Water features can bring interest, beauty and wildlife to a garden, but they also can be work.
That's why many homeowners are choosing relatively small options such as fountains, bubbling urns and waterfalls, rather than ponds and streams, industry analysts say.
“A big backyard pond takes a lot of time to clean,” said Laura Dickinson, extension master gardener coordinator at Kansas State University. “You have to fight with the critters, keep the water in balance and prevent algae from building up. You have to do special things in winter to shut it down and again in spring to set it up.
“It can get pretty expensive if you want to hire all that done,” Dickinson said.
Sharon Coates, vice president of Zaretsky and Associates Inc., a landscape design and consulting firm in Macedon, N.Y., said many of her clients are forgoing water features “because of the perception of high maintenance.” The biggest problems, she said, arise from unforeseen circumstances.
“These can be caused by chipmunks or other animals nesting and chewing on the liner, or even by herons deciding to go fishing in your pond,” Coates said. “Bubbling urns or boulder water features have a below-grade plastic composite basin that is not easily damaged.”
Some things to consider when deciding whether to landscape large with ponds or small with fountains:
• Work: Water features are a labor of love, and many homeowners enjoy the activities required to keep a smooth-running pond, creek and waterfall, Coates said. But she adds a cautionary note: “As people work more hours and feel the pressures of balancing work and home life, they are looking for the benefits of a water feature without all the work of a full-blown pond.”