Esprit de Isle

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Water Features - Outdoors, Decks & Patios

There are many beautiful small waterfalls, ponds, and pools now available to set outside on your deck or patio. When you browse through the garden departments of home improvement stores, it's simply amazing how many products there are for do-it-yourself landscaping. Even a rank amateur like me (who is also a not very strong woman) can create a pleasing and professional appearing garden statuary complete with flowing water in a very short time. The neat thing about these products is that they often have a display set up showing a variety of applications and how you can conform them to suit your particular taste and space.

These outdoor water features often share a basic design: a pre-formed hard-plastic (or other material) foundation with a submersible pump, plastic tubing and electrical wiring already mounted and ready to go. All you need to do is to take it home, fill it with water and plug it in.

Another unique design is the wall fountain. Rather European in design and style, they are available at home improvement and garden supply stores. There are also many sources on Internet if you do a Google search.

Some of these fountains are constructed of resin or other waterproof material and made to look like stone or wood. Often, they are so real looking that they are more attractive than the actual stone they are imitating. Once you decide which nook or corner of your deck to place the fountain, then all that's left is to place a little greenery around the setup so that it looks attractive and natural. A few pots of fern, flowering plants and, presto! You've created a small oasis complete with trickling water and color spots.

As an added bonus, particularly if you're also a bird-lover, it won't take very long before the neighborhood sparrows, finch and other common birds flock to sip and bathe in the water. It's a special delight to watch a tiny hummingbird perch near the trickling water and indulge in a refreshing bath! I've actually observed one of them splashing in a leaf that might have held a little more than a teaspoon of water - you'd have thought it was a whole bathtub full from the water droplets flying about!

WATERFALLS AND FOUNTAINS FOR DECKS AND BALCONIES

So, what is the major difference between decks and patios? The first and most obvious feature that comes to mind is the fact that decks can be virtually any distance off the ground. Patios are almost always at ground level and actually set into the dirt. Decks are usually constructed of wood or wood-byproducts and patios are often of concrete or varieties of hard-surfaced tile.

When a deck is attached at the 2nd or 3rd story of a house, it becomes a "balcony" - I've never seen the flooring of a balcony made of ceramic or concrete tile but that doesn't mean it isn't done, just that it's not common.

WHAT WATER FOUNTAIN IS BEST FOR MY DECK OR PATIO?

With the wonderful choices there are today, you will definitely need to window shop before making this important decision. In mild climates where you might be able to keep your fountain running year 'round, you may consider an Oriental or Japanese design with the long stem of "real" bamboo as part of the system. Water drips into the wooden tube until it fills just so much, then the tube tips and releases it's fluid payload into the pond waiting beneath. These are very lovely and harmonious in just about any decor.

Now that solar lighting has become so affordable, you'll find a vast selection of patio and landscaping ornaments that combine solar lights with decorative resin fountains -- many shapes, sizes and designs to choose from.

Esprit recommends that, when shopping for an outdoor fountain, you take a photo of the area where you plan to put it. Then, when you see a set up you think might work for you, it's easier to visualize by looking at your photo and mentally super-imposing it in your space. Alternatively, you might do the photo thing the other way around - take a picture of the fountain and bring it home. Then visualize it in the space you have allocated.

This might seem like a whole lot of fuss but consider this: you will want to leave the fountain in place and not be moving it around. It will need cleaned periodically and must have some maintenance. Be sure it is installed in an area where it will be easy to drain and scrub. If it's on an upper deck, you might not want the water draining onto your lovely patio furniture below. (It's pretty easy to direct the flow of waste water by using a siphon hose that is long enough to drain into a flower bed on the ground, a storm drain, or just flow out onto a grassy area.)

FOUNTAINS, SNOW FLAKES AND ICICLES, OH MY!

When fall begins to chill the air, you'll need to be aware of what type of maintenance your outdoor fountain requires. As we've said above, if you're in a mild climate, you probably don't need to do much to your fountain other than to pick leaves and debris out, drain and scrub the inside, then refill with fresh water.

In colder climes, however, where freezing temperatures are possible, likely, or a given, you'll need to take some care to keep your fountain from freezing, cracking the container and ruining the pump. As a general rule, as long as the water is flowing, even though there might be some ice around the edges of the container, everything is probably okay.

But, if there's danger of the surface of the water freezing over, you need to drain the container, disconnect and remove the pump, then store the fountain along with the circulation and electrical systems in a storage area where they will not freeze. Good idea to put them in a large plastic trash bag (be careful not to throw them out), to keep spiders and rodents from finding safe places to nest over the winter.

Then on a sunny day in the spring, you'll be ready to bring life back to your patio, set the fountain up and enjoy the sounds of running water and native birds as they flock to sip and bathe right in front of you!