge in the summer, alongside the abundant variety of butterflies and moths, bring joy and wonderment to even the most world-weary of folk that come here. I believe nature in all its multi-coloured glory really does have the potential to lift the spirits and the great thing is that even the smallest water source in your garden is enough to help encourage at least some wildlife in.

To complement this, we have recently added a bubble tube water feature which by means of its portable nature can be enjoyed both inside and out. With its colour changing column of LED lights which are controlled by remote, it’s just as much at home nestled in one of the raised beds on the veg patch as it is the polytunnel when I am teaching, or around the home for my autistic son to enjoy inside the house.

It’s no wonder that these attractive sensory columns are widely used in a variety of settings. As much at place in schools and classrooms as they are in offices, restaurants or gardens, the captivating display of bubbles and changing array of colours can relax and provide enchantment for adults and children alike.

The unit is also incredibly easy to set up; it’s simply a case of choosing your spot, filling with water (I tend to use a watering can) and plugging it in. It lends itself very well to being moved about as it is very light once the water has been drained out. This makes it perfect for my requirements as I can move it around according to wherever I happen to be teaching at the time.

I believe that water is very therapeutic in nature and makes a hugely beneficial and rewarding addition to any outside space. As such, we will be further increasing the number of features in and around the gardens over the coming year. This includes adding a fountain and some more water plants to the additional small pond outside the back of my home as I want to make more of a feature out of this one. Also because of its location near to the house, it will mean the spectacle can be enjoyed more widely.

Then, making the best use of a partly enclosed patio area which I am about to redesign, a wall fountain head feature is going to be used as central focus. I’m not quite sure on which design as yet but the wall Fish Fountain Water Feature by Ambienté™ is thus far coming out tops. It’s near the house so would be easy to connect to a mains supply and install ourselves.

Otherwise, as a journalist, I spend arguably too much of my day inside at my desk, and not enough time as I’d like outside gardening, so during the course of writing this book, a little table top Buddha has become next on my water feature list.

As you can see, these features can be a tad addictive as once you have one then it’s likely that you will see others that appeal and which could also be found a place. In the increasingly stressful world in which we reside, creating a little oasis of calm wherever we can is, in my book, a positive hobby all round.

About the 6ft Bubble Tube Feature with Changing LED Lights

This fully self-contained unit which comes with 6 bubble jets and a choice of changeable colours is designed to enhance and delight the senses. With a stainless steel base it is both hardy and robust and a delight to watch as the LED lit bubbles continuously rise up within. It comes with a remote control and is ideal for indoor and outdoor use.

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Chapter 8 - Planting and Presentation

Planting & presentation

Primrose plants buyer, Alex says

Ferns are all the rage at the moment and the botanical theme appears to show no sign of slowing down. Ferns prefer moist, fertile and humus-rich soil which means they can be planted around the edge of ponds. The broad leaves can help disguise the edge of the pond blurring the border to create a more natural scene. As shade-loving plants they will thrive if used to underplant a water feature.

Again they can be used to disguise the base of the water feature and help it blend into the surroundings. They work particularly well with rocky or monolith water features where you can create that hidden, tropical jungle waterfall effect really successfully. We have a good selection with a variety of leaf shapes and colours.

Planting around features

With so many plants from which to choose, personal preference plays a big part in any decision-making here. If you have a fountain or cascade then you might want to consider moisture-loving plants as there will be a slight spray. Otherwise water plants for ponds are a different area altogether, with so many colours, shapes and sizes from which to choose, here are just a few examples to help you on your merry plant picking way.

View all pond plants.

Water wallSaxifrage
There are many different types but I particularly like purple Saxifrage, which is very pretty to look at and also mossy Saxifrage which is lovely with yellow-eyed white flowers.
Water wallHouse Leeks
These hardy plants are able to thrive with little soil and not a lot of water, so again do plant away from any feature spray. Extremely low maintenance and attractive to look at, they make a welcome addition to a pebbled area.


There are many different types of Fern, ranging from hardy Slender Crested Male Fern and Shuttlecock Ferns, which are nice low maintenance, easy to grow plants to have nearby. Marsh Fern likes distinctly wet (or moist) soil so works especially well immediately around the outside of water features or ponds.

[View all ferns](/ferns-c-4561_12794_4632_4652.html).

They work well alongside hostas, lilies of the valley, grasses, primroses and anemones.

