waterfall project summer 2011

“water features in the garden are notoriously troublesome,” said friend Lucy.

“saints preserve us,” said i, “tell me about it!” i chalked up at least three failed efforts before i got this one to work. water, that fascinating element, appears to have a mind of its own: it’ll go anywhere but the circuit i’ve laid out for it.

the circuit is simply a pump sending the flow over a waterfall into a pond, and round and round again. water escaping the circuit lets the pump run dry, and the whole goshdarn contraption fails… drat! just TRY figuring out where the water’s escaping the system – good luck!  (i already exist in a state of frustration…)

so, THIS TIME, i research the project: online, in books and pamphlets. i discuss with Richard, one of the Handy Characters around Owl Studio, and finally make a start.

all the project outlines assumed that i already had a slope or a hillside to start with, whereas i had a flat garden. so, first to create the height needed for the waterfall.

a sequence of large wooden steps, screwed securely together: get it right the first time. two coats of preservative.

anchored to the side of the studio.

line with the salvaged old carpet.

on top of that, a grey plastic liner. finally, the special thick black pond liner from the garden centre.

sounds simple, eh? just written down like that in a few lines? HA! try getting it all to fit together! i curse these garden programmes on telly – “just put it in like this.” they’ve got a whole team off-camera preparing the wretched thing for them…

“Real Life Is Not a Garden Programme.”
– new motto for Owl Art Studio

then to integrate the waterfall into the shape of the garden. to create a slope of plants rather than a sheer drop, using wood, sand and soil (a photo is worth a thousand words).

having gallantly persevered this far, now to attach the stream. experience has taught me to forget about that beautiful image of a curving, rippling stream bed: rather, go for a solid channel that will not allow the perfidious fluid to escape!

in this case, some planks from the building project going on beside. in the Owl Art Studio tradition of salvaging available resources.

next, the same careful layers of lining.

then to build it into the landscape and finally lead it into the pond.

the pond, i have learned from weary experience, is easier purchased as a solid prefabricated unit, and dug in, being careful to get the edges exactly level – water level is unforgiving.

the pump is hidden at the bottom of the pond, and the black hose runs up to the top of the waterfall.

after all this, we held our breath and turned it on.

miracle! it actually worked.

Now for the fun part of incorporating it into the garden. First of all, the waterfall seemed too big and thrusting for the scale of the garden. Oh God, I thought… But then, necessity mothered invention and I planted the whole thing heavily, including the watercourse, with mature plants. Transformation!

what would I do differently next time?

i had made the waterfall as a sequence of steps, but it turns out that the York stone did not fit my format. next time, i would just make a slope, and lay the stone like shingles so the water ran down from one to the next. this was very difficult to visualise beforehand.

the York stone is good stuff to use, but you might have just as nice an effect with actual slate shingles, perhaps with a bit of cement discreetly employed to hold them in position. once the water is flowing and the plants established, the stone moves comfortably into the background.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

our motto: it seemed like a good idea at the time

%d bloggers like this: