Just Add Water: Create Calm
that being near the water is a good thing. The element of water
in a garden provides a vital connection to nature and to the rhythms
of the earth. Having a reminder of these forces in your daily
routine is nurturing. The sight and sound of water soothe the
soul. The introduction of a water feature in the home or garden
helps to enhance the sense of refuge and sanctuary so important
to today's frenetic lifestyle.
A water element in the garden brings to mind images of a woodland
idyll, a place far removed from the stresses of every day reality.
These images will be different for each individual. Be it an image
of a waterfall, a trout stream, or a still pond, the image of
water brings a sense of peace and tranquility and provides an
opportunity to go inward, to become reflective.
The Chinese associate the element of water with the winter season,
when water goes into the earth to feed the roots of the plant
kingdom in preparation for spring. This is also a quiet time where
life is less active and people become more inward. The summer
is associated with the element of fire. The sun is high in the
sky, the days are warm and long, and the crops are growing in
full abandon. It is no wonder that water, which is both cooling
and reflective, is such a welcome counterpoint in the summer garden.
The "yin" element of water balances the "yang" fire elements of
day to day activity, including the relentless moving around from
place to place and all of the time spent in the high tech world
of communications, all fueled by electrical fire.
Water has been a feature of gardens throughout the ages. In arid
climates where each drop of water is a treasured commodity, water
is often the central organizing element of the design. Water is
a key element of Oriental gardens. It is frequently implied by
the form and texture of the plant material even when actual water
is not present. The Japanese use a dry stream bed to suggest the
flow of water. The flow of water and plants of an Oriental garden
are offset by the permanence of stone, representing the element
of earth. Stone elements are used as the base of a waterfall,
at the edge of a pond, or in the form of lanterns or other ornament.
The introduction of water in the landscape can ease the intensity
of a hot, dry day and calm the spirit. It doesn't have to be elaborate
to be effective. A simple bubbler in a ceramic bowl provides movement,
the sound of water, and the reflection of light. The addition
of a water element can be as simple as installing a birdbath,
where the visiting birds themselves will provide the energy to
move the water. There are many water features currently available-wall,
table, and garden varieties-that are simply plugged into a nearby
Naturalistic water features include streams and pools, fish and
lily ponds. Many people enjoy the opportunity to watch the movement
of fish and frogs, as well as the increased bird activity associated
with ponds. These elements will add interest but will also increase
maintenance requirements. In a more formal garden setting, elaborate
fountains of cast iron, granite, limestone or other materials
According to Kathleen Litchfield, president of Petro Design Build,
Inc., the trick to adding a water feature to your garden is to
create the right setting for it. Will it be the focus of your
garden or will it be a subtle accent? Will it need a backdrop?
What size is it? Will it define an entire space or garden room?
Does it move the eye from one point to another? Where does it
begin and end? How does it work into the entire scheme of things?
How much maintenance can you afford? Working with a qualified
landscape designer can help you articulate your desires and help
you develop a water feature which works with your site budget
Semmes, landscape architect, seeks the sacred in the mundane,
and she kayaks whenever possible.