A little water music

This small fountain can fill a garden with the soothing sounds of trickling water

Lauren Bonar Swezey

Slideshow: 10 inspiring water features for your garden

"A garden without water is like a theater without a stage," says English garden designer Rosemary Verey. But you don't need a huge pond to bring water to your garden. The fountain shown here is elegant enough to enhance a formal patio or leafy garden corner. It's easy to make from readily available materials. It's also a bath for birds.

To landscape architect Richard William Wogisch, who designed the fountain, the sight of falling water "adds motion and life to a garden." And when that water is just a quiet trickle, its melodious sound is also very soothing. Quiet trickles don't splash either--a plus on a wood deck or patio.

A low terra-cotta bowl forms the fountain's base and catches the falling water. A terra-cotta azalea pot (a container that's wider than it is tall) is inverted in the bottom of the bowl to support a strawberry pot and hide the recirculating pump. Water is pumped up through clear tubing inside the strawberry pot, gurgles out into a saucer on its top, and drips lightly over the saucer's rim into the low bowl.

How to build a trickle fountain

TIME: About four hours (excluding two-day drying time)

COST: About $225

TOOLS: Drill with 5/8-inch masonry bit, 1/4-inch round file, paintbrush, shears (sharp), bucket


Tapered terra-cotta bowl, 24 inches wide and about 8 1/4 inches deep

Terra-cotta azalea pot, 10 1/2 inches wide and about 7 1/2 inches deep

Terra-cotta strawberry pot, 14 inches wide (at widest point) and about 13 inches tall

Terra-cotta saucer, 9 1/2 inches wide (sized to sit in your strawberry pot's top)

Terra-cotta-colored plastic saucer, 121/2 inches wide

Submersible pump, with a flow adjustable to 2 feet

Cubic-foot bag of 3/4-inch river rock

2 feet of 1/2-inch clear vinyl tubing

1/2-inch barbed to 1/2-inch male brass pipe thread adapter

1/2-inch female to 1/4-inch female brass bell reducer

1/4-inch brass close nipple

Terra-cotta vinyl latex sealer (such as Universal Terra Cotta Sealer)

Waterproof adhesive (such as Liquid Nails)

Silicone sealer

Six 1-gallon water plants (available in many nurseries)

1. Seal terra-cotta pots. Brush sealer on the inside of the low terra-cotta bowl, and on the inside and outside of the strawberry pot and the terra-cotta saucer. Allow to dry for 24 hours.

2. Drill holes, file slit. Drill four to six evenly spaced holes around and just below the 2-inch lip of the azalea pot. Also drill a hole in the center of the terra-cotta saucer. Using the round file, file a small notch in the lip of the azalea pot (for the submersible-pump cord).

3. Install brass fittings. Attach the barbed hose fitting to the vinyl tubing, and insert the threaded end through the hole in the terra-cotta saucer. Screw the bell reducer to the threaded end protruding through the saucer and attach the nipple to the bell reducer. Trim the hose to 14 inches.

4. Install saucers. Apply a band of waterproof adhesive to the bottom outside edge of the plastic saucer. Place the saucer in the bottom of the low bowl (it will fit snugly), level it, and weight it down with the bag of river rock.

Set the terra-cotta saucer in the strawberry pot's top, and insert the vinyl tubing through the bottom of the strawberry pot. Lift the saucer up slightly and apply adhesive to the base of the outer rim of the saucer; reset it in the strawberry pot opening. Allow both saucers to dry overnight.

5. Assemble the fountain. The next day, move all of the materials to the area where the fountain will be permanently positioned. Apply a bead of silicone sealer between the strawberry pot and the terra-cotta saucer to ensure that water doesn't seep through the crack. Allow to dry for two hours.

Set the pump on the plastic saucer inside the low bowl. Turn the azalea pot upside down over it. Position the strawberry pot on top of the azalea pot. At the same time, insert the vinyl tubing through the hole in the bottom of the azalea pot (the fit will be snug).

While supporting the pots, carefully tip the azalea pot and attach the tubing to the pump outlet (if it's too much of a juggling act, find someone to hold the pots while you attach the tubing). Thread the electrical cord through the notch in the pot lip and up over the edge of the low bowl. Level the pots by adjusting the azalea pot in the saucer.

6. Add the plants. Fill a bucket with water. Dip plants in it to wash off loose soil. Set aside temporarily.

Arrange the plants in the low bowl, interspersing low ones with taller ones. Fill in the bowl and bottom of the strawberry pot with river rock. Add decorative rock or river rock to the top saucer to camouflage the brass fittings.

Fill the low bowl with water until it just begins to overflow. Plug in the pump. The water will be a bit dirty until it reaches equilibrium after a few hours. As water evaporates, add more water; never let the pump run dry.

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