Use rock-loving plants

If you’ve used stone as a water feature surround then alpines and certain Mediterranean herbs make an attractive addition in a little compost nestled between stones. They naturally like fairly barren but sunny conditions so just around the stone edges and away from any feature generating water spray would be ideal. There are lots to choose from, here are just a few of my personal favourites:


With its lovely colourful bell (or cup) shaped flowers, it makes a nice pebble- or stone-nestled addition.


There are many different types of these delightful Mediterranean herbs, but whichever one you choose will be used to arid conditions and will therefore appreciate being planted in-between stones in compost in a dry spot.

Water plants for ponds

There are so many from which to choose here is just a selection of some of the very best:

Water forget-me-not

This spreading plant provides good pond cover, offering shelter to creatures living within as well as reducing water condensation (and loss) in the summer months. The plant displays delightful glimmers of yellow and blue in its flowers which help them stand out against the green foliage surrounding.

Creeping Jenny

These very pretty yellow flowers sit amidst glossy heart-shaped leaves, making this a very attractive pond addition.

Blue Flag

This low maintenance plant which features stunning blue violet blooms is great for adding height among other planting in your pond.

Pygmea Red Water Lily

When you think of pond plants, generally most thoughts turn wistfully to lilies and these miniature blooms are a beautiful take on a classic, fitting perfectly into even the smallest space.

[View all water lilies](/water-lilies-c-4561_4667_4679.html).

Primrose customer case study — William Lawrence and his Giant Eclipse stainless steel water sphere

The family used to have a fish pond with a waterfall and fountain but a persistent heron kept stealing and eating the fish, as well as damaging the pond. They’ve always liked water features, so they decided to fill in the space and replace the open water with a decorative sphere elsewhere instead. This addition has proved so popular, they have since gone on to add a further two water features within their outside space.

Doing away with the pond also coincided with a mini makeover. Previously, the garden featured a rectangular lawn, surrounded by straight borders. Keeping the lawn, on which the grandchildren enjoy playing, they have incorporated curved and semi-circular flower beds which work really well to complement the elegant curves of the aluminium sphere. The garden also now hosts a playhouse for the youngsters and a decorative paved circle with modular seating and a central table for the adults. It all has a delightful country cottage feel.

As William describes it, “This new design influenced our choice of the sphere. It sits in the middle of a semi-circular flower bed with planting around it. We have bulbs for spring colour, bedding plants, dwarf conifers, evergreens, lobelias and salvias for structure. Our aim is to surround the fountain bowl with colour all year round. It sits just outside the conservatory and looks good both day and night.”

The curved theme continues throughout the garden and sits well alongside other themed areas. They have a wishing well structure, which hosts a water feature and also what they call their Zen Garden which has an oriental feel with its crystal sphere fountain and sitting Buddha alongside iris, grasses, acers, rhododendrons and azaleas.

Where the fish pond used to be has been transformed and now hosts terraced planting beds and a rockery (complete with statues). Having been caught by the water feature bug, they decided this was a perfect, natural-looking spot for a cascading rock pool which has proved to be especially popular with grandchildren and birds alike, both of which thoroughly enjoy playing in the running water.

The garden is used a lot; with playing areas for the children and lots of seating spaces front and back, which are used for regular entertaining. There’s also a BBQ and a greenhouse for edibles such as tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers. As William reveals, “We have arranged it in such a way that you can’t see everything from one aspect, but have to move around to view the space from another perspective. This also provides us with ample opportunity to sit and watch the wildlife without disturbing it.”

The garden is surrounded by a high fencing so affords a good degree of privacy. Situated in an already quiet area, this means their garden is perfect for relaxing to the gentle sound of running water. The couple have the water features switched on whenever they are outside and often at night, as they look so good in the dark. It sounds like a truly lovely spot.

<>h3>About the Giant Eclipse stainless steel water sphere

A strikingly modern, rust-proof and weather-resistant sphere, which makes an attractive, modern addition to almost any space. It features built-in LED lights for nighttime enjoyment and the polished effect stainless steel catches the light delightfully as the water trickles down. The self-contained feature is easy to install and has everything you need to get it working immediately. Just as much at home inside as it is out, it can make a delightfully contemporary contribution to any conservatory, patio or garden.

