Water Features for the Garden – Tub Fountains

Water Features for the Garden


Constraints placed by lack of space need not preclude the enjoyment of water gardening, for acceptable water features can be established and effectively maintained in tubs or half-barrels. The secret of success lies in not attempting to create a miniature balanced aquatic environment, but to accept that the container is a separate kind of water gardening opportunity, which has different requirements.

Tub Fountains One of the most satisfying uses for a water-filled tub is to grow pygmy waterlilies as individual plants. They are quite resilient and, after the summer season, should be dried off and stored in frost-free conditions. That is the container should be drained, and the rootstock allowed to remain dormant in the mud at the bottom. This means that the feature can be displayed for the summer only; there is no need to spend the other six months of the year looking at an apparently lifeless container of water.

A tub or half-barrel also provides an opportunity for experimenting with a tropical waterlily or lotus. The plant can be started off under glass, then moved outdoors. Alternatively, it can remain as a greenhouse feature. Both tropical waterlilies and lotus can be lifted and stored during the autumn and winter, then replanted in spring.



Apart from using a tub or barrel for cultivating aquatic plants, you can also make one into an unplanted water feature incorporating a fountain. This can be most attractive. It is also a very safe method of introducing water to the garden if you have young children.

The most effective moving water feature for a tub is the pebble fountain. This is constructed using internal wooden supports, a simple submersible pump and some well washed pebbles. The tub, of course, should be waterproofed and the pump placed inside on the bottom. The side of the tub should be marked about 5cm (2in) above the top of the pump body, and pieces of timber wedged across the tub at this point to form a level surface, effectively creating a grille. Alternatively, cut a piece of marine-grade plywood to fit the tub at the marked point, drilling a series of holes through it and making provision for the pump outlet and cable.

Cover the grid or plywood with large pebbles, in the latter case providing additional supports below to bear the weight. In some cases, cobbles rather than pebbles may be preferred.

A tub fountain like this can he most attractive. Moreover, the maintenance requirement will be reduced to keeping a check on the water level. It is surprising how much water can he lost through splashing and evaporation, so regular topping up, to keep the pump submerged, is essential. While the simple bubbling of water through the pebbles or cobbles is most attractive, using an outlet fitting that gives a more gushing effect, or produces a bell-like rounded curtain of water, will provide additional interest. The opportunities for innovation are considerable.

It is common to think of tub water gardens as movable features that can be placed on a terrace or patio, but they are equally at home sunk into the garden as miniature pool features. In fact, they are often easier to manage like this during the hot summer weather, as the cool conditions provided by the surrounding soil reduces the rapid development of green algae that will discolour the water.

1. Place the pump in the tub and mark the level of the plywood insert around the edge, allowing for a layer of cobbles. At the same time make provision for access for the pump cable.

2. Fit the plywood insert into the tub and drill holes evenly around the central fountain outlet. Marine plywood is the best type to use as it is much more tolerant of wet conditions.

3. Place a generous layer of well washed cobbles or pebbles on the top and fill the tub with water. Tub fountains are equally successful free-standing or sunk into the ground.



Garden centres offer a range of tubs and half-barrels that are suitable for use as small water features for the garden, or contained water features once treated. Scrub any tub or barrel thoroughly with clear water. Never use a detergent, as it may contaminate the water later. If the tub is sound, but you are unhappy about its cleanliness, consider lining it. This is quite a good idea anyway, for most tubs and barrels will have been allowed to dry out, and there is no guarantee that they will tighten up and be waterproof when soaked again.

If you use a black liner, this will scarcely be noticeable. Carefully calculate the size of liner required and insert it into the tub, making as few fold creases as possible. Pour in water to within 7.5cm (3in) of the top of the container to hold it firmly in place, Using small pieces of timber batten, firmly screw the litter to the tub, just above the final water level. Alternatively, use flexible carpet edging strips.

A number of pre-shaped rubber liner inserts, which fit precisely into standard tubs and barrels, are available and worth investigating as an alternative to a plain liner. Although relatively expensive, they do make a very neat, crease-free job.

If a liner is not used, take steps to preserve the timber. Most tubs and barrels have a long life, but this can be greatly enhanced by charring. Turn the tub on its side and run a blow torch over the interior to produce a hard blackened surface. This will be very resistant to decay.


18. March 2011 by admin
Categories: Gardening Ideas, Water Gardening/Water Features | Tags: , | Comments Off on Water Features for the Garden – Tub Fountains


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