Everything in the garden has died down or hibernated. So, what can the budding water gardener get up to between now and next Spring? Plan ahead for one thing.

Maybe you've always wanted a pond but have limited space (as well as finances!), perhaps you want water in the garden area but don't want fish?
Maybe you're getting on in life and find the thought of bending down tending to a pond more than a little discomforting.
Well, we've got news for you. It is possible to cover most of these eventualities and still enjoy some form of water gardening and, what's more, do it safely too.

A raised flowerbed is nothing new and many green-fingered folk find that old age or other infirmities pose no problems when flowers (and even weeds!) are within easy reach. The same arrangement can be done with the water garden - just replace the flowering plants with water!

The basic principle is to build a box above the ground (this one's built with sleepers), line it with a suitable water-tight material and you have the makings of a raised pond.

The raised pond has only slight drawback: because it is above the ground, it will be more exposed to cold weather than its 'in-ground, better-insulated counterpart. This can be overcome, should you live in a particularly cold area, by building the containing walls on the traditional cavity, double-skin principle and filling between the two surfaces of brick with insulation material such as rockwool.

The same construction principle can be adapted to other 'wet' garden features: instead of a pond why not have a bog garden instead? Bog gardens are meant to be permanently moist rather than truly wet: plants like to have water within easy reach of their roots but don't always need to stand up to their ankles in it.

Build the enclosure, line it, but this time make a few perforations in the bottom so that the bed doesn't just become a stagnant waterlogged area. A good tip is to partially fill it with water and then add the earth or compost. This means you won't wash out the compost as would be the case if you put a hose on to it and there won't be any 'missed' parts of the bed either.

So far we have only hinted at the advantages of such systems but now for the details.

The important advantage in these designs - even outstripping convenience - is safety.

Where there are children and the infirm, the pondside is always potentially dangerous. Slippery, uneven, surrounding paving slabs can easily lead to a disastrous fall or a tumble into the water; children are attracted to water as if by a magnet and, indeed, the pool holds many attractions - from many points of view.

A raised pond or bog garden manages to circumnavigate many of these dangers. Similarly, drowning In a pebble fountain calls for more than a certain degree of determination on the part of the unfortunate person driven to such lengths, and it's pretty impossible anyway!

Because of their often small proportions any fountain in a raised pond will only need to be of modest power; here again, safety is another side-effect for many of the lower-powered models are now available as low-voltage models.
This means there is no danger from electricity, often lethal when in the proximity of water. The supply cable is simply run out from the transformer (safely located in the conservatory, house or garage) and hardly needs any protection except perhaps against someone tripping over it.

Turning to convenience, it is a simple matter to incorporate into the brickwork design the facility for a seat. This doubles both as a welcome resting place and as a place to work from - most of the plants, fish and equipment will probably be well within arm's reach. If the seat has a removable lid/seat then the space beneath can house filtration equipment, necessary water gardening tools or even a bottle or two of refreshing drinks in a cool box!

Many people worry about getting a liner of the correct size and shape. With a simple oblong 'box' all that is necessary is to obtain a liner whose dimensions are (Length + twice the depth) x (Width + twice the depth); this will ensure you have enough liner to drape over the top. With 'L' -shaped ponds then it is more difficult to fit the liner without having to have folds somewhere but these can usually be hidden behind a log feature or some suitably bushy marginal plant.

Much of the hard work has been taken out of building brickwork as pre-fabricated 'sections' of brick are available which simply lock into each other, so your box soon takes shape ready for liner.

If a pond or bog garden isn't your thing (or even practicable in your garden space) then why not have a water feature instead?

These self-contained units are suitable for both indoor and outdoor situations. A pump sits inside a separate reservoir inside the decorative pot, with a supporting tray on which gravel and potted plants are placed. Water is pumped up through an overflowing jug or even a decorative tap to run back down through the gravel into the reservoir where it starts its journey once more.

Here again, low voltage, low-powered pump is all that is needed. The potted plants can be replaced as they go out of season (or outgrow the tub!) although you needn't have plants at all. If cultivation of plants of any sort is not for you but you would like the sound of water in the garden then try a pebble fountain?

This time the enclosure can be much lower (even ground level); again it is lined, the pump sitting in a sump into which the water drains to be recirculated again. The liner is important to retain the water which would otherwise drain away.
If a multiple-fountain is desired then a central pump (of sufficient power) can work multiple nozzles all connected to the pump by radiating pipework hidden beneath the pebbles or small boulders.

Maintenance of these water features is simplicity itself. Some designs have a built-in water level indicator so you won't lie awake wondering if the pump is going to run dry overnight. Should algae build up on the gravel or any rocks then remove the potted plants and add some household bleach to the water; this will kill the algae quite quickly and restore the rocks and gravel back to their original conditions again.

A variation is the constantly pouring pump into a half-barrel or similar container. However, such containers are not suitable at all for fishkeeping.

A small Waterlily (such as Nymphaea pygmaea helvola or N.pygmaea rubra) is a possibility but even these Lilies may not survive if there is too much water movement.

Now we've have got you thinking about Spring innovations, here's a final comfort if should you should have to move house -
you can always take the water feature with you!

Last updated February 2005