Patio Ideas and Features: Mini Pools

Water brings instant magic to a patio. It’s infinitely soothing to jaded nerves to sit beside a small pool on a hot summer’s day, with nothing more strenuous to do than watch the fish, or listen to the trickle of a bubbling fountain. A pool is like a mirror, too, reflecting the sky, and making the patio seem larger than it really is.

Most patio pools, nowadays are home-made with the help of butyl rubber liners or bought in preformed shapes made from fibreglass. Choose a pool size and shape to suit your particular setting. Generally, straight lines in a patio dictate a square or rectangular pond. It is a good idea to incorporate a pond into the patio design at construction stage, leaving out a square or two of paving, perhaps, or building a brick container to hold it above ground level; 450-650mm (18-30in) is the usual height. The irregular outlines of the free-form fibreglass pools that can be bought readymade are usually better used in a rockery setting or cut into a lawn; but almost anything water-tight can make a pond – even a discarded bath, so long as you hide its all too obvious edges. Bowls, sinks, urns or tubs, even if they are cracked and leaky, make a good basis for a pool, since they can be lined with butyl (obtainable from garden centres).

Be careful where you site your pool. It’s best kept away from trees, especially deciduous ones, because rotting leaves in the autumn can cause pollution of the water. And your pool should receive direct sunlight for at least half the day.


If you decide to dig your own pond, mark it out first with string and pegs. When you shape the sides, cut them in one or more steps with sloping sides rather than as a single vertical drop; then you can use extra marginal plants, and the walls are less likely to fall in. To calculate the amount of pond liner needed, measure the length and width of the pond and add twice the depth to each measurement. For example, if your pool is 600 x 900mm (2 x 3ft) and 300mm (1ft) deep, you will need a sheet of butyl 1.2 x 1.5m (4 x 5ft) in size. Line the hole first, to avoid puncturing the butyl. An old piece of carpet or carpet underlay will do, or pieces of turf. Put the butyl in place in warm weather, when it will be more pliable and will cling to the curves of the hole you have excavated.

Begin filling the pool slowly with a hose. The liner will gradually sink. Ease it down until it fits snugly. Try to smooth out wrinkles as they occur, although most should have disappeared by the time the pool is full of water. When the pool is full, trim off the waste liner material, leaving about 200mm (8in) around the edge at the top for fixing down. In corners and tight bends make sure the sheeting does not get bunched – it must be folded over neatly to hide the surplus; never cut out segments of spare material, as this will almost certainly cause the liner to tear later on.

The edge of the butyl liner is best hidden under paving stones – an easy job if you are incorporating it into the patio. You can leave little pockets of soil around the edges and plant pond-site trailing plants. Make sure that your paving laps over the edge of the pool, to hide the liner exposed above the waterline.

It is important to keep your pool as clean as you possibly can. The best way to do this is to install oxygenating plants, such as water moss (Fontinalis antipyretica), spiked water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), which has delicate fine-toothed leaves, and Canadian pond-weed (Elodea canadensis). Water lilies (Nymphaea) look exotic but they are surprisingly easy to grow. Once they are anchored in place they need little or no attention. A number of lilies will grow very happily in tub pools; for example, N. nilida, which has cup-shaped flowers which appear in early summer. If you are planning a really small pond there are small water lilies that you can use; look for the name N. pygmaea. Pigmy lilies in shallow water need bringing indoors in the winter if there is a sharp frosty spell. If the plants cannot be moved, cover the pool with a wooden board in cold weather. Water lilies should be planted in May or June.


A fountain not only gives a vertical dimension to a pool but focuses interest, and creates a feeling of coolness on a hot day. It also helps to oxygenate the water – important if you have fish. Be careful to buy a pump of the right size. One that is too powerful will send the spray shooting all over the patio. Even when the nozzle is turned right down; it will also disturb water-lilies and may affect their growth.

22. July 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Top Tips | Tags: , | 1 comment

One Comment

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