Life bubbles up when water moves Fountains: From grand and glorious to tiny and enchanting, fountains mesmerize and delight. You have room for one if you have room for a flowerpot.


July 28, 1996|By Marty Ross | Marty Ross,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Add a fountain to the garden and it springs to life: gushing, bubbling, splashing with the music of water, cooling the soul. If you've ever stood dreaming while the sprinkler spins, you're already aware of the qualities that moving water brings to the garden.

It's a small step, really, from a sprinkler to a fountain, and one well worth taking.

Fountains give a garden focus. "The same thing a fireplace does for a living room, a fountain does for a garden," says Gay Estes, a garden historian and lecturer whose interest in fountains has taken her around the world. "People stare at a fountain just as they will with a fire."

Grand public fountains set a good example, but their imposing scale may intimidate gardeners interested in adding a fountain to the back yard. Don't be dismayed; anyplace there's room for a flowerpot, there's room for a fountain. Placed right outside the back door, on a garden wall or on a pedestal on a balcony, fountains invite you into the fresh air. The sound of even a small fountain helps block out street noise, and can make the rest of the world seem far away.

In the late 19th century, mass-produced fountains of stone, lead, cast iron, marble and bronze figured prominently in American gardens. Fashions changed and fountains dried up for a while, but an interest in natural landscaping and ponds of reeds, water hyacinths and fish have brought water back into home gardens. Now the same shops that sell us aquatic plants carry fountains, pumps and miscellaneous supplies for customers who want the water without the lilies.

All the elements in the garden should express the gardener's style. "A fountain has a personality, and it should be harmonious with the house," Estes says. "It's an extension of your taste."

Every fountain has its own spirit and tempo. Borrow ideas from public fountains and water features in gardens you've seen and read about.

"When you look at public fountains, decide what appeals to you," Estes suggests. "Look at the shape and the proportion of the fountain, the height of the water, the shape of it coming up. Gauge the emotion you feel when you look at it."

Gardeners with a taste for the classical have the widest selection of fountains to choose from. Spouting faces, dolphins and sea monsters have been popular for centuries; in recent years, many other creatures have popped up to join them. There's something to suit every taste. Gardening stores and mail-order suppliers nearly always carry a fountain or two, and old and unusual pieces often turn up at antiques shops, flea markets and craft fairs.

Tabletop fountains are perfect for a screened porch or balcony, and all you need is an extension cord. Some of the best of these have a sense of humor: A watering-can fountain designed by Californian Brent Lemons continuously fills itself from a garden spigot, but never overflows.

If a power source isn't available, another supplier carries a solar-powered fountain, 8 inches across, that floats in a bucket, a pool or a birdbath and splashes obligingly when the sun shines.

Most larger fountains are no more trouble than tabletop fountains, and they make a bigger splash in the garden.

In garden-supply shops and catalogs, you'll see Japanese fountains of wood and bamboo; plump-cheeked cherubs spilling water from shells and urns; tile or terra-cotta fountains with a Spanish accent; and abstract designs in bronze or copper.

If you've got your own ideas, you can start from scratch with a receptacle, a pump and an appealing sculptural element. Modern recirculating, submersible pumps are inexpensive, energy efficient, and last for years. Easy instructions available at most water-garden specialty shops make installing your own small fountain a simple project.

The magnificent fountains of Versailles may be your inspiration, but size isn't the point.

"You can have a tiny fountain," Estes says, "a lion's head the same size as your Labrador retriever's, and it's just wonderful."

Where to buy them

Brently Designs, (213) 934-9747. English watering-can fountain, $220.

Gardeners Eden, P.O. Box 7307, San Francisco, Calif. 94120; (800) 822-9600. Catalog free.

Gardener's Supply Co., 128 Intervale Road, Burlington, Vt. 05410; (800) 863-1700. Solar-powered fountain, $99.95.

Horchow Garden, P.O. Box 620048, Dallas, Texas 75262; (800) 456-7000. Catalog free.

Smith & Hawken, 117 E. Strawberry Drive, Mill Valley, Calif. 94941; (800) 776-3336. Catalog free.

Wind & Weather, the Albion Street Water Tower, P.O. Box 2320, Mendocino, Calif. 95460; (800) 922-9463. Oriental water-flute fountain, $280.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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