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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Adding A Water Feature

This post, "Adding A Water Feature", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Are any of you Social Garden Shoppers? I sure am - happily volunteering when a friend wants company on a trip to a nursery or garden center. What's not to like? Wandering the aisles while talking to another gardener is one of my favorite things! Sometimes I find supplies or a few plants and sometimes I just look and think and dream.

I'd been up to Cedar Park's Hill Country Water Gardens with Philo a few times, looking and dreaming, then last summer I tagged along when a couple of other gardeners wanted to go there. On each visit I found myself gravitating to the same area of the display yard and my dreaming found a focus.

A few weeks ago Philo & I went back to HCWG - not to look, but to buy. This place is fun to wander, with large demonstration ponds, plants, fish, pottery, all kinds of fountains, fun garden art and water-work supplies fanned out for the visitor. They arrange for installation or give advice to those who want to do the work themselves.
I threaded my way back to the stone fountain bases and showed Philo the one that had been calling my name.

At Hill Country Water Gardens we met a very knowledgeable guy named Nicholas. He told us that this interesting stone came from Lueders, Texas. Then he explained the process of making a base into a fountain and we made decisions - delivery or take-with, tub size, the pump, concrete blocks and screens. He went for a forklift and soon the parts were ready to load.

We could have had the stone delivered but my old car has hauled heavy garden supplies and plants for years. Philo decided it could carry the block of Lueders Stone. The door opening was a tight fit but the guys made it work. Our son was glad to help unload the stone once we had it home.

The block sat on the sidewalk for days while I reworked the patio area. We planned to install the fountain in the decomposed granite area right outside the breakfast room window. Some pots and troughs needed to move aside and a lot of self-sown fennel had to be pulled out.

Swallowtail butterflies lay eggs on fennel so I'd let it grow wherever it sprouted for a couple of years. We liked seeing the larvae, but the fennel's shadow was killing sun-loving herbs like thyme, and the space was needed for something else now. (Don't worry about future generations of Swallowtail larvae - I've established a second patch of fennel in the long fence border and have young plants in containers.)

While I puttered with pots, Philo measured and planned. He tacked together a depth gauge from pieces of wood, a useful tool for knowing how to dig the hole for the black plastic reservoir tub. He sketched and took notes and made a cardboard template of the base.

I did not want to rush this part - wouldn't a Dress Rehearsal be a good idea? Philo dollied the burlap-cushioned, heavy stone to the spot we'd chosen. We thought we knew which side should face the house, but wanted to look at it from the patio, from the walk, and through the window before we started to dig. Even without water we really liked looking at that stone!

We needed rocks to hide the black plastic tub and screen - Nicholas told us to check out Jacobs Stone and Landscaping , a wonderland of building materials where we found a medium-size mix of Texas river rocks that we liked. We only needed a few 5-gallon buckets and shoveled them ourselves, reusing 5-gallon sacks from our previous expeditions for compost and decomposed granite to tote them home.

(The story of how we extended our standard rectangular concrete patio by using thick layers of pea gravel and decomposed granite is told in this 2006 post. )

We wanted to save and reuse those layers, so once the stone was moved out of the way, Philo spaded up the gravel onto a screen made to fit across the garden cart. The larger gravel that stayed on top of the screen was scooped into more of our handy sacks and the smaller stuff scooped from the bottom of the cart went into separate sacks.

With the good stuff cleared, he then started on the black heavy clay underneath. He dug and I hauled the soil away with the wheelbarrow, returning to use the Cobra head tool to pry out rocks when he hit them.

It took a long time to get that hole dug, use the depth gauge, get out rocks, add back finer screenings as a base for the tub, level and readjust the base and that tub moved in and out of place a number of times.

I'm not going to detail the fun with concrete blocks or fitting the pipe and motor or describe the access hatch Philo constructed - each installation will be different. The gravel and granite were packed in around the black tub.

The most nerve-wracking part came next - it took strength to move over three hundred pounds of solid rock across gravel or concrete, but now Philo and our son needed precision as well as strength.
They used the dolly and boards, getting the heavy stone up over the lip and onto the plastic grate with the concrete supports underneath.

