Confessions of a water gardens landscaper
I’ve been and seen this movie dozens of times and I generally feel like walking out at this next bit. I do eventually but not straight away.
Dad shows the beast (the landscaper) round to the back garden whilst rabbiting inanely about the sound of water and maintenance free gardening. The beast just grunts. Dad’s imagination has obviously got the better of him as he waves his arms about as though he is trying to do the breast-stroke backwards and says:
“It’s a blank sheet of paper; where’s the water garden going to be? You’re the expert.”
Dad’s fate is sealed. He is on the first step to making his own hell whilst in search of paradise.
If we skip to the end of the movie we see Dad drowning in a sea of letters he has sent, threatening litigation and even then with little avail. This is cut with him dancing round what seems to be pool with brown water in it and a pile of soil at one end of it dotted with a few randomly placed stones. A concrete chute that answers for a stream deposits water into the pool from underneath what might be an ugly cement smeared waterfall. Dad’s dance is in fact him trying to kick himself.
There are so many reasons for wanting water in the garden, even as the major part of a garden scheme; I could break a coffee table with them with the pile of reasons. But when I have my landscaper disguise on, I wish people would share their reasons with me. Different styles suit different gardens and situations. It is a fact that more formal water gardens with large amounts of hard landscaping are much more expensive. Also different characters have different preferences, but what very often rules the ultimate decision is the cost. Really the cost should come secondary to the quality of the materials used and the craftsmanship you employ and in this way you will get much more value for money AND be able to sleep more soundly at night, rather than embarking on a bitter period of your life when everything seems to go wrong from then on and the vast eyesore of the water garden serves as a permanent reminder.
Building a water garden is no mean decision. It is going to be expensive even if you do it yourself. To some people the idea seems almost innate; like one of these ‘bubbling up’ decisions that make people go out and buy a cat or a dog for no ‘real’ reason. It’s just something you have to do. But before you embark on this project you must have a clear idea of your budget having researched what this thing is liable to cost. (Twice the cost of the retail price of all the materials is a good rule of thumb in the UK. In some countries labour can be as little as a quarter of the cost, but supervision and ensuring a conscientious attention to detail can be a major drain on your time.)
Get a little help form your friends
Lets face it, good water gardens don’t come cheap and there are some people out there that think if you are weighed down with enough spare ‘lolly’ to spend it on a hole in the ground then you should be more than willing to let them lighten the load for you. So first of all, get a good grasp of the subject. Read a bit (up to date literature, because materials are always changing). Also, ask your friends.
Hey, we’re your friends. We can keep you straight on all the best products and the best techniques around. We will show lots of amazing water gardens, some you’ll like, others too kitsch to be real – but at least you will begin to feel sure how you want your water garden.
Become ‘au fait’ with the materials and terminology. Some of the cheaper materials are not even worth considering, especially for the bigger projects.
Find out how things work (basically), for instance, that most streams in small water gardens are run from recirculated water pumped up to the head of the stream by an electrical pump sitting in the bottom of the pond! No missus, they don’t need to be plumbed into mains water!
Ask your friends how their water garden was built. Would they recommend the team they used? No? Why not? Learn from their mistakes.
If you have no friends with water gardens or you have just moved into the district, ask at the local water garden centre or garden centre. But don’t use this as a recommendation unless it comes from another source as well. They may have some ‘backscratching deal’ going. Try to get to see something successful project that they completed successfully to everyone’s pride and satisfaction. (More of this later.)
If you have no idea, nor care about water garden construction, but want something to look really good and appropriate for the setting whilst making sure you wont get ripped off, then you will have to dig deeper into your pocket in order to pay for some inspiration and conception. Garden designers are good at inspiration but not necessarily the practicalities, although they are getting better all the time. Their streams tend to be too long for the pond and they fill the pond with so much junk, like stone and pebbles, there’s hardly any room for anything that matters! (Sorry generalisation.)
So get a designer with ‘water garden experience’ and when you do get a good design, keep the designer on to oversee the project, they’re jolly useful for sorting out those beastly contractors. If the designer has a ‘preferred contractor’ it is probably best to use them, even if they work out to be slightly more expensive. This is probably because they have done an accurate quote to preserve their standing with the designer. Also it is not unusual for designer and contractor unfamiliar with each other to lock horns at a critical moment and everyone walks off site in a huff.