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Chapter 9 - Water Features and Wildlife

Water Features and Wildlife

Primrose plants buyer, Alex says

Rushes provide good cover for insects and small amphibians and are an important addition to a wildlife-friendly pond. Choose a flowering pond plant if you want to bring pollinators into your garden, creeping jenny is very popular at the moment, and lilies never lose their appeal.

Wherever you live, whether it’s in the bustling heart of a city or the quiet countryside, if you create a water source outside then you’re almost guaranteed to draw wildlife in. Even the smallest feature can attract a wide range of beneficial creatures to help provide a source of interest and wonder, as well as making sure your garden comes truly alive.

There’s nothing like listening to bird song as you sit or work outside and such feathered friends will soon be drawn to any opportunity for a little drink or splash around in water that you make available to them. In return for refreshments they’ll most likely reward with the helpful removal of slugs, snails, or aphids that they happen to find causing trouble on your plants nearby. Much like other water-loving creatures such as frogs, toads, newts, hedgehogs and dragonflies, they provide a very useful and equally mesmerising addition to any outside space.

I personally believe that encouraging nature in has the potential to take the experience of gardening onto a whole other level of enjoyment. As alongside the gentle trickle, bubbling or mesmerising flow of your chosen water feature, it’s hugely rewarding (and indeed relaxing) to add bird song and chatter to the acoustic mix. I never fail to marvel when I come across one of the many frogs, newts or toads that live on my patch. As well as providing wholesome entertainment, these creatures also offer a valuable service when it comes to keeping pests at bay. It is wondrous to share your haven of outside space with a range of wildlife and adding a water feature (especially a pond) is one of the best things you can do to help draw them in.

Pond plants

Common water attracted creatures


To see a dragonfly in flight on a warm summer’s day is a beguiling sight to behold. These almost magical creatures breed in water and use submerged plants on which to lay their larvae.

Frogs and newts

You’ll perhaps be amazed how many slugs and snails these delightful creatures can get through on your behalf, and all are drawn to water. Whilst frogs use ponds in which to breed and their resulting tadpoles live in water, feeding on the algae as they develop and grow, it’s less commonly known that newts also use water plants on which to lay their eggs.


Our feathered friends require a clean water source from which to drink. They also need to keep their feathers clean and so look for opportunities to bathe, which enables them to preen and weatherproof their plumage.


These nocturnal creatures seek out water sources at night time in which to drink and bathe. Shallow, easily accessible water is best for them, not least of all as it’s safer from which to drink. This is one of the reasons why when creating a pond, it’s best to go for a model with at least one shallow end. This actually benefits most wildlife, in fact.

[View all wildlife care](/wildlife-care-c-44_13017.html).

Build your own wildlife pond

Step 1 – Find a suitable liner or container

You can choose from a wide range of modern pond liners nowadays. They come in all different shapes and sizes to fit any space and are incredibly easy to work with.

Step 2 – Choose your position

An area with sunlight (but also some daytime shade) is best. To make it tempting to as much wildlife as possible, some privacy is preferable, so a corner or back of your garden would be ideal. For a raised patio pond, positioning doesn’t matter so much; any water source is beneficial so just choose where it would fit in best.

Step 3 – Dig your hole

Actually you don’t have to lower your pond into the ground at all, it’s perfectly feasible to have a raised water feature nestled somewhere on your balcony or allotment. However whilst attractive to some wildlife, amphibians will struggle to get in and out this way, so I would recommend a pond which is buried in the ground as the preferable option. To do this you simply have to dig a big hole in your chosen spot. You could meticulously measure the area first, or just figure it out as you go along; you’ll get there either way. Ideally you want the container sitting either just above or on an equal level to the ground around it.

Step 4 – Provide access

Working with materials you have to hand, this is about helping frogs, toads and newts in particular to get in and out. Pebbles, placed in and around the pond will do the trick nicely and have the added benefit of providing places under which to hide. Planting around the area also provides most welcome ground cover and will work to make the space even more amphibian-friendly. Plus, if you carefully position stones, rocks or wood in the pond to allow for shallow edges, this makes it easier for the likes of birds and hedgehogs to bathe.

Step 5 – Fill your pond

It’s best to use rainwater here as tap water is chlorinated, so if you have a water butt then the contents of this would be ideal. Otherwise you could just leave it to fill naturally over time.

Step 6 – Add plants and keep the water topped up

You can help keep the pond in good health (and clear) with the addition of aquatic plants such as pondweed. Submerged pond plants are also used by dragonflies for their developing larvae. Then if the water level dips over time, simply keep it topped up with rainwater again and then sit back and watch how your garden truly comes alive.

