If you’d like to up your garden game this summer, why not think about adding a water feature?

The sight and sound of water can create a peaceful ambience and add a dynamic, visually pleasing element to our outdoor spaces. Plus, features like ponds can attract a variety of wildlife to our gardens, providing a safe space for them to feed, breed, and bathe.

But you don’t need a large, sprawling garden to install a water feature, nor do you need to spend lots of money. Small, self-contained water features can be placed on patios and balconies, and there are plenty of ways to build them yourself if you fancy a challenge.

Here are five of the most common water features – plus some tips for choosing and maintaining them.

1. Water bowl

Water bowl

It may sound obvious, but one of the easiest ways to add a water feature to your outdoor space is to simply fill up a watertight container. These mini pools are best used in shady areas, where they can reflect light and add a unique dimension to your garden.

While you can use any container – such as dishes, barrels, troughs, or tanks – many people choose bowls. Small, moveable bowls mean you can reposition them to best catch the light at different times of day, while larger ones create free-standing pools on which you can float flowers or even candles at night.

There are plenty of stylish water bowls available to buy, ranging from small to large and stone to stainless steel. However, these can often be expensive, so if you’re looking for an effective water feature that doesn’t break the bank, you could get creative and repurpose a different type of container. Pinterest has some great ideas if you’re looking for inspiration.

If your goal is also to attract wildlife to your garden with your water feature, you could think about a water bowl that doubles up as a bird bath.

For this, you’ll need to make sure to choose a bowl with gently sloping sides that’s shallow enough that birds can happily stand up in it (no more than two inches deep). The RSBP says

“Ideally, water depth needs to range from 2.5 cm to 10 cm (1-4 inches) to allow each species to bathe at their preferred depth. The surface of the bath must be rough so birds can grip it with their claws and not slip – avoid shiny, slippery containers.”

Regularly cleaning and changing the water in your bird bath is also important, as dirty ones can spread diseases amongst birds and attract flies and other pests. Check out this guide from the RSBP for more advice.

2. Garden pond

Garden pond

If you’re interested in something a bit larger than a simple water bowl, a pond could be a good choice.

Not only can ponds add a fantastic aesthetic aspect to your garden, but they can also provide a haven for various animals. These include frogs, newts, dragonflies, and damselflies, which use them for breeding. Birds, bees, and hedgehogs also visit garden ponds for a drink or to help them stay cool in warmer weather.

Ponds come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be set into the ground or raised using containers. You can build a more formal pond with distinct edges using materials like bricks. Or why not choose one with a more natural-looking, irregular shape? You can blend it into the landscape by planting around the edges or letting the grass grow long.

The easiest way to create a garden pond yourself is to dig a hole, add a layer of sand, lay a plastic pond liner in it, and cover the liner with rocks. You can also buy hard, preformed pond moulds, which provide you with a shape. Installing a pump system can help keep the water moving and prevent it from becoming stagnant and murky.

Alternatively, you could make a raised pond. People use all sorts of containers – ranging from large terracotta pots to old bathtubs. But whatever route you decide to take, there’s plenty of opportunity for creativity.

While building a pond may be more straightforward than you think, there are a few key things to remember – such as making sure there’s a sloping gradient on at least one side to help animals get in and out. So try to do plenty of research before starting your project. This guide from The Wildlife Trusts is a great place to start.

3. Water rill

If you’ve spent much time in ornate gardens at stately homes, you’ve probably seen a water rill, even if you’ve never heard the name.

Rills are shallow, narrow channels of water. They can be still like a canal or long pond, or flow like a river. As well as being an effective decorative feature, rills can serve practical purposes – for example, channelling rainwater. And while they often feature in large, regal gardens, you can incorporate them into almost any outdoor space.

However, as Garden Illustrated tells us, “[T]here is little room for error and any rill you build must be perfectly engineered.” This is mainly because flowing rills need a gentle slope and often feature a pump, which allows the water to return to the top again, meaning the angle must be calculated and equipment installed correctly.

With this in mind, if you think a flowing rill might work for your outdoor space, it might be best to employ a water garden specialist to help you (the Garden Illustrated website lists some recommended ones here). Or, if you’d like to build a still one yourself, you might find this advice from Stoneworld helpful.

4. Water fountain

Water fountain

When we hear the word ‘fountain’, many of us automatically think of grand structures like the Trevi Fountain in Rome, complete with winged cherubs spouting water from their mouths. But, nowadays, installing a fountain in your garden might be much easier than you think.

Retailers like B&Q and Homebase sell an array of freestanding water fountains for all budgets, with some setting shoppers back as little as £20. These don’t need any building work or specialist installation.

Most fountains are also self-contained, meaning you don’t need to connect them to a water supply. Instead, they have a built-in reservoir of water (sometimes called a sump), which you may need to top up now and then. However, you’ll need to provide your fountain with electricity – unless it’s solar-powered, of course.

