London – How extraordinary that a small amount of movement can transform an entire garden, adding music, energy and sparkling light.
As well as providing the setting for a range of planting. A dark wall can host a simple cascade made from a spout running down the wall into a basin, from which the water is pumped a few feet back up and round again.
This then is the ideal environment for shade and moisture-loving ferns and a difficult area is transformed into a really attractive wall fountain.
If you want to be more ambitious, it is perfectly possible to make a stream, complete with pools, rocks and little cascades.
All you need is a fall in level from the top to bottom, which can be created on a level site by making a pond at the bottom of the stream, to form a reservoir containing a pump, you then put the spoil from this at the top of the run, and landscape the fall with stones and cobbles to make it look natural.
Whatever water feature you decide to make in your garden, the secret is to harness this musical element that always accompanies running water, that is not only stimulating, but deeply restful.
Go for cool, calming greens
Small but very effective water features are best planted simply, using green predominantly to reinforce the cool, sensual feel of the moving water.
Bright colours distract and divert the impact. I love the combination of shade, water and ferns. These are a few that work well:
Dryopteris filix-mas has elegantly arched fronds and loves shade, though it will adapt to moist or dry conditions.
The spleenworts, or aspleniums, with their seaweed-like flat fronds come in many different sizes, from tiny Asplenium trichomanes to dramatic Asplenium scolopendrium crispum, and are superb plants for damp shade, growing in the cracks in stone and brick.
The lady ferns, Athyrium, such as the native A, filix-femina and cultivars, need some moisture in the soil.
The shuttlecock fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, is dramatic, but easy once established, dying down to a brown knobbly stump in winter from which sprout metre-high fronts in spring. Maidenhair ferns, such as Adiantum venustum, make superb ground cover with delicate, shimmering fronds.
Blechnum spicant, the hard fern, and the oak fern, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, relish the shady, damp air of a fountain.
How to create your dark wall
1. If you have access to both sides of the wall, drill a hole just below eye level, and a second 1.2m below for the pipe to come back into the reservoir. Or the pipe can run down the front of the wall: cover it later with plants.
2. Cut copper pipe for holes. Cut front of top pipe at an angle so water flows forward. If going through a wall, make bottom pipe 5cm (2 in) longer; the top one needs same plus depth of feed of spout/mask – available in garden centres.
3. Thread the pipes through the holes in the wall. Attach an elbow joint to each section of pipe – the top one turning down and the bottom one turning up – or join them with a length of hose pipe tightened with Jubilee clips.
4. Create a reservoir tank in any waterproof container, from a tin bath to a brick basin, that sits with the bottom copper pipe at surface level. A coping stone can hide this. Asubmerged pump can then be connected with flexible piping to this copper feed pipe and to a safe electrical source.
5. The water from a wall fountain can look particularly effective tumbling into a basin attached halfway up the wall as this then overflows into the reservoir, giving the falling water another dimension of sound and movement.