Step 7 – Watch as wildlife moves in

As the water settles, birds are likely to move in first, enjoying the opportunity for a drink and maybe even a bath. Over time, as the pond matures you’re likely to see pond skaters, frogs and newts gravitate towards even the smallest of ponds, especially if they have ground cover nearby.

Project ideas – other ways to attract wildlife

Let at least one area of your garden grow a little wild

Let the grass grow long, plant wildflowers or, if you’re feeling really wild, let a few stinging nettles move in and wildlife (hopefully including hugely useful, aphid-eating ladybirds will move in).

Use ground cover/build wood pile

Ground beetles are an excellent ally when it comes to fending off (er, eating actually) slugs and other small pests. They will soon move in if there’s some nice stone or wood under which to hide. If you have the space then I’d also recommend creating a wood pile with any trimmings from your garden, as if you do a whole host of useful creatures will take up residence.

Feed the birds

As well as water, birds will be drawn into your garden with the addition of a few feeders especially over winter when natural sources of food become scarce.

Attract pollinators

Planting some herbs, especially the likes of rosemary, thyme, fennel and mint (although do contain the last one lest it take over), is one of the finest things you can do. As well as helping to draw in a wide range of bees and butterflies, it will help open up lots of exciting culinary possibilities in the kitchen to boot.

Primrose customer case study — Julie Wilkinson and the family’s Sentosa corten steel cascade

Julie and her family have also had a complete garden makeover recently. Their new build home had a plain grassed outside space previously, which was sloped at an impractical incline. With assistance from a landscape designer it’s been stripped out, flattened and utterly transformed into a low maintenance, safe, young-child-friendly garden with a water feature to complete the look. The space is then complemented with lots of brightly coloured flowers, grasses, bamboo and low-level easy-to-care-for shrubs.

Their contractor wanted to use a different water effect originally but Julie had her heart set on something different. Through browsing on the internet she found her ideal feature; contemporary (but not pretentious), with lots of character to provide the impact she was looking for. Not too big, or too small and a real conversation piece. Even the landscaper changed his mind when he saw it and was so surprised by the price, he was keen to take away the details.

As well as being a delight to look at, in just a few short months, and much to the family’s excitement, lots of wildlife has also been drawn-in as a result of the water source. As Julie explains, “We have a dried-out stream at the back of the house and although we knew frogs were there, we’d never seen them before. They seem to love the Scottish pebbles we have surrounding the water feature and enjoy hiding underneath. Also we’ve had lots of butterflies moving in; about 25 friendly red admirals that get really close as we’re frequently sitting outside. They come and sit on your arm – it’s amazing”.

The garden is now a very family-friendly space with a large seating area (for 17) which provides a perfect spot in which to have dinner and relax of an evening and weekend. They have used artificial grass because of their dogs which means no muddy and wet paws creating a mess in the house and also no grass to cut at all. With pets and a young family it’s created an attractive low maintenance space. The kids can kick a ball around while the parents can relax under the pagoda on the bean bags and everyone is happy. With the high fencing to the rear, the garden is warm and enclosed, so ideal for Mediterranean-style alfresco entertaining with friends and family. The water feature is the highlight and switched on anytime the family are in the garden, or at home.

The backdoor is always open and the children can play safely without doing much damage. Often friends come over for a few drinks rather than going to the pub and at night time the feature is lit up. “It just ticks every box for us,” said Julie. “We had a water feature in the old house but it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be so this is why this time round I wanted to personally pick something that was just right. It started off shiny silver in colour before turning a lovely rustic bronze and the sound is just right; a nice background trickle, not too noisy at all. A lot have people have said how soothing, calming and relaxing it is. You can’t help but just sit and stare at it, even the dogs find it rather mesmerising.”

About the Sentosa corten steel cascade

Manufactured from corten steel, this stunning water feature provides a striking rustic aesthetic and it’s no wonder that weathered steel is becoming a staple of modern architecture. Once the material has been oxidised by the water flow, the surface is also weatherproof and corrosion-resistant and requires no painting or maintenance.

Suitable for inside or outside use, its contemporary design makes it a highly desirable, low-maintenance addition to any space. It comes with everything you need to get started and is incredibly straightforward to install; simply add water and power and it’s good to flow.