We filled the reservoir and watched the water come out the top, then I started adding the rocks, hiding the black plastic.

The rock placement has already changed and evolved, and they'll be moved again for cleaning or possibly raccoons will rearrange them. Maybe rocks from other places will be added by visitors.

One recent visitor found out that adding and subtracting rocks where the water emerges from the rock results in different sounds and sprays, and she also improved the arrangement of the rooks at the base.

We can now sit at the table, listening to the peaceful water sounds of our dream-turned-real. Appropriately for a place called Circus~Cercis, the name of this kind of water feature implies that it performs a trick -
Ladies and Gentlemen...presenting for your amusement...

the Disappearing Fountain!

This post, "Adding A Water Feature", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.


  1. Annie, this is marvelous. A lot of hard work paid off. Thank you for the video. I will think of you when I hear this sound now.

  2. It's looking good Annie. I enjoyed hearing about how you constructed it and I liked seeing your stones and rock consultant. The video was great!

  3. The sound of water flowing is a wonderful thing in a garden. I enjoy mine, and I know you'll enjoy yours for years to come!

    I did a do-it-yourself kit post for my second disappearing fountain. I'm still happy with the way it turned out.

  4. Your new fountain is lovely--seems like a project that was well worth the work.

    I've been enjoying everyone's recent posts about using water as a design element in the garden. Rain gardens, rain water collection systems, fountains...all fascinating to a newbie like me.

  5. This is absolutely terrific! The video is the icing on the cake. I am in awe of anyone who knows how to move 300 lb. rocks without a trip to the hospital. Your patio was lovely before and now is even more wonderful. Thanks for a great post.

    Frances at Faire Garden

  6. I love it! The sound of water is so soothing...I have a copper tabletop fountain in my office that I run quite often especally if I'm irked with the way an article is going--or not going. I'm sure you'll get hours and hours of pleasure from your fountain, Annie.

  7. I loved reading about this whole process. A lot of work, but a lot of fun, too, with many helpers. The fountain looks great, like it was meant for that very spot. Now I want a water feature!!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  8. What a great documentation of a wonderful garden addition! The sound of the water is so soothing, I know you'll get a lot of enjoyment from your hard work. And yes, I'm a social garden shopper, too. That's how I end up wandering the yard with a six pack or two (plants!)trying to squeeze things in that I had no business buying. I can keep from buying the big stuff but the little...not so much.

  9. The stone fountain looks great. I have been wanting a water feature for some time. After looking at yours, I think I need to make some decisions and get one, too.

    Jan Always Growing

  10. Ooh, that's exactly my kind of fountain, and it sounds just like I imagined it would.

    I was wondering how you were going to get it out of the car if it took a forklift to get it in. 300 lbs. still seems like a lot for just a couple of (really nice) guys.

  11. Wow! I really like your disappearing fountain. I've always wanted one, but that stone looks REALLY heavy!

  12. It was nice to see the the project from beginning to end. It looks great!

    I love to hear water, it is soothing to me too.

  13. Wow, Annie. I am so impressed with all your hard work. I can't imagine how you all handled that huge stone. It's beautiful and the photos and video are great -- thanks for sharing. I love the sound of babbling water -- it's the perfect accompaniment to birds chirping for a natural symphony of sound. Enjoy!

  14. You have a great looking fountain. I have two fountains and I'm not happy with either of them. I would like to trade them for the type you have!

  15. Annie, This post is particularly well written and illustrated with the fine pics and video, and will be so informative to anybody thinking about installing a water feature. I know y'all will enjoy this beautiful fountain for years to come. Good job, good show!
    Best regards, Jon on 2-25-08 at http://mississippigarden.blogspot.com

  16. I love Hill Country Water Gardens, and you certainly picked a beauty of a fountain. It looks great in your garden, and I imagine the sound of bubbling water adds a lot of enjoyment to your patio. Fragrance, sound, color---what more do you need?

  17. What a lovely water feature you've got. It was a lot of hard work but well worth it. Just think of how cooling the running water will be to your ears during the hot Austin summers!

