Friday, 11 May 2012

A Water Feature without Water

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Part of my landscaping includes a narrow little dead end piece bordered by the house on two sides, the front fence, and a storage shed, under the shade of a couple of trees on the other side of the fence. The space is split between a sunken paving stone walkway alongside the house, a brick retaining wall, and a little bit of garden space. It's the kind of space that often is easier left to bare ground, and to be honest, I don't really want any high-maintenance landscaping - the fruit orchard and vegetable garden keep me plenty busy.

But it's such a sheltered and shady little nook - so different from the wind-swept sand and sagebrush hills that make up my view. And both bedrooms have windows that open out onto that space - windows that have to be opened up to catch the breeze after the sun goes down in the summer. So I've tried to turn that little alcove into a pretty, green and restful spot, slowly amassing a variety of perennial plants through trial and error that survive, and every once in a while finding a perfect little decorative item to add to the scene.

One such item out there now is a standing birdbath - a terracotta clay saucer lined with blue enamel, supported by a single black pole. It adds a nice little bit of color and interest. And I like the idea of a little water feature in that garden, but quickly decided water wasn't going to work there.

I've written about providing water for wildlife earlier (here), especially important in my area since I live in a climate that sees no summer precipitation at all. I have two heavy concrete basins out in the open part of my yard, and love watching the birds, bees, and bunnies that visit those regularly. But I don't want fluttering, chirping birds right outside my open bedroom window at the crack of dawn. That's supposed to be my quiet, peaceful, restful spot. And I don't want to be always cleaning up after a bunch of birds. They're in the tree branches above anyway. I don't need to be attracting more to that particular little space.

And besides, it's so hot and dry here, and that birdbath is flat and shallow. Any water in it evaporates so quickly during the heat of summer, I'd have to be refilling that thing two or three times a day. It's ok empty, but just not quite right - something is missing. So, how can I have a water feature without water?

Eureka! Wandering through the local big box store, I spy my solution on a shelf over by the gift wrap section. Glass pebbles! So I get a bag of clear and a bag of various blues - mix them together and spread them out over the bottom of the birdbath (I just set it up for the season yesterday - it needs a vinegar soaking to get rid of the mineral deposit rings. Another reason not to fill it with water). I get the sparkle and reflections of sun on water without the trial and tribulations. It's perfect!