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Chapter 10 - Looking after Your Water Feature

Looking after Your Water Feature

The vast majority of modern water features are extremely low maintenance nowadays. Unlike ponds, which can require a little more attention, they offer a fuss-free way to enjoy the tantalising beauty and tranquillity of running water in your garden, home or backyard.

That said, keeping your little piece of oasis at its tip-top best will enable it to continue providing mesmerising relaxation and enjoyment for many years to come. Here are just some of the simple measures worth taking to keep your water feature at its best.

Winter care

Although water features are designed to stand firm all year round, during the winter months they can take quite a battering from the elements so a little extra TLC is often in order. From clearing out any fallen leaves that have landed in the structure to providing protection against water freeze, should the thermostat really plummet, it all helps keep your valuable feature in good working order.

Nowadays pumps come with a built in filter to prevent leaves and other debris getting into and damaging the pump but it’s best to remove any leaf fall as soon as possible to keep your feature clean.

If the water in your household pipes freezes, it expands and can cause cracking and an eventual leak as a result. Although a lot of water features are made from more flexible materials than metal piping, you don’t want to put this extra pressure on your feature or its hard working pump. Fear not however, as there are a few very simple options that can easily be taken to prevent this happening:

1. Adding a special solution such as Fountain Frost Free from Primrose is arguably the easiest way to protect the water in your feature from freezing so you can continue to enjoy it during the winter months. The eco-friendly and safe treatment prevents ice forming down to as cold as -6 degrees which means in the British climate it should normally provide sufficient protection. Used in the right measures it’s also suitable for bird baths and ponds as it’s not harmful to wildlife or pets.

2. Drain your feature. If an especially cold snap is forecast and you’re worried, then it’s best to be on the safe side and remove all of the water inside until the temperature rises again.

3 Buy a special UV and frost protective cover, to provide insulation and protection against the elements or with a smaller feature it’s worth considering moving it inside (to a garage or conservatory) to avoid any surface damage from especially cold weather.

Primrose head of buying, Justin says

Having two young sons I was concerned with the current water feature cleaners on the market that stated they were harmful to children and fish. I cannot imagine having a fountain in my garden that wouldn’t attract children’s attention. With that in mind we set about creating a product that I could use that wouldn’t damage the environment, my children, wild animals or fish.

The difficulty is creating something safe but non-corrosive, removing an already dirty, algae filled fountain requires chemicals and some of them quite harsh. However, maintaining an already clean feature means that we could prevent the build-up of dirt and algae with a very simple formula of naturally occurring chemicals – in this instance citric acid used in many cleaning products and in reducing limescale build up in hard water. Nowadays the children are too old to play in the fountain, but the dog likes it.

Year Round Feature Care

• Keep the water topped up throughout the year

It’s easy to do this. Just keep an eye on the water level to ensure it’s topped up sufficiently. This is especially the case in the summer months when heat will cause the water to evaporate and reduce in volume more quickly than at other times of the year.

It’s essential to do so, as without a sufficiently full reservoir the feature can’t function at full flow and damage will occur to the pump itself, as it needs to be fully submerged in water at all times to work properly.

• Avoiding algae build up

The water in an outdoor fountain will, over time, turn green so to prevent this natural but unsightly discoloration you can empty out the water regularly, replacing it afresh to prevent any algae build up.

Or, use a cleaning supplement such as Ambienté Fountain Safe which will keep the water crystal clear and still safe for pets, wildlife and even children to drink from. Simply add a couple of capfuls (depending on the size of the feature) to the reservoir about once a month and it will provide non-toxic protection for the water, internal workings of the feature and pump with no fuss at all. Its gentle but effective formula means there is no unpleasant chemical odour (unlike most other chlorine-based water cleaning products) and it’s totally safe to use.

• Keep your feature looking good

Nowadays features come in a variety of different materials, many of which are especially engineered to provide extra protection against the elements. Corten Steel is a good example of this, as the steel oxidises to create its own layer of weather and corrosion-proof protection. In most cases, a simple wipe down with a damp sponge will remove any fallen leaves or debris that has attached itself to your structure. The only exception is stainless steel which does benefit from the use of a cleaning product to both prevent limescale build-up and to keep it looking shiny and new.

