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Hard Landscape : Garden Pools

Cascades and fountains | Bog garden

Water brings unique qualities to the garden. It has movement and music, and mysterious depths. Its flat surface mirrors the shapes and colours of plants. The sight and sound of water has a soothing effect. A pool dominates the area of garden in which it is located, so it must never be just an afterthought. Very few garden pools are natural; most are excavated.

An informal garden pool should have a curving, irregular shape, and must be made to look as natural as possible. The pool should fill a natural low point of the ground, or have slopes made around it. An informal pool is usually made with a flexible pool liner that takes the shape of the hole when it is filled, or a rigid pre-formed pool liner.

Hiding the liner around the edge greatly helps to make the pool look natural. This can be done with stones, overhanging paving, even grass sods. Planting should approach the pool on one or more sides. The open sides can have paving or grass.

A formal pool is of regular shape, rectangular usually, but a circle, square and other geometric shape is possible. A formal pool does not retain a regular shape unless the sides are of hard materials.

Formal pools are usually made of reinforced concrete, sealed with special compounds, or lined below the concrete with synthetic rubber liner. The surrounding edges must be formal too, usually paved. If there are associated areas of lawn, these are usually formal in shape with paved edges.

Cascades and fountains

In contrast to the calm silent water of a pool, a cascade or fountain has trickling, tinkling, tumbling, or splashy sound, depending on the volume of moving water. Water tumbling over a series of ledges in a cascade can be appropriately linked with an informal pool. The height of cascade should be no more than about one-third of the width of the pool at the point where it enters.

Fountains shoot water into the air, creating shapes as well as sound. Although often used with informal pools, they are most appropriate to a formal pool, itself an artificial shape. In the right setting, usually as a centrepiece, a fountain is a very effective garden feature.

Bog garden

An area of wet soil, naturally flooded on occasion, can be turned into a bog garden, or it can be deliberately flooded to grow bog plants. The term ‘bog’ has nothing to do with peat; a ‘marsh garden’ might be a more accurate phrase. A naturally marshy spot fed by a small stream, or by springs, is ideal.

Alternatively, the soil of a low-lying area, perhaps bordering a garden pool, can be dug out to a depth of about 30 centimetres and lined with a good quality pond liner. The soil is replaced and a permanent water supply laid on. If there is a pool, an overflow might be set up. Otherwise a length of plastic pipe, drilled to leak evenly, might be laid just beneath the soil surface.

A bog garden area can prove difficult to maintain because weeds are very vigorous when well watered. It is best to start with clean ground and put in lots of bog plants to quickly cover the soil. If the area is large, provide access in the form of a wooden walkway, or stepping stones across which planks can be laid to facilitate weeding.

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