Designers and architects will tell you that it can take up to 5 years to make a house feel like home—to reflect your taste and sensibility. I've always liked that idea because it gives us permission to let things evolve over time to fit our needs and lifestyle.
It seems that with most homes design challenges pop up unexpectedly and require a change of direction or a new way of thinking. This happened last year when I learned that we needed to remove one of the most beautiful trees on our property. It was a tall aspen and had been planted too close to the house nearly 20 years ago. In the mornings the birds just outside our windows would wake us with their chirping and the branches were large which allowed for privacy in the front windows. But, the tree grew in height and girth to the point that it constantly hit the roof during winter storms, removing shingles and damaging the roof line. I was determined to save the tree (joking that we should move the house back one foot!) as I had grown attached to this giant quaking aspen that shimmered at the front of our house. It also covered the front in a way that I appreciated, softening the look of the wood exterior. After calling in several experts for a 2nd, 3rd and even 4th opinion I had to concede and the tree was taken down, the stump removed. After mourning the loss of the tree for weeks and feeling like the house was all too bare in the front I began my search to figure out how to solve this new and unwelcome design dilemma.
I researched fountains, bubblers, sculptural garden elements, and kinetic sculptures. My research took me from summer into fall and I quickly realized that the autumn months are indeed the best time of year to purchase water features, plants and trees as everything is on sale. So if it seems like gardening season is winding down, it is, but the deals to be had in the fall make it an enticing and cost effective time of year to add to your garden wish list. Before purchasing I looked around for a fountain that had a hint of the warm terracotta colors found in the stone on the house and patio. I ended up finding just the right thing at a nearby nursery although I was also considering some great options online. I also wanted something on the tall side to have some substance in the space vertically without being too big or overpowering. In the above photo you can see my final fountain choice.
Steps for installation were easy:
1. Smooth the dirt and compact it with a shovel so it is very firm. If there are any roots remaining you will want to pull those out as they can cause the dirt to settle as they decompose.
2. Purchase a large slab of stone from a quarry that will hold your fountain. I chose a wide cut stone that spread the weight over a larger section for greater stability over time. I saved the stone shown below from our back patio renovation but you can go to a quarry and hand select one.
3. Have the fountain delivered and placed on the stone so you don't have to hoist it on your own. I needed help with this as each piece of dyed concrete was very heavy. It took 4 delivery guys to put this in position.
4. Your pump will fit inside the center with a tube that will run down to the bottom. An electrical cord will come out of the groove at the base.
5. You will need nearby electricity to plug in the fountain and you may want to consider a timer that will turn the feature on and off, otherwise you will plug and unplug as needed.
6. Fill the fountain with water and you are ready to enjoy the birds that will be coming to visit as well as the sound of the water at your entry or on your back patio.
Planting around your fountain:
Choosing your plants and laying them around the garden is the fun part. In this particular case I was working with north facing exposure with little sun in the morning for a short summer season and cooler temps in the spring and fall months. There are very few trees that would survive in this spot so I opted for shade loving plants keeping in mind that I wanted to layer my plants from short to tall, have some flowering options mixed with lots of foliage and mix the blues and greens. When searching for your plants keep in mind that the same way we talk about color, texture, layering, pattern and solids for designing in the home can also apply to designing our gardens and planting beds. The plants you choose for your garden will depend upon where you live and the sun/shade exposure of your particular garden. It always helps to look up your zone in local gardening books and speak with an expert for your climate at your local nursery.
Design decisions for planting:
Layer your plants!
• In the Front of the garden I chose to plant a border of a small gray-blue ground cover that grows a few inches tall and looks great near boulders and rocks. It has small blooms that come out early summer.
• Second layer: I chose a taller growing ground cover that fills in quickly called Bishops Weed. I didn't have to add much as it is an aggressive grower requiring that I thin it out through the summer so it doesn't take over the other plants. It has a lovely green/white variegated leaf.
• Third layer around the stone: Look for taller growing plants with some blue-toned leaves to compliment the greens in front. I put in 3 Hosta plants, all with different color leaves that have a lovely purple floral shoot in the summer.
• Lastly, I sprinkled bleeding hearts and a few ferns between all of the green to add color. Next I will be adding small stones behind the fountain and around the stepping stones that lead to the water faucet.
Mixing it up:
• If possible purchase your larger plants in odd numbers— 1, 3, 5, etc. unless you are creating a border.
• Look for plants with red, blue, blue-grey leaves to arrange around your green leaf plantings—this will add a nice visual relief for the eye.
• Scale: look for variation in size of leaves and size of plants to create depth in your garden.
Happy fall planting and fountain hunting!
Here are links to a few of my favorite fountains:
Wayfair: Gorgeous and In different finishes
Hayneedle: Love this one
Restoration Hardware: On Sale Now