Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Garden Fountains 101

"The hours I spend with you I look upon as a 
sort of perfumed garden with fountain singing to it." 
-George Edward Moore, 
English philosopher

I love fountains. I love my garden. I love fountains in my garden.  When I traveled through Europe many years ago, one of my favorite things was the stunning fountains found in almost every town. The sound, the movement, the way people hung out near them....irresistible! 

Naturally when I started flower gardening, I wanted to bring in this element, so I did. And let me tell you in no uncertain terms--FOUNTAINS ARE THE BIGGEST PAIN IN THE ASS YOU WILL EVER EXPERIENCE! 

Phew! That felt good. Over the past decade, I have struggled with fountains of every size and shape, and spent hundreds of dollars replacing them or keeping them in working order. I now have an encyclopedic knowledge of fountains and want to share with you some of my hard earned lessons:

Fountains 101 
For the Average Home Owner 

1. Avoid concrete or stone fountains, particularly large ones. They're nightmarishly heavy and nearly impossible to fix if they leak. (don't listen to the hardware guy...he just wants to sell you cauk).

I bought this concrete fountain on a garage sale for $30. 
It took three men to load it into my car. Turned out it leaked.  
I tried everything to fix it.  I ended up drilling holes into it 
and turning it into a succulent planter.

2. Only buy a resin fountain IF: 
     a.) you live in a temperate climate. 
     b.) are willing to winter-store the fountain indoors in cold climates.
     c.) you don't mind chipped paint, because water and painted resin do not play well together!
This is the first resin 3-tiered fountain I bought. The base cracked open its second winter, and the whole thing toppled over.
This is the second three-tiered resin fountain I bought.  The paint started chipping off its first season, and the middle holding piece cracked off its second season. Instead of throwing it away like I did the first fountain, I drilled holes into the base piece and turned the whole thing into a towered petunia planter.  Much better!

I bought this resin fountain at a big box store. I liked the idea
of water running down rocks. It actually lasted four years
because I took the time to winter it indoors. The fourth year I got lazy and left it out. The bottom cracked open and now
it's just an expensive decoration.

3. Factor in how much wind your area gets. I live in a region where they build wind farms! Not a day goes by when my fountain pump isn't clogged with feathers, leaves, dirt, and other little debris the wind blows in! (One strategy for dealing with this is to put a mesh cover over the hole that leads to the pump.)

I bought this used stone fountain from a local greenhouse. Yes, it leaks and requires yearly sealing. However, unlike my concrete fountain, this one is at least weight manageable! The birds love it, and I'm constantly cleaning out tiny feathers and leaves. I need to add some algae treater to this fountain.  LOL, too much to do! 

4. Size matters! I know you want that big, gorgeous fountain the Hollywood stars have in their circle drives, but factor in how much work fountains are, and how much you're willing to invest in them. I finally found the perfect fountain for me. It's lightweight, easy to move around, low maintenance, and I even put live water plants in it!  I found this baby at an art fair. It's handmade, easy to clean, and will never break! The only thing I need to do is bring in the pump for the winter. 

5. Look for bargains. Fountains are lot like George Foreman grills....eventually they show up on garage sales for next to nothing! Be on the lookout for these gems, and you can fill every corner of your garden with flowing water! 

I bought this fountain on a garage sale for $12. The pump
was working and everything! (If the pump wasn't working,
I'd have offered them $6). It's only two feet tall, and the
birds and insects love it.
Well, my fellow gardeners, that's it. I hope my fountain of knowledge has bubbled forth sufficiently on you! Good luck! 


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