Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
October, 2008
Regional Report

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A soothing, quiet waterfall does wonders for peace of mind.

Delightful Water

I've been giving a lot of thought to adding water to my landscape. I have two small fountains that give me the sound of moving water, but I'm thinking of going a little further and I'm looking to Oriental garden philosophy for inspiration.

Water is a fundamental part of nature that appeals to the calm, meditative side of us. The sound of water is cooling and soothing, yet rejuvenating, whether rippling, running, falling, or quietly lapping against the sides of a pool. Water brings another type of movement to the garden, different than the swaying of branches and the fluttering of leaves.

Water holds almost as important a place in Oriental design as stones, whether it be a full-sized lake, a small pool, a rushing or trickling waterfall, a dappled stream, or even a dry stream bed. In formal Oriental gardens, galleries are often built to be opened to enjoy the rain.

Lakes and Still Pools
Japanese garden lakes are designed with an irregular, curved shape and planted with trees so the visitor cannot see all of shoreline at one time. Lakes usually include one or more islands or rocks, each representing a specific element, such as a crane, a tortoise, or clouds. Still water such as a lake or pond is always sited so it has a feeling of life, exposed to wind, raindrops, sunlight, and especially reflections.

Streams add coolness and motion to the garden, and even if adding water would be difficult, a dry stream bed gives the illusion of movement. A naturally occurring stream is a treasure and can be taken advantage of by adding stones of differing sizes and shapes to offer pleasing textures and to vary the sounds the water makes as tumbling over them.

Planting pockets in the stream hold root-emerged plants like pickerel weed and watercress, and pockets of soil along the edges hold taller root-emerged plants like water iris and water arum. Moisture-loving plants such as astilbe and summersweet beautifully adorn the upper banks. A particularly attractive idea is to position plants and stones to give the illusion that the stream is actually a spring coming out of moss-covered rocks. For the garden without a natural stream, recirculating pumps can provide water for a small area.

Oriental gardens do not traditionally include fountains since the basic premise is to replicate nature. Waterfalls, however, may be a central feature of an Oriental garden, and they are placed in a naturalistic way. Even slight changes in topography can make a waterfall, as can a stone basin containing rocks for falling water to splash onto. Some designers are well known for their dry waterfalls, in which they arrange stones with striations that resemble water patterns.

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