Pump care

Your pump is the heart of your fountain, working hard on your behalf to keep the water moving around, day in day out. It’s is arguably the most important part of your feature and it’s important therefore to keep it in good working order. Here’s how:

Clean your pump

Modern pumps come with built in filters to reduce the risk of leaves and other debris getting through but it’s still good form to give it a once over with a sponge or toothbrush for a good clean.

Regularly change the water or use a water cleaner

Keeping the water algae-free will help extend the life of your pump as it will help prevent deposits building up inside the pump.

Keep the water reservoir topped up

This is arguably the single most important thing you can do. As mentioned earlier, without full immersion in water, the pump will become damaged and so it’s essential to ensure the water level is sufficiently full at all times to prevent any problems here.

Primrose customer case study — Susan Clarke and her stainless steel sphere water feature

After looking in her local garden centre for a suitable water feature to no avail, Susan found what she was looking for through a search on the internet. She explains, “The ones I was looking at before were all plastic and flimsy and not what I wanted at all. I’d seen a sphere before on Alan Titchmarsh’s show on the telly, Love Your Garden, and really liked the look of it so that’s what I went for in the end. It’s simple but effective and really stands out.

Everyone that comes to the house and sees it for the first time says ‘wow!’. It’s very stylish. Also young children seem to love it, they like the water and looking at their reflection in the sphere.”

Susan’s partner, Alan really enjoys working with wood and built all the decking and some planters himself. After creating the wooden base in front of their patio doors, the couple soon realised it needed something on top. Originally, they thought about seating before deciding upon a water feature and getting inspired online. Being right by the kitchen extension at the back of the house, the sphere can also be seen and enjoyed from inside. It has little lights already built-in on top which works perfectly for Susan, as they enable it to be seen in the dark but are too small to attract moths, which she dislikes, coming near the house.

The couple work on all the ideas and designs together and Susan told me she finds the process of gardening incredibly therapeutic. Now retired from teaching, she has more time to spend on making the most of her outside space. Her garden hosts a mixture of plantings based on colours and shape mainly, including a red and a green acer, japonicas and evergreens. There is a bamboo wall down the left hand side and clematis covering the fence at the back, with lots of tall grasses. Also a rose garden.

This is the first time they have had a water feature, yet they were able to install it easily by themselves. Because they live in quite a windy spot, the sphere has been reinforced at the base to hold it firm to the ground and it sits on an attractive slate covered area with potted grasses and plants decorated around. The water flow itself is very gentle on this feature and creates a very soothing and relaxing low level sound.

With a bistro table next door and a further seating area to the rear of the garden, when the sun is shining the couple are able to sit and enjoy their water sphere from a variety of different angles. Susan discloses, “I would say I’ve grown into gardening as I’ve got older. I have more time now and really enjoy trying out new things that are attractive and low-maintenance.” For this couple the water feature had made a most perfect long term addition.

More about the stainless steel sphere water feature

This attractive kit comes complete with pump, built-in LED lights, reservoir and cables; everything you need in fact to get started almost straight away. It’s modern, stylish design makes it very popular with both gardeners and landscape designers alike. It’s no wonder this design has been featured on more than a few gardening TV shows of late and is recommended as a design classic for the suburban garden.

Being very easy to install and maintain is a further very beneficial plus. Also, as Susan found, the small built-in LED lights mean that the feature can be enjoyed both day and night without any additional effort.

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Chapter 11 - After Dark — Extra Lighting Options Available

Water Feature lighting

In the summer months, warm balmy evenings can be better enjoyed with even a little outdoor lighting and in the cold, dark days of winter it means you can still enjoy the illuminated view of your prized water feature when you come home from work.

Whilst it’s true that many modern water features come with built in lights already, there are a wide range of attractive lighting options worth considering in addition. This way you can also make the most of the area around your display, or leading up to it, enabling your garden (and feature) to shine brightly whatever the weather.


With so many lighting options available, you’re bound to find something that fits perfectly wherever you’d like them. More permanent mains-powered solutions will require a safe electricity source and may need an electrician to help with instalment. However, solar structures have improved greatly over the years and provide location flexibility combined with energy-saving efficiency.

Most come with built-in rechargeable batteries and intelligent design, turning on at dusk and off at dawn, enabling them to sparkle when you need them most. Battery powered lights are also a popular choice as they can go anywhere in your garden without a mains connection.

Primrose water feature buyer, Vincent says

Adding a water feature or a pond will enhance the aesthetics of your garden. However, at night time and especially during winter months, it will be a shame not to make the most of your set-up.

