people regard water gardens, with their electric pumps and high-tech
filters, as part of modern life. So they are, but they fulfill an
In 35 B.C., the Roman poet Horace wrote that he prayed for "a piece of
land not so very large, which would contain a garden, and near the house
a spring of ever-flowing water, and beyond these a bit of wood."
"A spring of ever-flowing water" is exactly what you can add to your
property with a water garden, provided you're willing to give it some
time, effort and money. How much of each you'll need to invest depends
on how large and elaborate an installation you want, and whether you do
it yourself or hire a professional.
However you do it, your first step is to find a location. The best spot
is on relatively high ground. Ideally, there should be a slope above and
below the water, allowing for natural flow. Also, take Horace's advice
to keep the garden "near the house," and clearly visible from a window,
so you can enjoy it without going outside.
You also need to decide how big your water garden will be. The size of
your yard and your wallet will help make up your mind. The smallest
installations are about 8 feet by 10 feet; 11-by-16 is probably average,
according to the manufacturers of Aquascape ponds, who also claim that
90 percent of original water gardens eventually are replaced by larger
ones. Obviously, they're addictive.
Lee Patten, owner of Knee Deep Ponds in Huntingtown, notes that you'll
also have to decide whether you want a waterfall, what kind of
vegetation to put in, whether to add fish and, if so, what kind. Many
factors influence those decisions, including how much you want to spend,
the terrain of your yard and its exposure to sunlight.
A starter kit for an 8-by-10-foot pond should run around $900, Patten
said. To that you'll have to add the cost of several tons of stone,
which you must have to maintain the water garden's ecosystem.
If digging dirt and hauling stone isn't how you want to spend your
weekends and evenings, many landscapers and other professionals can
install a water garden for you. Patten is one of the few in Maryland who
is a Certified Aquascape Contractor, meaning he has met national
standards. One of his favorite jobs, he said, was installing a large
water garden at the Asbury retirement community in Solomons, near the
unit reserved for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
The patients, he said, found comfort in concentrating on the water -
more evidence that Horace of the Romans knew what he was talking about.
For extensive information on how to build a water garden, as well as a
list of certified contractors, visit