Kicking back on a deck that overlooks the ocean, a lake, river or pond is a great way to relax and unwind. There's something Zen about watching water do its thing. The artistic arc of water from a fountain or even just the exuberant splash of robins bathing in the hollow of a stone birdbath are enough to lower your blood pressure and give you a mellower perspective on your problems.
Water may or may not inspire wisdom, but it certainly adds entertainment value to the garden. If you're wondering what you can do to enhance your yard, liven up your suburban deck, or add some pizzazz to your plain old patio, a water feature may be the answer.
Outdoor living has become the newest indoor expansion trick. Instead of spending all that money adding another room to your home, move the festivities outdoors for two or three seasons of the year. One small problem with this strategy is that once you've invested in all that outdoor furniture and lighting, there's only so much time you can burn watching the plants grow. Adding a water feature is a reliable way to create interest and a cool focal point outdoors without resorting to dragging the flat screen outside.
Some water-focused elements are designed to be more attractive than functional. Although water features like mini-waterfalls, dripping urns and pump-fed statuary fountains may add moisture to the surrounding plants and add humidity in dry climates, they're designed primarily for their visual appeal. Most use accessory items, like water pumps, but the business end of the process is largely hidden from view. The biggest challenge with these systems is in keeping them supplied with water and discouraging bugs and algae growth.
You can source neat new water-focused garden art every spring, like kits you can use to make your own water features from found items. If there's a neat, large rock you've been eyeing, or you're into the idea of building a waterfall from, say, old stacked dishes, your shell collection or old plant pots, you can find everything you need in one convenient package. Kits make it easy to build a prefabricated fountain or fashion your own one-of-a-kind creation.
Water and Wildlife
Beyond the purely decorative styles in fountains and waterfalls, you can choose to explore the world of living aquatic environments, too. Newer birdbaths are available with pumps and heating elements that will keep the water flowing for your feathered friends through the frigid winter, and adding a small koi pond using a handy kit can take the guesswork and hassle out of creating a creature-friendly environment for your kids -- and the fish -- to enjoy. These living environments bring nature to your backyard and present wonderful learning opportunities for the whole family.
Although water features add a lot to your landscape, there are potential hazards, too. Toddlers can drown in as little as 1 1/2 inches (4 centimeters) of water, and curious pets are also at risk when there's water around. If you have or are planning on adding a water feature to your property, be sure to make safety your first priority and read all the safety instructions on the product you're using. Supervise young children in and around water, instruct them in safe water practices and add safety fences or other features that will keep the unwary away from danger [source: Paediatrics & Child Health].
Many new water-related home and garden accessory products use solar power and easy-care, lightweight construction materials that make installing and maintaining water focused additions easier than ever before. With a little imagination and a free weekend, you can get the water flowing in style and keep the deck or patio crowd outdoors where the action is.