The Landscape Guide

Gardening with water

Products . Types . Styles . Design Guide

Life depends on water and gardens depend on water. The search for water on the Moon and Mars reminds us that water is Earth's most valuable asset. Fresh water is more precious:

  • over 97 percent of the earth's water is salt water
  • over 90 percent of the fresh water is either underground or frozen.
  • only 0.2 per cent of the earth's water is fresh and of easy access.

Water deserves to be celebrated in gardens:

  • in fountains
  • in flows
  • in stasis
  • in swamps

The 'Hanging Gardens of Babylon' (now thought to have been in Nineveh *) were on a hill in a near-rainless country. This is what made them so famous. Plant growth was made possible by an ingenious screw device which pumped water up from the River Tigris. It then splashed down Kuyunjik Hill irrigating the fruit trees as it passed.

Modern gardners appear to have an easier time of it. They either accept water from the sky or turn on the tap. But:

  • tap water is likely to become more expensive, because of water pricing
  • tap water is less nutritious than rainwater,
  • tap water is often too chalky - or chlorinated

The more appealing policy is to design for Zero Runoff. As much water as possible should be retained within the garden boundary:

  • on vegetated roofs (see roof gardens)
  • in tanks and tubs
  • in ponds and swamps

Then one can start thinking about fountains. But take care! Fountains are at their best on hot sunny days. On cold windy days in northern countries the splashing of a fountain can add to the gloom. The spray looks like rain and sounds like rain. The inhabitants of these lands should give serious thought to mountain streams. Bubbling and swirling have the energy to remind us that winters come to an end and summers follow.