Spotlights around your feature work well to highlight big classical tiered fountains as well as cascades. It’s easy to find LED spotlights online or in DIY stores. If you have just built a new pond but you would like to get more out of it in the evening and during winter, you can also choose to add submersible spotlights. They will be perfect to highlight any plants and rocks around your pond.

If you want to highlight a wide cascading blade from the top, you can add an LED strip (white or colour changing) that can will provide a somewhat mysterious touch to the feature at night. There is also the option of adding a light stripe at the bottom of a reservoir to uplight your water feature and the water cascading down.

Different types of light available

LED fairy lights

Not just for Christmas, a charming chain of small twinkling lights can add a sense of wonder and enchantment around your feature or other areas of your garden at any time of the year. Available battery charged so they can be placed wherever you like.


These delightful metal lanterns come in a range of designs; from the rustic traditional coach house look, through to oriental Ottoman elegance. They can be attached to a wall, hung from trees, fencing or simply placed on the ground and could be used to create a walk leading up to your little garden oasis.

Stake lighting

Ideal for modern gardens, cordless, solar-powered metal lights come in a range of designs and can be easily positioned (by way of the stake) into any soft surface into which they can be pushed. This makes them ideal for use in areas of lawn, borders, gravel pathways or flower beds where they can add a touch of style as well as effectively lighting your way in the evening.

Fun lighting options

If you’re feeling playful, have young children, or just want an excuse to have some fun with your lighting then there are lots of creative options available. From a pretty solar-powered ornamental frog light to sit by your pond, to wall-hanging decorative butterflies and a tabletop Dolly the sheep, there is something for all.

View all outdoor garden lighting.

Design idea — Making the right choice

When deciding on lighting, make sure you select a design that you like the look of when unlit. There’s no point going for super-charged lighting that works fantastically at night, but which looks unattractive during the day. So if you want subtle lighting then consider placing lighting discreetly in planting around your feature and in any nearby flower beds.

Otherwise, for a stronger impact wall, fence, tree or stake mounted options might be preferable. Again, it’s very much personal preference and so therefore important to choose a style and location that works well aesthetically for you all round.

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Chapter 12 - So How Do Water Features Actually Work?

How Do Water Features Actually Work

Prior to the modern electric and solar pumps widely available today, water features had to rely on somewhat convoluted systems to power their flow. For example in the 18th century, King Louis XIV’s fountains at Versailles relied on an elaborate network of 14 water wheels which used the river Seine to drive pistons leading to more than 200 water pumps which enabled the display.

It’s no wonder then that for a long time such features were individually crafted by teams of artists and engineers and an exclusive preserve of the incredibly wealthy.

It was only over time when other more accessible methods of pumping water emerged and evolved into the highly effective pumps available today, that water features themselves came more widely available in the public domain.

The pump

Your pump is effectively the heart and soul of your feature. It needs to be submerged in water (normally in the reservoir) where it works tirelessly to draw water in and force it up and out a pipe so gravity can flow it back down again in a glorious display. Depending on the feature in question, this can range from a gentle bubbling, to a glass-like blade or gushing fountain spectacle.

Electricity is needed to power the pumps which can come from either a mains supply by way of a cable or a solar-fuelled system. In the case of a mains supply, connected armoured cable wiring can be buried underground, or plugged in above ground as and when required. Solar power provides more flexibility in terms of location and is the eco-friendly power of choice. The energy is provided by way of a solar panel which takes in sunlight to charge the pump (and any battery backup system therein). Nowadays the panel comes either built into the feature or as a separate panel to be placed nearby in a sunny spot of your garden.

Primrose water features buyer, Vincent says

Make sure you clean your pump and the water every few months to ensure you make the most of it. There will always be a bit of water evaporating from your water feature, especially during summer. In order to preserve your pump, you need to maintain the water level in your feature at all times. During winter, ensure the water doesn’t freeze as it will expand and cause damage to your pump.


This is the built-in source of water which flows around your feature. It replaces the need for a mains supply as nowadays most features just rely on a contained reservoir. It will need topping up, especially during the summer months when water will evaporate in the heat. As well as wanting to make sure your feature keeps flowing, it’s essential to keep the pump fully submerged in water at all times.

Adjusting the flow

Many modern features have an adjustable flow, so depending on your sound preference you can turn the volume up or down.

