Attractive as fountains and waterfalls are to both eye and ear, I believe that their full decorative possibilities are not realised until they are illuminated after dark. This can be done by using ordinary garden lighting directed at the pool from the surrounding garden. It is far more effective, however, if light shines up from the water surface, or even from below it, and this is perfectly possible and completely safe using one of the special fully waterproof systems of underwater lamps and cable now made for just this purpose. Water is undoubtedly the most rewarding subject for night lighting and the effect of even one
100-watt lamp in conjunction with a fountain or waterfall is quite startling. Two are better, as I found after a little experimenting.
My first discovery was that water illuminated from the front (that is the side from which I was looking) is good, but from behind it is far, far better. In illuminating the fountain in the centre of a pool, for example, it is better to place lamps in the far corners of the pool and not in the near corners facing away from the viewer. Light coming from the sides and a little behind the fountain is refracted through the droplets to produce brilliant coruscations against the darkness beyond. Using two colours, blue in one corner and red in the other, turns the whole fountain into a firework cascade of mixed red and blue sparks. The next step is to group three, of different colours, round the pump, shining directly upwards into the fountain spray from just below the surface, with even more spectacular effect.
Experiments with a waterfall reinforced the idea that front lighting is good, but lighting from behind much better. A lamp shining up from the water behind the waterfall turned the cascade into a moving translucent curtain of glowing colour.
At this point I begin to get the feeling that the keen gardener may be getting a bit restless and unwilling to postpone much longer the serious business of plant selection and pool stocking. I hope enough has been said to persuade him that there is some virtue in moving water, even if it does involve some simple do-it-yourself gadgetry. As for lighting, well, I can’t pretend that there’s any real horticultural merit in that. But perhaps, when the pool is planted and flourishing and a going concern as a major garden feature, he might give a thought to surprising the family – not to mention the neighbours – by adding two or three underwater lamps and making the pool, always fascinating by day, positively spectacular by night.
In the meantime, and without further delay, let’s leave the gadgetry and get on with the real gardening.