Garden Fountains and Geysers

Moving Water


Fountains have decorated pools for centuries, but only in recent times have they become readily available to the domestic gardener, and economical to run. Until the advent of the submersible pump, the establishment of a fountain was largely the prerogative of the landed gentry and the wealthy. The modern pump has not only brought fountains within the reach of ordinary working people, but its compactness and versatility has also made possible water acrobatics that, in the past, would have been rather difficult to arrange.


Fountains are best employed as focal points, making use of their wide and varied plumes of spray and, where the opportunity arises, the sculptures from which they can be induced to play. A fountain that emanates directly from the water’s surface will only be a feature while the pump is switched on, but one that flows from a wood nymph or dolphin leaves behind an attractive feature.

Garden Fountains and Geysers The position for a fountain must be chosen very carefully, taking into account not only the effects of any breeze and the height and spread of the spray in relation to the pool, but also light and shade. Observe the proposed site over a period of two or three weeks, assessing the light, particularly direct sunlight, at different times of the day in varying weather conditions. Always choose a sunny spot for a fountain, but wherever practical, arrange for it to be seen from the main viewing point through shade, especially when employing a plume of water or geyser. This will help make it stand out dramatically.

It is also important to look at the fountain’s surroundings, considering how the spray will appear against the various backgrounds that will be seen from all the viewing points. A fountain is an almost transparent sculpture, so much of what is behind it will be seen through the spray and, perhaps more importantly, may detract from its decorative effect. Even the sky can cause extreme displeasure to the owner of a badly sited fountain.

Of all the possible backgrounds, a plain hedge or wall is best; this will allow the fountain to be the focus of attention. With large plumes or geysers, it can be pleasing to frame them, and the edge of the picture formed by the garden as a whole, with the tall straight trunks of trees or pencil-like conifers. More modest arching sprays can be complemented very successfully by the rounded shapes of small bushes. For the most part, the scene should be uncluttered; even within the pool, the stately foliage of reeds and rushes should be the only distractions.

In most cases, fountains will look best when combined with artificially constructed water features. They are so definitely man-made that they do not rest easily in a natural landscape. The large plume of water, which appears from beneath the surface and suggests, although it does not imitate, a geyser, is the only configuration that really works in a pool that is intended to appear natural. However, if this is not a practical proposition, consider a waterfall or cascade.


Fountains belong in formal situations and can be either modern or classical. In most domestic gardens, the classical look is still preferred, with sculpted maidens and nymphs of the last two centuries finding the greatest favour. In many cases, they do not look at home in their settings. Although made of reconstituted stone or imitation lead, which can be very convincing, the contrast they make with modern brick, concrete and tile leaves a lot to he desired. Where the pool is an adjunct to a modern patio or terrace, consider using up-to-date materials such as steel and chrome for the fountain structure. If this does not appeal, simply use the water on its own, tossing it into the air to form an aquatic sculpture. A fountain pushing up a jet from just below the surface of the water associates well with most materials and surroundings.


In addition to the visual aspect of fountains, the sound that they create can be used to advantage. Indeed, for many gardeners, the sound of moving water is as great an attraction as its movement and the play of light upon the spray. A gentle tinkling in a small patio pool is charming and lends much to a sense of tranquillity, while the gushing of a plume of water brings excitement and a desire to stand, stare and listen.

Of course, not all fountains are so flexible and such independent features. Where space is limited, a wall fountain can be employed. Although offering far fewer possibilities than the traditional kind, this does provide an option for the gardener who has no pool, nor the room to install one. So, irrespective of the size of your garden and personal circumstances, there is a fountain to suit, but its success will rely very much upon the initial planning given to the project. Like a cascade, a fountain must be a carefully considered integral part of the water garden, not an appendage that is a convenient means of enjoying moving water.


