Gardens - Water Gardening

Add ambience to your garden with a waterfall

Janet Davis, with Liz Primeau
Photography by
Harrison Baker, Illustration by Carol Paton

Create a soothing garden soundtrack and aerate your pond by building this small water feature

Planting guide

A man-made waterfall needs clever plantings to hide the fact that it's been fashioned from a disconnected mound of earth or rocks, without a natural beginning or end to its flow. Here are some suggestions.

  • Disguise the source with conifers such as spruce, hemlock, false cypress or cedar. Even a feathery Japanese maple can effectively conceal the mechanics.
  • On a small slope, compact shrubs look better than big ones: use bird's-nest spruce, fragrant sumac, dwarf junipers, spireas and boxwood. Grasses might include diminutive species such as sedges (Carex morrowii cvs.), blue fescue (Festuca glauca) or 'Skinner's Gold' brome (Bromus inermis 'Skinner's Gold').
  • In the soil pockets around the waterfall, plant bulblet ferns (Cystopteris bulbifera), which quickly colonize rocky places. Tuck damp moss into nooks and crannies, and use easy-care groundcovers such as bugleweed (Ajuga spp.), Irish moss (Sagina subulata), creeping Jenny (Lysmachia nummularia), dwarf campanulas, knotweed (Polygonum spp.), thyme, low sedums and hostas.

Pro tips

A waterfall should appear to be cascading naturally from higher ground, entering the shallowest part of the pond, opposite the end containing the recirculating pump. Leave enough space behind it to disguise the source and all the mechanics with well-placed rocks, trees or shrubs.

Your pond should be big enough to allow the water to fall into it without causing turbulence near any water lilies, which flower only in still water (see Water lily planting secrets). Some gardeners install a small, separate catchment pond for the waterfall, before the water drops to a larger pond containing lilies and other aquatic plants.

Adapted from Water in the Garden, copyright 1997 Madison Press Books. Distributed by H.B. Fenn & Co.


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