    It is a beautiful piece of stone Annie, no wonder it had your name on it! ;-) And yes, I'm a social garden shopper too.

  18. What a great family project! The fountain looks as though it has been there forever, a natural part of the landscape! The video is delightful! Have you had any birds land on the corners?

  19. I love your fountain film. What a great post about how to install a water feature. Your soil looks very rocky, Annie. Is it?~~Dee

  20. Great video and how to instructions! It is amazing how much rock weighs. I'm surprised the plastic grate didn't crack even with the concrete block under it. The fount looks great and I'm surprised at how evenly the rock is covered by the flowing water. The pump flow was sized just right. I would be curious to know how often you have to refill the tub in the hot Austin climate.

  21. Lisa at Greenbow - you can thank Philo for the video [and our Illinois son & daughter-in-law for the camera]. I'm glad the sound comes over... we were hoping you guys could hear it.

    Thanks Kate - I like to see how things work and am glad you do, too. "Consultant" is the exact term used for our guest in the draft of an upcoming post...are you psychic??

    Nancy, I went to your blog and searched for fountain and read your post from last April - the jar looks great!

    Brianna, I think almost every gardener wants some kind of water element. Bet there's one out there that will call your name, too.

    You may be a newbie, but you've got bowls of satsumas!! I am jealous!!

    Thank you Frances - the guys have moved some pretty big items together and have a rhythm going. I'm glad Philo thought of the video.

    Hello Jodi - those small fountains look pretty cool and I'll bet the sound masks any annoying computer hum.

    Thank you, Carol. You have some unallotted space in your garden according to Sherry...how about a pond instead of a pumpkin patch??

    I'm glad to know you also like the social aspect, Leslie - and think of the sales and bargains you'd miss if you only went with a plan ;-]

    Hi Jan from Always Growing - the first pond tour was about 7 and 1/2 years ago so it took us some time, too! Good luck with whatever you decide on.

    Ponds are lovely and so are the artificial streams but this style just spoke to me, Entangled. Although those nice guys are very strong, I was guilty of some fluttering and hovering during the moving process!

    Hi Sherry - aren't they fascinating? I've never looked at the components in other states - you might have to do some dissassembling where everything freezes solid.

    Thanks, Robin of Nesting Place - it's still new, but we're really enjoying it.

    Thank you, Diana! The heavy work was done by the guys, but they'd rather do that than the fiddly small stuff which is left for me...we do pretty well dividing up the tasks.

    Oh dear, Aiyana at No Rain - I'm sorry the fountains didn't work out. Your desert photos are wonderful!

    Hi there Mississippi Jon - thanks for the compliments... I'll tell Philo his video is a hit.

    It's a wonderful place, isn't it Pam/Digging? The pond tours and your stock tank pond were egging me on, too. I experimented by planting a small lavender directly into the granite outside the sunken tub - hope it works!

    Thank you Yolanda Elizabet- I'm counting on that sound to help us get through August!
    I'll bet you have lots of fun with other gardeners, Yolanda, and that your friends enjoy shopping with you.

    Thanks Layanee - most of the birds still prefer the stationary bird bath not too far away, but a few do land and drink. I'm very near-sighted and hope that having the fountain fairly close to the window will let me recognize any new bird that appears. I have the bird book handy ;-]

    Thank you! We hit some larger rocks, but find lots of fist-sized brown rocks in black clay when digging, Dee. It's hard to know what part is native soil and what was brought in 30 years ago when this subdivision was under construction.

    Thank you, Ki - all the pieces came from the water garden store and we trusted that they knew it was strong enough! Philo was very picky about leveling the site for the tub, and he was happy when the water immediately flowed down all four sides.

    I'm not sure about how much water will evaporate yet - time will tell!

    Thanks for the comments!


  22. You simply cannot have too many water features in your gardens! I'm testifying to that on oath. You will enjoy it tremendously.

  23. Congratulations, Annie! I remember you lusting over a water feature and now you have one. It looks wonderful - easy to maintain. There's something so soothing about the sound of trickling water. Every garden should have one.
    It's lovely! You all did a great job.

