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It doesn't have to be a fountain! Four simple ideas for garden water features

When you think of garden water features, you may instantly imagine labour-intensive and costly projects that will see your flowerbeds dug up and go on for weeks. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Here are a few simple solutions that won’t cost the earth and can be completed in hours rather than days.

Easy garden water features:

1. Potted ponds

If you’ve always wanted a pond but don’t have the space, this is the ultimate solution. Depending on how much room you have in your backyard, or on your balcony or patio, all you need for this garden water feature is an appropriately-sized water-tight vessel. This could be a zinc bucket, a wooden barrel or a ceramic container. Be careful with any unglazed earthenware or terracotta pots, as these may become porous over time. If this seems likely, simply line with plastic sheeting or apply a couple of coats of sealant. Put an inch-tall layer of smooth stones or gravel in the base of the vessel, then fill about halfway with water. Add your chosen water plants, such as waterlilies and irises, then fill the vessel to the brim.

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2. Sphere garden water features

A sphere garden water feature will create a contemporary focal point in any outdoor space and inject it with the kind of urban chic usually found in the pages of glossy lifestyle magazines. Available in a range of sizes and materials, most come with a pump and reservoir included – you simply fill the latter with water, plug the former into a mains supply (following all manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions carefully), and it will be fully operational in minutes. If your garden allows it, you can dig a hole to place the reservoir into and cover it with crushed slate or pebbles to make the sphere look flush with the ground - but having it elevated looks equally impressive.
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3. Plant pot fountain

Okay, technically this is a fountain, but it’s also an incredibly easy garden water feature to install and is perfect for a medium or large-sized plant pot that’s going spare (again, if it’s unglazed clay or terracotta, you’ll need to apply a couple of coats of sealant). If you’ve already got a pot, the only thing you’ll need to buy is a small water pump. Place the pump in the bottom of the pot, feed its power cord through the pot’s drainage hole and seal with filler or putty. Fill the pot with water, place it where desired – it will make a great obscured centrepiece amongst foliage – plug the pump into a mains supply, turn on and admire.
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4. Reflecting pool

Just as a mirror can add a sense of depth to any interior room, this ultra-simple garden water feature will do the same outdoors. Purchase a large-diameter, shallow plant-pot saucer and fill with water. To give it a reflective quality, add a small amount of edible black food colouring to the water and stir until it turns an even shade of black. The food colouring will block out light and stop algae from forming on the water’s surface, whilst being harmless to any animal that might drink it. Of course, leaves and other detritus may fall in and disrupt the mirror effect, so you’ll still need to clean the pool and top up the water and colouring every now and then.
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NOTE: A great enhancement in spring, summer and autumn, all of these garden water features should either be drained or brought inside before the winter or any period of unseasonal frost. If you forget, the water inside them can freeze, cracking the containers and damaging their inner workings.