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A Passion For Water
by Liz Primeau
by Liz Primeau

Liz Primeau's second edition of Gardening for Canadians for Dummies, updated and with a new chapter on using art in your garden, plus a design and garden-care workbook section, will be released in January, 2002.

She is at present writing a new book on front-yard gardens, to be published by Firefly Books in spring, 2003.

Liz is the the founding editor of the Canadian Gardening magazine.

July 1, 2001

Some trends turn out to be more than transient fashion, they're movements that start small, gather steam and stick around for years. Water in the garden is one of these.
Ten years ago, when this magazine began publishing, the small garden pond had just come into vogue. Still ponds were popular because they were easy to install, but spray fountains, a fish spouting water or modest waterfalls run by a recirculating pump soon became de rigueur because they added the welcome sound of water and kept it aerated, making the pond a suitable home for small fish. Features like the Japanese tsukubai and the tipped-over urn spilling water became the next rage.
"People used to be satisfied with that little fountain spraying straight up in the air," says landscape architect Dean Woolley, who owns Waterwerx Environmental Architecture in Milton, Ontario. "Nobody wants it any more. And the pouring jug--it's definitely passe."
Instead, people want real water, even big water, and something different. At this year's Canada Blooms, a huge annual garden show held in Toronto, almost every featured garden revealed water of some kind, from a bubbling stream to an overflowing bathtub, a formal pond in India's Mughal tradition, and a large waterfall with mists curling about the several small streams tumbling down a huge rock. The focus of Dean's display was charming gotto that smelled like the Canadian north, thanks to the evergreens planted densely around it; stone slabs beckoned visitors to a hidden area behind a curtain of falling water. The falling water fed a foamy pond, which led the eye beyond it to a small deck holding two canvas loungers. Just the thing for the cottage.
But clients are open to ideas like this for their urban gardens, too. "They're getting braver, more sophisticated," Dean says. "Some see a design like this at a garden show and say give me that, like they were buying a car. Others are attracted by it but want us to design something just for them." 
In Dean's view, we've become a generation of button pushers and we want our gardens to be interactive, not just places in which to to sit. He's built plunge pools that look nature-made, and an acre-size natural pond with beach edges, like the old swimming hole. He's made two ponds that filled the backyards they inhabited, for serious water gardeners. "We sell hip waders, too, for those who want to get right into their ponds, for whatever reason," he says. 
The first-time pond owner usually asks for one about five by 10 feet, and typically with a waterfall, but most people soon wish they had something bigger. "The bigger the pond, the easier it is to keep the water clean and balanced, and to overwinter plants and fish," Dean says. And bigger refers to surface rather than depth. "There's no reason I've come across that says a fish pond has to be more than two feet deep, which usually keeps it within the local by-laws. It's a case of volume over depth."
Bigger ponds are in our future, Dean says, because we're inspired by what we see at garden shows and in magazines. So are a wider variety of exotic water plants, like lotus and large water lilies from the tropics, and formal ponds with unique fountains, like the Medusa spouting a mane of water that his firm has done. Waterfalls and curtains of water adjustable from trickles to torrents, made possible with the use of a manifold and a control valve, will be considered almost a necessity to drown out traffic noises or create a mood-making background for an al fresco lunch.
One might have assumed the passion for water would abate, like many garden trends; instead, it's gaining strength. The truth is that ponds have been with us since the ancient gardens of Persia and Rome because they cool, soothe and stimulate the senses. Big or small, water in the garden is here to stay.

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