Get the look

Self-contained units are designed as extremely low maintenance options, many of which can either sit above ground, or in the case of larger structures such as water walls, can have their reservoir buried in a hole, where only the structure remains visible. Pebbles and planting around the outside can then finish off the look according to personal preference.

Primrose customer case study — June Nelson and her brushed stainless steel bamboo tubes

June and her husband first got into gardening after moving into their property about 47 years ago. Starting out of necessity, as the house came with an overgrown garden that needing looking after, they’ve grown to really enjoy the experience of this pastime over the years.

Now, they come up with at least one creative project idea each year, such as the water feature, and eat most of their meals outside. Their arbour, providing all-important privacy and weather protection, enables them to enjoy the space they have shaped over the years. As June explains, “We didn’t know anything about gardening before we started. When we first moved in, the garden was a shambles and even had a coal bunker at the bottom. Over time, we cleared it all out and built patios and worked on one thing at a time. I’m a really active person, often out playing tennis or doing sports. I like to do a bit of gardening for enjoyment, not as a chore and I really enjoy sitting in the garden over a cup of tea thinking about the next project.”

June was first inspired to get a water feature after seeing one in a friend’s garden. As they can be expensive to buy, she decided to get her first as a birthday treat. This, her second feature, was chosen for its sleek lines and bamboo-inspired shape, also because it fits really well into a small garden without overpowering it. As June elaborates, “I simply don’t understand why more people don’t have one. They are nice to look at and it’s so relaxing to listen to the sound of the water. None of my friends have a water feature but they all really like mine. I think if you’re worried about the cost, ask for one as a birthday or Christmas present.”

Their latest addition has three brushed steel bamboo tubes with LED lights. The couple have it positioned in front of one of their borders and have built a feature especially around it. They have used broken slates, a wooden sleeper and potted plants such as geraniums and petunias taken from other areas of the garden to enhance it. The reservoir has been buried in the ground, and an electrician helped them set up an outside power supply for the pump.

Otherwise, the only maintenance required is keeping the water topped up so it doesn’t dry out, which June’s husband tends to do whenever he is watering the rest of the garden. Otherwise, if it’s really frosty, they cover it with a sheet to help prevent the water inside from freezing but this is all that is needed. The timer function is set so the pump comes on at about 5pm and goes off around 11.30 at night. The couple then just turn it on manually during the day if they’re at home.

The garden also plays hosts to lots of perennial flowering plants and alpines which surround a small lawn. They have two arbours, a painted wooden bench and an area for eating. June explains, “It’s changed the whole aspect of the garden, to be honest. It is outstanding. There are so many horrible things happening in the world, if I can just spend five minutes in the day listening to the relaxing sound of the running water it all helps.”

About the brushed stainless steel bamboo tubes water feature

This delightful feature comes with a range of built-in LEDs. With colour changing lights on the base and ultra-bright LED lights on top of each of the three tubes, you can pick and choose your lighting according to preference. Likewise, with an easy-to-use water flow adjuster (which is located on top of the reservoir lid) you can have complete control.

The feature also comes complete with a reservoir which is designed to be hidden easily in the ground. However, another option for indoor or outdoor display is to use a plant pot as a home for the reservoir instead as a further attractive, fuss-free alternative.

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This book wouldn’t have been possible without the time and input generously given by so many. Thank you firstly to our customers who opened up their homes to show off their wonderful water feature designs: Steve Anns, Susan Clarke, Colin Doyle, Neil & Sharon Forde, William Lawrence, June Nelson, Paul Smith, Roger Warner, and Julie Wilkinson. Thanks to our dedicated and enthusiastic writer, Kim Stoddart, who also got hands-on with water features in her own gardens. Many thanks to our amazing photographer, Alex Harvey-Brown, who toured the country to visit all the gardens you’ve seen. And of course a thank you to the Primrose team, who lent their organisation skills and expert advice: Amie Barnard, Ian Charles, Alex Curran, Justin Daubeney, Becky Hughes, Vincent Moulinier, George Riley, Georgina Stoaling and Geoff West.

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About the Author

Kim Stoddart is a gardening and features journalist who writes for many publications, including Grow Your Own Magazine, The Guardian and Country Smallholding magazine. She runs a gardening and good life training school in West Wales, and is passionate about extolling the life-enhancing benefits of making the most of your own personal great outdoors. Water features of course come highly recommended!