June 3, 2019
In recent years, we’ve seen fewer and fewer water features in the gardens we are invited to redesign. Water has had a bad press, with people increasingly concerned about the safety of having a water feature in the garden – and this is having an adverse effect on wildlife. However, water features can be relatively safe – and they can bring a garden to life, which is why we’re supporting Wild About Gardens’ 2019 campaign to go wild about ponds.
The impact of fewer garden ponds on wildlife
Recent data from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch show that since 2014, the number of frog sightings have dropped by 15% while the number of toad sightings have fallen by 28%. These large numbers are thought to be caused – in part – by a reduction in the number of ponds in people’s gardens. Frogs and toads are amphibians, which means they need to lay their eggs in water to reproduce; with the loss of pond habitats, their numbers are falling.
It’s figures like this that inspired the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society to set up Wild About Gardens to celebrate wildlife gardening. This year, the campaign is encouraging people to go wild about ponds – the message is that even a water feature the size of a bucket can have a positive impact on the garden wildlife. Each water feature is part of a bigger picture – each little addition adds up to create a network of habitats for freshwater animals, insects and birds.
Aesthetic benefits of water
Water features aren’t just great for wildlife, they’re also amazing at reflecting light to brighten your garden and outdoor living spaces. There are few things that can illuminate shady areas, such as underneath a balcony, better than a well-placed water feature. Lightly coloured paving slabs could be an option, but they inevitably get dirty without regular maintenance.
A water feature could also bring a calming element to your outdoor enjoyment, providing soothing acoustics and peaceful visuals, creating a psychological cooling effect on a hot day, as you sit in the shade under a gazebo with the sun glinting off the ripples. These are all angles that are difficult to introduce into your garden by other means. They can also break up the landscape of your garden and offer a point of interest at the end of a pathway or long flowerbed, functioning as a focal point.
A water feature doesn’t have to be a pond, it could be a cascade or even a trickle over a rock into a hidden chamber. Water can be an amazing way to create flow as a running rill or stream alongside or over a pathway to build a creative and enticing path along which to meander.
How we make water features safer
At Dewlands Garden Design, less than a fifth of gardens we see have water features. We love to include water into your garden designs, but many people are put off them because they’re seen as a safety hazard for your little ones. There are many simple ways to design water features so that they’re much safer. For example, there are guards and protectors that sit below the surface. Or you can simply position your water feature at a height that prevents babies, toddlers or young children from climbing into them.
The benefits of water features for children
If you do have kids growing up and you’re thinking about including a water feature in your garden design, it can actually be a help for them to learn about the dangers of water and how to behave around lakes and ponds to be sensible and stay safe.
If you have a pond in your garden, hearing the frogs croaking away during early spring can be a glorious thing to enjoy. Also, seeing the whole lifecycle of tadpoles turning into froglets is an amazing experience, particularly for children who might not get to see this unique view of nature anywhere else – especially nowadays, when many young children don’t even know what frogspawn looks like. If your garden doesn’t have water in it, it’s a major opportunity missed to get your kids in touch with nature.
If you want to design your perfect outdoor space, a water feature may be just what you need to give it that ‘Wow!’ factor. Not only do water features provide endless enjoyment in terms of the aesthetic enjoyment they bring, but the benefits to the wildlife in your local area can be huge.