What is it about the magical quality of water? No matter if your garden is big or small, having a fountain can transform an ordinary space into an extraordinary one. Whether it’s large with lots of jets, or small with just a trickle, a fountain makes a strong focal point. Depending on the particular fountain, the sound effects can be soothing or exciting. In my own small garden the plantings are informal with shrubs and perennials that mix and mingle freely. A picket fence provides structure and my fountain adds a touch of formality. I have fashioned a fountain out of a large granite ball. Water recirculates by way of clear plastic tubing that runs through its center. I keep it running throughout the year. Even when my garden is quiet my fountain adds life to the scene, and birds like it too. They can stand on the large ball cooling their feet in the water and drinking at the same time. This winter when temperatures dipped to single digits some of the water froze, creating a beautiful ice sculpture.
Several years ago I worked on a project designing a courtyard garden in Rosemary Beach, Florida, with Randy Harelson, garden designer and owner of The Gourd Garden, in Seagrove Beach, Florida. The focal point for this small garden was a fountain constructed from a turquoise Italian-style urn. Because the garden was small we intentionally chose an oversized glazed urn for the fountain. The urn was similar in style to other pots that we had used throughout the garden. Thanks to Randy’s know-how we ended up with an elegant fountain that was beautiful to look at and to listen to.
For many space can seem a limiting factor, but with some imagination and a little work, a fountain can be created by using one of a variety of pots or decorative urns.
What follows are the steps we took to create this inexpensive center piece.
1 Choose a large pot. In this case we used an oversized glazed urn. Cut a hole in the the center of the bottom large enough for a 1/2-inch copper pipe to pass through. Make sure that the urn or pot you use is made to be outdoors year around without cracking or breaking.
2.Create a basin or shallow pool in the ground. We used a brick basin lined with stucco, but a rubber basin may also be used. Seal the basin with waterproofing material.
3. Submerge a pump in the basin. Use masonry bricks to raise the urn up and hold it in place. Keep the pump submerged in water at all times. Keep the basin full of water as it can evaporate quickly in hot climates. We covered the pump and filled the basin with polished river stones. For my own fountain I used black river rock.
4. The type of pump you use will determine whether you have a gentle burble, or a jetlike fountain. Pumps range in price from about $35 to $100. We used a pump that transfers about 40 gallons of water per hour, so that water would flow consistently over the rim and sides of the pot.
5. Cement a copper pipe into the center of the urn where you drilled a hole in step 1.
The length of pipe you use will be determined by the size of the urn or pot. The pipe should be slightly shorter then the urn itself; coming within 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the water’s surface. Connect the pump to the pipe with the clear flexible hose that is sold with the pump.
6. Fill the urn until it overflows with water, and then turn on the pump.
7. The pump refills the urn with water from the basin and the water spills over the sides of the pot back into the basin.
*I wrote this article several years ago. In my current garden I have a water feature waiting to be finished. I need to clean it out and add a small pump. This year I am determined to get it up and running. If you have a small space and want to add the element of water, a water garden in a pot may be just the thing.