A Garden Fountain That Whispers Water

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gemini Anna at the fountain
My lovely friend Anna strikes a classic Gemini pose for this cheeky Aquarian, courtesy of a little photo trickery.

As a card-carrying Aquarian (a.k.a. the water bearer), I take my garden fountain seriously, always fine-tuning and perfecting its placement and performance for both the ear and the eye. It has to look good and sound good. So after a couple clumsy substitutions and iterations, my fountain was due for an overhaul, an aesthetic upgrade that would delight me at every turn, and not require me to shield my face, cover my ears and shake my head.

My first DIY garden fountain, created at my former Seattle home from a salvaged porcelain Chinese jardiniere. I bit fancy for the backyard, but I loved it nonetheless.

A polar vortex several years ago took out my favorite fountain piece, creating hairline cracks throughout the stately vessel’s body. The first thaw quickly revealed the damage from an unrepentant hard freeze, compromising the urn into a pile of toothy shards. So I fashioned some lesser vessels over time until I could find the perfect urn to restore and celebrate the sound and presence of rippling, rushing, dancing water.

terra cotta garden fountain
When I moved, I replaced the jardiniere with a more rustic pot, and carted the jardiniere to Vashon Island.

I did find a classically-shape large vessel to crown the fountain basin, but its sheer size and weight peppered with my passing procrastination kept the behemoth on its side in the shade of a failing peach tree for over two years. If I had a nickle for every time I said, “I’ve got to get that thing running again.” I could have afforded a lesser version of the Trevi fountain.

COPY CODE SNIPPET
garden urn
The garden vessel endured for several years before the big freeze took it out.
Two hollow bamboo reeds drew water gently away from the vessel, creating a most pleasing and gentle sound. The smooth flat rocks were found on my property, courtesy of a generous glacier.

 

classic garden fountain urn
New vessel, new day for water music in the garden.

I’m happy to report the big guy was installed and placed prominently in the garden by this big guy, and I wish I would have done it sooner as the sound of water is as much a part of my garden as flowers, ferns, and mossy rocks. I’m still pondering how I’ll landscape the area, refreshing it with a new planting scheme that frames the urn in an artful way. Though I must say, weeds and neglect aren’t bad looking when a fountain’s holding center court.

diy garden fountain sketch
My little DIY sketch about how the fountain works. See the video below for more detail.

I shot a little video of how my current fountain came to be, how this water-bearer of purposeful intent got a very large urn upright, steady, filled with water, and set up to sing its song with effortless regularity. Click the photo below to watch.

My DIY Fountain Video

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and look at how I built my garden fountain. It’s a dreamy addition to the garden, especially paired with a playful bulldog, comfy hammock and happy Aquarian. Garden on friends, garden on!

17 COMMENTS

  1. It looks and sounds just lovely, Tom. I have a lovely Chinese vessel that is presently being used as a garden table (covered with a round glass top) but I eye it every once in a while because I really would love to turn it into a fountain for the deck. It’s smaller and lighter than yours, so I think I can assemble it myself (after several more seasons of eyeing it, of course! 🙂 ) Buddy, as always, is looking good, and leading a dog’s life. I can never understand that phrase – the way we pamper our dogs, a dog’s life seems more attractive than not!

    • Thanks Sandra, the table sounds pretty dreamy, but should the vessel ever roll its way toward the water, and you need any tips, don’t hesitate to ask. Cheers!

  2. I like your use of the two bamboo reeds and three flat rocks – lovely and zen-ish. The photo trickery of Anna looking rather like a Greek goddess is super, and of course, as always, your outstanding word-smithing and humorous bits tucked in here and there like garnishes on a dinner plate.

  3. This Scorpio is all about the water, too….no idea whether Japanese maples grow in your part of the world (or even if they’re allowed; I seem to remember some states outlawing them as invasive) but a nice backdrop of those would be just perfect in this spot, no?

    • Anne, I love Japanese maples and they come in all shapes and sizes, colors and habits, so I will take a look the next time I’m at the nursery, and see what there is to see. I like the idea. Thank you.

  4. Beautiful! There’s nothing like an outdoor fountain. I can listen to mine during the night through my bedroom window… for (only) 6 months in Minnesota.

  5. Hey, you can always and should call over to crowsfeet farm when you need extra hands! at any rate it’s beautiful. Someday I want to make a fountain here. The last “gizmo” to keep the pipe straight was brilliant. Love you Tom!

  6. Well gosh darn out…I now realize that I need a garden fountain! That should make my man happy and a little bit angry and frustrated all at the same time! I’ll make sure to have him watch the video!

  7. The master fountain creator! Now, if you could just get the gently falling water to sound a bit like the opening to “The Age of Aquarius . . . ” Genius!

  8. Your fountains have all been wonderfully creative and unique. Our “fountain” is a creek that borders two sides of our yard, but alas goes dry in the summer. This year with all the rain on our coast of Northern California it ran steadily from October well into May. A highlight of our fall is the first time we hear the creek flowing once again.

  9. I have been planning to put in a fountain for a couple of years, after seeing your post about the kiddie pool fountain. Finally bought an extremely large bongo pot on clearance at the garden center a week ago. It’s still in the trunk of my car, cradled by several bags of potting soil. It took two very strong garden center employees plus myself to get it there. So waiting on strong young people to magically appear in my yard to help me get this thing out of the trunk and into my garden cart which is hooked up to the riding mower, And then from the cart to its final destination in the back yard. Now I am curious why the actual pond liner instead of kiddie pool? I live in zone 5 so have been a bit worried about the durability of a kiddie pool long term with our freezing winters and 100+ degree summers.
    Also the set up in your wonderful looks much more complicated than I have been imaging. Do you still advise the kiddie pool, simple pump approach?

    • Hi Merrie, I initially used the kiddie pool because it was so much cheaper than a rigid fountain basin, and I wanted a round shape, not a free-form outline. My kiddie pool really held up, but I changed it out recently because I bought a deeper, bigger pond basin on Craigslist for quite a good price. A pond liner will last longer I’m sure. As for set up, it like setting up a train track with an engine and caboose. Determine electrical source for pump -> place pump in basin -> note outflow opening on pump and connect it to flow hose -> thread or attach open end of the flow hose to or through the fountain vessel bottom hole -> level vessel -> add water to always cover pump -> plug in pump -> add more water as it will fill up the empty vessel -> when basin and vessel are both full and flowing no need to add more water -> presto, you have a fountain. Hope this helps!

  10. Not sure that you are aware, but Aquarius, tho a water bearer, is an Air sign. So in actually. . You are a card carrying “Airhead” no water just air. I’m an air as well, Libra…so no, I’m not a card carrying Wight and measures.. hehehe

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