Water In The Garden

I suppose there are those moments when rain in the garden means trouble. A windy and strong downpour can knock the peonies and the delphiniums to the ground. Heavy rains can weigh down the flower panicles of hydrangeas in full bloom. A tree hydrangea whose flowers are stooped over from heavy rain – I avert my eyes. Why is it that the only time we have silly crazy and pounding rain is when I am trying to get Milo out of the car and in to the house at the end of the day?  I do not love being drenched. But in general, I am very grateful for that rain that nurtures my landscape and garden.

The garden after a heavy rain has a juicy and saturated look. Even the air seems freshly washed. The lichens on the backs of my chairs are a sure sign that those chairs have been watered. Our rains are more regular come the fall season. Given cooler temperatures, these pots will not require any water from a hose for a few days. What the picture above does not express is the action and sound of that rain, but this does:  pouring rain The sound and the action of water in the landscape is a benefit of another sort.

I may have told this story before, but in my mind, it bears repeating. My last birthday gift from my Mom before she passed was a stack of beach towels. Beach towels? I asked her why. I am embarrassed to say I was irritated by her gift. Mom’s have a different vision – don’t they? She replied that of course I did not have a use for beach towels. I was always working. She thought it might be a good idea for me to go to the beach once in a while. She left me some money when she died. I spent every penny of it on this fountain in my back yard. Every day after work, I go to this particular beach, and think of her. The sound of that water adds the element of music to the garden. The action of the water is both mesmerizing and relaxing. It is no surprise that many people feel that living on a body of water of some sort is a quality of life issue. My garden life is all the better for this body of water.

Years ago I had no interest in water in the garden. That was tone deaf. Sounds in the garden are so much a part of the landscape. The birds and bees-and the water. I routinely suggest to clients that a water feature in the garden is a good idea. Big or small – that makes no difference. A representation of water in a garden within earshot endows that garden with a special gift. Call that whatever you like-communing with nature, or enjoying blissfully relaxing white noise.

This recirculating fountain jar features a basin that can be installed above or below ground. The pump is in the basin, and is disguised by a layer of rock over a screen. The action of this fountain is very subtle, but unmistakable. Of course there is maintenance involved. The basin needs refilling occasionally, as water is inevitably lost to evaporation. At the end of the season, a trap door in the basin provides access by which the pump can be removed and stored for the winter. This pot is glazed stoneware, so it can be left out for the winter. I might be inclined to put a simple plywood cover over the top to keep snow out of the pot. The fountain jet passes through the drain hole, and is sealed in place, the pot no longer drains.

This 3 tiered fountain was forged in cast iron by an English artist Michael Hill. The fountain has been installed in a large pool, which captures the water coming over the edges. This fountain both streams and splashes water. It provides a very lively focal point for this part of the landscape.

This is the first Hudson fountain cistern the Branch Studio made many years ago. Subsequent to that time, we have fabricated and shipped them all over the country for clients and designers in search of a simple, rugged, and substantial fountain to place in the landscape. They have also made this fountain in custom sizes and versions. One very large fountain that went to California has a 1/2′ thick and 10″ wide steel return-suitable for sitting.

Some 12 years later, we have this Hudson fountain cistern running at the shop. Like the look?  See this for the action and sound: Hudson fountain cistern

This oval fountain with its angled handles was inspired by a vintage tub Rob brought back from France years ago.

Branch hemispherical fountain purchased and placed in the landscape by the design firm Reed Dillon and Associates.

small glazed fountain ensemble

This oval stick fountain was fabricated at Branch. The client who purchases it was sufficiently enchanted to have it craned over his house to it final location in the garden. Water sustains life for all living things. You and me, and the landscape. A fountain – a vessel for that water – can take no end of interesting and visually satisfying forms. Suffice it to say that if it lives and prospers, it has gotten sufficient water.

The Fountain Vase

A recent project about which I have written several times finally came to a close. The centerpiece of the landscape design-a fountain of generous proportion and clean lines.  My clients have a decided interest in contemporary design, and an equally decided interest in classically symmetrical spaces.  The right mix would serve them well.  I am lucky in that both of them are articulate, and interested in being involved in the process. A contemporary landscape with reference to classical design-my intent. 

The last part of the landscape to be finished might be my favorite part.  The fountain basin, clad in acid washed steel with a limestone coping set at seat height, and a fountain vase forged of the same acid washed steel- is the strong and simple foreground element to the focal point of their property-a beautiful golf course.  The dark blue-black surround,vase, and pool interior reads in stark contrast to the softly green background. 

A 3-point leveling system of bolts in the bottom of the vase made it possible for Buck to level that pot after he installed it.  Should you use a pot as a fountain, setting that pot level is the most important part of the installation.  Water always sits level; should your installation be askew, it will be obvious.  The action of the jet water hitting the surface is producing clearly concentric circles; the vase is level.

A pair of cast stone pots on hand cast concrete pedestals- identical in shape but smaller than the fountain vase- flank the fountain.  A limited palette of shapes and colors speaks to massing a central idea. One idea, sufficiently explored. Contemporary landscapes ask for serious editing.  

On the ground plane, the central portion of this landscape is spare. A concrete aggregate terrace, concrete pedestals, ad the decomposed granite are variations on a same materials theme.  Four trunky and columnar trees are set in a level lawn  plane.  The rest of the story-the golf course.

The view of the frame of decomposed granite surrounding the fountain is available only to my clients-from upstairs.  From the public view via the golf course-you might miss all the action going on; this I like. The best of contemporary landscapes do not lecture; what they have to say requires  a thoughtful and inquisitive viewer.       

These clients of mine-they made this.  I speak a few languages, and I can interpret; this was my part.