Self-contained fountains range in size and style – from small, Romanesque designs to large, minimalist ones which can go great in contemporary spaces – and some even light up. So you’re sure to find something to compliment your garden’s overall aesthetic.

Of course, there are plenty more complicated options too. For example, you may want to hang a wall-mounted fountain, which can work well in small spaces like patios and balconies.

Alternatively, if you fancy a DIY challenge, you could consider building a pond-based fountain like this one from Do it Best. But, for anything larger, you might want to consider employing a water garden specialist to help you.

5. Waterfall


For something more elaborate still, why not consider a waterfall? These enchanting features work similarly to fountains. But, instead of spurting water in the air, the flow is allowed to fall – often down a series of platforms.

As with fountains, you have two main options when it comes to waterfalls. You can buy a self-contained, pondless option from retailers like B&Q and Homebase. Or, you can pair one up with a pond, using the pondwater as the reservoir.

Not only can pairing a waterfall with a pond look great, but it also comes with practical benefits. The continuous movement of water helps to aerate the pond, increasing oxygen levels, reducing algae growth, and generally making it a better place to live for animals and plants. Plus, it’ll help keep the water crystal clear. Pond fountains also have this effect.

Another benefit of waterfalls is that they’re easy to integrate into a natural-looking garden landscape. With simple materials – such as a hose, pump, some rocks, and a plastic liner – along with light landscaping work, you can create a pondside waterfall that mimics the ones found in nature. Check out this guide from Swell UK to find out how.

But natural isn’t the only way to go when it comes to waterfalls. There are plenty of more contemporary options to choose from – including pouring jugs, freestanding water walls, and these stainless steel blades, which can be mounted above formal pools to create a delightful cascade.

Pinterest has some great inspiration for modern and minimalist waterfall designs. However, due to their complexity, many of these will require a professional to install.

Top tips for adding a water feature to your garden

Top tips for adding a water feature to your garden

If you think a water feature might work well in your outdoor space, have a read of our tips for buying and maintaining them.

1. Listen before you buy

As we’ve said, the sound of running water is one of the most attractive aspects of many water features. However, some noises may suit your taste better than others. For example, you might only want a gentle trickle to give your garden an air of peace and tranquillity. Alternatively, a rushing sound can provide your outdoor space with a wilder feel.

With this in mind, it’s worth asking if you can listen to water features before you commit any money.

2. Consider placement

Placement is one of the most important considerations when adding a water feature to your outdoor space. For starters, you generally don’t want to put them underneath overhanging trees, which will drop leaves and other debris – as this can make it tricky to keep them clean.

You’ll also want to think about where you place your water features from an aesthetic point of view. For example, fountains work particularly well in central locations, acting as a focal point that draws the eye. Most designers also recommend placing flowing features near seating areas, where you can enjoy their calming noises more often.

3. Maintain your water features throughout the year

To make sure your water features stay in tip-top condition, it’s important to maintain them.

For example, throughout the year, your feature will lose water through evaporation and might need topping up. Thorough cleaning now and then will also help prevent algae buildup. Plus, freezing conditions can damage some features, so you may want to drain yours if particularly cold weather is forecast.

Check out this guide from Haddonstone to get some tips for maintaining your water feature.

Maintain your water features throughout the year

4. Think about safety

Some water features, especially ground-level ones like pools and ponds, can pose a serious risk to small children. So, if you expect to have kids in your garden, stick to small, raised features like birdbaths or bubble fountains.

This blog post from The Kids Garden has some more information about child-friendly water features.

5. Fill your feature with rainwater

If you can, it’s worth filling your feature with rainwater, instead of tap water. This is because water from the tap contains minerals that increase the chances of algae growth. Using rainwater in ponds is especially important, as it’s much better for keeping animals and plants healthy and happy.

6. Get planting

Introducing flora around your water features is one of the best ways to integrate them into your overall garden design and improve the health of your outdoor space. For example, native plants can help blend waterfalls and ponds into the natural landscape of your space.

You could also think about placing seedy flowers near your birdbath to help attract winged visitors. Or, why not introduce aquatic plants to your pond, which can add a striking visual element, oxygenate the water, and provide shelter for animals? Check out this article from the RHS to find out more.

Final thoughts…

When it comes to water features, the possibilities are practically endless, so we haven’t listed all the different types here. But, hopefully, this article has given you some inspiration for how you can add them to your outdoor space, whether you have a cosy city balcony or a sprawling garden in the countryside.

For more ideas and inspiration for making the most of your indoor and outdoor spaces, why not check out our home and garden section? Here, you’ll find a variety of articles, including; 18 home decorating ideas and 8 superfoods that you can grow from home.

Do you have a water feature in your outdoor space? Or are you thinking about adding one? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.