The fountain unit creates the means by which elaborate sprays can be produced. For most pool owners, the source of its power is a simple, totally submersible pump to which jets offering various spray patterns can be attached. The choice of spray shapes and patterns is enormous and, as experience is gained, a range of interesting configurations can be created. For the newcomer to water gardening, it is best to select a simple jet initially, bearing in mind the principles of design that determine the most suitable arrangement.

With a circular pool, a single, thin vertical jet will be the most effective. However, this would look ill at ease in an oblong pool, where two or three evenly spaced jets, running down the centre, would complement the longer shape. Another possibility for the rectangular pool, and also for any long, canal-like feature, would be to arrange for a jet of water to rise from each corner and be directed into the centre. Although this arrangement works well in theory, there are practical constraints when dealing with large pools, for it would be impossible to operate the system from a single submersible pump. Therefore, several would need to be employed, or a larger surface pump installed. As with allaspects of water technology, the practical limitations must always be addressed thoughtfully.


Tradition dictates certain rules about the height and spread of a fountain spray, but these cannot take into account individual circumstances, especially concerning the exposure of the pool and the constraints imposed by the wind. Most gardeners agree that in a windy garden, it is prudent to restrict the height of a fountain jet to half the radius of the pool. Although very practical, this may not produce a very appealing feature, in which case, the fountain should be given extra height by using a statue or similar ornament, to which the pump can be connected. If conditions are generally calm, as may be the case in an enclosed walled yard, the jet of water can be equal in height to the diameter of its pool or basin. While a simple single jet of water can be used very successfully as a focal point, it can also be utilized to divide a space or interrupt a vista, encouraging the visitor to pause before moving on. Alternatively, a single-jet fountain can be incorporated in an asymmetric design to offset and balance another garden feature nearby.

If a single jet, with all its simplicity, is rejected in favour of a multiple-patterned fountain spray, the rule book can be discarded, as anything goes. Today there are so many different configurations available that it is almost impossible to provide guidelines for their use. The only advice that can be given is that if it looks right, it probably will be right.

When selecting a suitable spray arrangement, consider the possibilities of combining it with lighting. Few garden features can compare with a pool in which a fountain is illuminated at night. Although most lighting systems are installed completely separately, some fountain units not only incorporate a lighting attachment, but also have a special automatic control that will switch from one colour to another. However, for the ultimate in sophistication, equipment is available that will make beautifully lit fountain jets dance to a programmed musical recording.

Doubtless, the majority of gardeners would find such innovation too much, but careful consideration should be given to the options that are available among the spray patterns and sequences. It is possible to buy special sets of jets that allow variations in pattern to suit the gardener’s mood and circumstances. With modern submersible pumps, these are readily interchangeable, being merely snapped on and off the outlet pipe.


The spray patterns available include some very specific shapes. Of the more popular examples, the silver arch is considered to be the most beautiful. This produces twelve ribbon-like jets of spray, which shoot into the air, forming an inverted central cone, then fall gracefully into the pool in a glistening circle. The crystal cone offers a similar pattern: a vertical inverted cone comprising a profusion of crystal-like droplets. The droplets soar upward from the fountain jet in a rotating widening cone, appear to hesitate, then fall back musically into the water.

Bursting-star spray patterns are equally popular and consist of a vertical cone of water, which soars upwards and is supported by a second level of up to six plume-like streams. The water droplets burst from the two rotating levels, falling back into one another.

In many parts of Europe, a traditional pattern has been the fleur-de-lys, which has retained its popularity despite all modern innovations. With either a two-tier or three-tier configuration, it looks at home in most pools, even those of modern design. However, for it to be really successful, it must be placed in a pool at least twice as wide as the spray is tall.

Whatever initial decision is taken with regard to a fountain, changes can always be made with very little effort. There can be few other parts of the garden where it is possible to alter the appearance so dramatically by doing something as simple as slipping a new fountain jet onto a tube. This versatility enables the gardener to create a specific mood or to match a change in the water garden’s surroundings whenever required.

05. February 2011 by admin
Categories: Gardening Ideas, Water Gardening/Water Features | Tags: , | Comments Off on Garden Fountains and Geysers


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