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.


  1. Deborah,
    I so look forward to your posts. I love the pictures, enjoy the beautifully written prose and true ly embraced the sound features this time.
    Thank you for your gift to us.

  2. Really enjoyed this post.

    The ‘oval stick’ fountain looks like molten fire exploding from its core, cooled by the water on the top.
    That’s one fabulous and contemplative
    piece of metal art.

  3. Elaine Maderal says

    Hi Deborah,

    I haven’t seen you or your exciting yet peaceful store but once this year and I miss it. Today I loved your story about your mother and the beach towels. What a perfect way to honor her! She was a wise woman with a sense of humor which I see in you through your findings.

    I love the sound of water but also the wind rustling through the poplars!

  4. Is that Russian sage around your fountain?

    • Deborah Silver says

      The taller plant at either end is laurentia – which is not perennial. In the center is isotoma fluvialitis – which proved not to be hardy either. best, Deborah

  5. One of the most helpful, thought-provoking, and therapeutic garden posts I’ve read. Will provide excellent food for thought for upcoming projects.

  6. Dear Deborah, what a timely post what with all the rain we are having. That lovely cistern jar, do you carry them at the shop? Thanks, greg

  7. Mary A Mahto says

    Love this post. Call it what you want when we have water features in our gardens, to me they signal one of the rhythms of life. It never gets old for me.

  8. Now I really can’t wait for the reconstruction of
    my pond. I have been missing the sound of the water all summer.
    Love the story of your mother’s towels.

  9. Shannon Elizabeth Cowan says

    These examples of water in the garden are so inspiring, and such a good reminder that even a small fountain or water feature can bring a sense of peace and completeness to one’s space. Thank you for sharing that story about your mother, too. Mothers do seem to know us well, don’t they?

  10. Love this story Deborah…. your beach at home!

  11. Marsha Szmatula says

    Hi Deborah, About 10 years ago, I purchased a small birdbath fountain with a little bird perched on the edge of it. It was at an end of season sale (which is the only way I could afford it!) My husband installed it near our sliding door off our patio. On perfect Michigan summer days when the humidity is low and the windows are open and the birds are singing, I can hear the fountain gurgling, even from inside my kitchen. I can’t tell you how happy that sound makes me feel; it’s my little piece of heaven!

  12. oh my goodness Deborah… these photos are stunning… absolutely inspiring… and i love the sight of a fountain.. but am i the only person that it sometimes kind of aggravates me, that noise…. ?? we cant live without water for sure… and the vision is beyond themes relaxing… my indian name is running water.. guess it kinda tiresome out hearing it run… seriously thought.. your site amazes me and inspires me.. much thanks for sharing…… susan in delaware… ps… the ocean is about 4 miles from me… i go and hear it roar frequently … lova lova

  13. Karyn DeBoer California says

    Your mom was right about beach towels! I must admit I have no fondness for the beach, but every spring I am on the hunt for the perfect beach towels! I place a classic.black and white stripe over the wicker chair on the covered patio, I fold six brightly colored ones over my white Adirondack chairs, I line all of the Easter baskets with a new beach towel for the kids instead of messy Easter grass. They add color and excitement to the garden if plants aren’t in bloom! The story about your mom brought tears, your creativity and inspiration always bring great joy and happy gardening!!!

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