Clever small water gardens

With a bit of imagination, you can capture the sparkle and serenity of an ornamental pond in miniature – ideal for small-space gardening.

A n attractive water feature is always a bonus in a garden and even a tiny body of water can be the centrepiece of a pretty planting scheme. Luckily, you don’t need a vast area, costly excavation and construction or complicated electrical equipment – just a simple, sturdy, waterproof and frostproof container and a bit of imagination. The container can be buried up to its rim in the ground for a natural look, half buried or fully exposed, making both it and its watery contents a focal point. Beer barrel halves, Oriental glazed ceramic tubs, stone sinks, metal tubs, large old kitchen pots or even a washing up bowl plunged into the ground would be suitable.

Many garden centres have special sections devoted to aquatic plants but, unless your soil is naturally boggy, use ordinary plants for the surrounds. Hostas, Iris sibirica, astilbes and coloured stem dogwoods grow equally well in wet or ordinary conditions and, planted next to a water feature, visually extend its soothing feeling. Maintenance is minimal; keep the water free of fallen leaves and in hot weather top it up regularly.

Variations in stone

Stone and water are often associated in nature – rocky streams, for example, or pebbly beaches – and their quiet, timeless quality and neutral colours make them ideal ingredients for contemplative garden features.

If you are collecting stones or pebbles to enhance a small water garden, there’s no better place to look than by the sides of streams or on pebbly beaches, since water-washed stones have a fluid, sculptured shape. Alternatively, many garden centres now sell large round cobbles and small, smooth country stones.

Rectangular plots

Whatever its size and condition, a rectangular plot is an invitation to be creative. Take your time and consider all your options.

M ost houses, if they come with a garden at all, have a rectangular one. At first sight, such a plot might seem unpromising, but with careful planning and a bit of flair you can create an attractive, private haven that expresses your own particular style and meets your family’s particular needs.

Obviously, whether the plot is absolutely bare when you move in, or fully mature with the previous owner’s taste firmly implanted on it, affects how you treat it. But even gardens with a strong character or overgrown, neglected ones can be gradually transformed to suit your needs and taste.

Before rushing into action, try to imagine what you want your garden to look like. Television programmes often feature ordinary gardens, with inspirational ‘before and after’ schemes to give you more ideas.

Think, too, about how you want to use your garden and how much time you’re prepared to devote to its upkeep. Then, over two or three years, you can gradually make improvements as time and budget allow.

English: This is a water feature circulated in...

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ARTEMISIA ASSOANA. FINE-CUT LEAVES OF intense silver. The insignificant flowers should be removed. ASPERULA NITIDA VAR. PUBERULA. FORMS A neat, dense mat of grey-green leaves, with pink, tubular flowers during late spring. CYANANTHUS MICROPBYLLUS. A HERBACEOUS plant, with purple-blue, funnel-shaped flowers at the end of each shoot in late summer.
DRYAS OCTOPETALA ‘MINOR’. A SEMI-evergreen mat of toothed leaves, with pure white, anemone-like flowers in early summer. Fluffy seed heads follow. HELIANTHEMTTM ALPESTRE ‘SERPYLLIFOLIUM’. Small mats of tiny grey leaves, with masses of golden blooms in early summer. Phlox douglasii ‘Crackerjack’. Bright crimson blooms in late spring over a neat cushion of soft-green, spiky leaves. Salix pyrenaica. A red-stemmed bushlet, some 15 cm (6 in) high. Grey-green leaves, and red catkins with yellow stamens. Sedum cauticolum. Flat crimson flower-heads in late summer. Glaucous fleshy leaves. Attractive to butterflies.
HELICBRYSUM SELAGO ‘MINOR’. A BUSHLET with whippy stems, each having overlapping, scale-like leaves. The small fuzzy flowers, in summer, smell of honey. Ilex crenata ‘Mariesii’. This rigid-stemmed little holly has tiny, leathery, dark green leaves. Black berries in autumn and winter. Very slow-growing. Junipertis communis ‘Compressa’. A neat, candle-flame column of blue-green, spiky growth. This conifer is ideal for sinks, as the annual growth is only 2.5 cm (1 in). Salix x boydii. This fascinating pygmy willow has grey leaves with ‘netted’ veining. Very slowly, it forms a gnarled bush to 30 cm (1 ft).
TEUCRIUM SUBSPINOSUM. SPIKY STEMS SOME 10 cm (4 in) high. Tiny grey leaves; small crimson flowers in late summer.

CUSHION AND CREVICE PLANTSAQUILEGIA SAXIMONTANA. A PYGMY columbine, with blue-green leaves and short stems that carry short-spurred blue and white flowers in spring. CAMPANULA RAINERI. MID-SUMMER flowering. Large, open, blue bells over ash-green leaves. Has a wandering habit. Carexfirma ‘Variegata’. Stiff green leaves, with cream margins, make this tiny sedge an attractive trough plant. Dianthus alpinus ‘Joan’s Blood’. A neat plant with crowded bronze leaves. Blood-red flowers on short stems during early summer.

Draba bryoides. A dense, low mat of emerald green, moss-like foliage. Small yellow flowers in spring. ERODIUM REICHARDII. DARK GREEN MATS AND an unusually long succession of white, red-veined flowers during the summer. Gentiana verna’ Angulosa’. Vivid, deep blue ‘stars’, with a central white eye, form a stunning display during late spring.
POTENTILLA ERIOCARPA. FORMS A SMALL MAT OF grey-green leaves, with short-stemmed yellow flowers throughout the summer and autumn.Primula ‘Beatrice Wooster’. A vigorous hybrid that bears short-stemmed, rose-pink flowers during early spring, each having a central white eye. Ramonda myconi. For the shady side of a rock. Crinkled, dark-green leaves; purple-blue, flat-faced flowers in spring. SAXIFRAGA CARNIOLICA. TIGHTLY-PACKED leaves of silver-grey with exquisite ‘beading’ down each margin. Creamy-white flowers in early summer. 5.‘Marie Louise’. Snowy-white blooms often appear during late December and January. Perfectly-shaped, silver-grey rosettes. 5. oppositifolia ‘Ruth Draper’. Rose-pink, stemless flowers in very early spring. Best in part shade to avoid leaf-scorch. Silene keiskei ‘Minor’. A late-summer-flowering, campion-like herbaceous plant. The blooms are deep pink. Teucrium aroanium. An attractive, grey-leaved sub-shrub bearing hooded, lavender-coloured flowers during the summer.
THALICTRTTM KIUSIANUM. A NEAT, WIRY-stemmed plant with leaves resembling those of a maidenhair fern. Fuzzy, purple flower-heads in spring. Herbaceous habit.
WABLENBERGIA PUMILIO, SYN. EDRAIANTBUS pumilio. Tufts of grey-green leaves. Upturned, funnel-shaped flowers in varying shades of blue during the summer.

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