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Beyond here is partially glimpsed and sensed but not completely apparent, the formal garden room. Its invisibility is partially due to the screening of the pergola and because the entrance to the pergola is offset to the far right side, perpendicular to the long axis. From the above photo the existence of this room is clear but from within the garden there is the element of surprise and discovery. This room possesses its own water feature, discussed under Raised Formal Water Features. Here we look at the front, informal garden with its small, informal pond.

 garden in progress, as yet, no formal or informal pond garden after showing informal pond on bottom right

 In progress

Just after planting

In this new design this was to be the primary entertaining area in an informal setting. It was designed to accommodate a good-sized table and chairs, a barbecue, ample space for ten or more people and a natural water garden for visual and audio pleasure. The feeling wanted here was a carefree, natural charm in a lush setting which lead naturally and gracefully into the other reaches of the garden.

Water Feature Design:

It is important in the design of a water garden which is so thoroughly a part of the space it occupies - so much a component of the plane of traffic, that its placement and size not interfere with inevitable use, nor that it occupy, visually, too much or too little of the area.

This little fish pool might have been a little larger but for the fear of encroaching too much on the usable space. This is often a concession that must be made in narrow sites. Another problem associated with narrow sites is the tendency to confine the water garden to straight lines and every opportunity to build in curves should, in the creation of a natural pool, be taken. Here, though the pool hugs the wall, it is built out from it here and there, giving curves to the far edge of the pond and varying the width of the planting beds between the far edge and the brick wall. In this way the pond is integrated with the garden it occupies. It is large enough to be in scale with this garden room, to provide pleasure visually and audibly without being in the way of normal garden use.

Another way this pool is integrated into the design of the garden is through the function of directing traffic. It sweeps outward, toward the center of the garden at the far end by the arbor, creating a narrowing of paved area the visitor is instinctively drawn into, thus leading him onward, into the next garden room, the alcove.

 pond fish picture

Gold fish pond

 Notice that the far wall is elevated on this pool. Normally, in-ground water features of this style do not have such a construction. This was necessitated by the exposed concrete foundation of the brick wall behind it which would have made an inappropriate backdrop to a natural pool. River-rounds were used to make the wall, simulating a natural appearance and even though they are mortared, this wall still conveys the feel of a natural environment, achieved by careful placement of the stones. This river-round wall also makes the planting bed possible behind it.

The waterfall issues from a berm of soil and rock at the far end of the pool, flowing over a single, flat stone and falling several inches into the pool. The sound is sufficiently audible but not overwhelming as it would have been with a higher fall. It makes a quiet gurgling, splashing sound and in this location is easily visible from the large sliding glass doors of the kitchen.


The planting scheme is very informal particularly by its organization but also through the species used. (There are a few ‘formal’ species, the Lilies, for example, the Nandina domistica and the Rose, but placed within a plethora of informal plantings the formality is thoroughly transformed.). We have Coreopsis and Climatis, Hydrangea and Sand Cherry and Juniper all massed into a sprawling spree with Astilbe and a Tree Peony. Along the far edge there are Ferns and Hosta, Liriope and Bergenia and one dwarf weeping Hemlock. All combined, the effect is of a well composed wildness. As these all begin to grow together, which was the intent, this effect will be even more pronounced.

 informal planting for the informal pond garden informal pond in an informal pond garden

 Informal planting for the informal pond garden

Informal pond in an informal pond garden


a space waiting to become an informal pond garden  the completed informal pond garden



Click here to learn how to build a liner built pond.

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