    Don't be surprised to see your birds splashing around for a little bath and getting drinks during the day :o)

  24. Oh, evaporation. You'll have to keep an eye on the fountain. My small jar fountain's in the shade during the summer, and we'd deliberately gotten a reservoir a little deeper than the one that came with the kit on our larger jar. The first, and larger jar fountain sometimes has to be refilled as much as once a day during very hot days, even with out high humidity. On cooler days/weeks, every 2 to 3 days in the summer and longer than that in the winter.

  25. I love stone anyway, but that fountain is so perfect for your garden. Congratulations all round, well done!

  26. I have a very similar-looking fountain! Mine is basalt. And I haven't set it up set...still waiting for a plant to die to make room for it. When it dies, you'll have to send Philo over.

  27. I'm glad your water feature dream has come true Annie, and that Philo was willing to the hard work needed for such a project. It has turned out beautifully with that handsome stone.
    The video was a great finishing touch :) You'll love listening to that water bubble while sitting on the patio. What a great idea!

  28. My back hurts just from looking at your photos! How much did that rock weigh? The finished product looks great - I know you are going to really enjoy this!

  29. That's the fountain I've wanted for a long time!!! OHHHH I want that fountain! I'm trying to find a VERY inexpensive but contemporary / natural fountain to do myself this summer. Great post, thank you!

  30. Annie, thank you so much for visiting our blog and giving us your words of encouragement. We will bounce back, and we have a blank slate to work with now. I'm already feeling better. Today I bought two Eastern Redbuds to replace the ones broken by the storm. The sad part is the house isn't even repaired yet. LOL Gardening is my peace of mind.:-)Please come back to visit us often.

  31. I love it! It was just like being there - and how fun to add something like this to your garden! It is just beautiful. And kudos to Philo - impressive!

  32. I love it! It was just like being there - and how fun to add something like this to your garden! It is just beautiful. And kudos to Philo - impressive!

  33. That's such a lovely water feature, Annie. The inn in Kauai also had a stone fountain in the patio garden and the sight and sound were so enjoyable.

  34. Ohhh Annie, I can just see you and Philo sitting at the kitchen table gazing lovingly out the window at this beautiful memorial fountain. Thanks for sharing the process and can't wait to see it in person!

  35. What a wonderful addition to your garden -- and written in such an easy to understand way. Nothing is more soothing than the sound of water. Enjoy!

  36. Fantastic! It is all about the sound, for sure. Very totemic piece.

  37. Hi Brenda Kula - just a bird bath is fun, right? I love your blog!

    Mary, lust was the word ;-]

    The birds were afraid of it at first, but are becoming interested.

    Nancy, thank you for the warning - this is in the sun. I have to water the patio containers everyday in warm weather, so this will just be one more stop.

    Thanks MMGD, it does look at home right there, doesn't it!

    Oooh, Chuck - how dramatic! Is it gray or black?
    I can't speak for Philo but he might want to see San Francisico!

    Philo is never afraid of hard work, Kerri, so it's very tempting to keep thinking up projects... I wouldn't want him to get bored.
    We're hoping the sound has a cooling effect in an Austin August!

    If I tried it this post might have come from a hospital bed, Phillip - it was over 300 pounds. Thank you.

    Benjamin, I have a feeling the prices for the pumps and grids will be similar in different areas of the country, but the stone part seems to be depend on locality. Good luck with coming up with something you like!

    Hello Randy and Jamie - would even a chunk of rock like this be able to withstand a tornado? The destruction of your garden has touched our hearts, but your determination to rebound has inspired us. I'll be back ;-]

    Thank you Pam in SC - with the Atlantic at your disposal you might not need a water feature!
    Philo likes projects that use his mind as well as his strength.

    The Hawaiian fountain sounds very cool, Nicole - thank you!

    Hi Cargol - you have got it exactly! Now the bluejays are just a few feet outside of the breakfast room window...I think you'll like it.

    Thanks, Nancy J Bond - I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    The sound is very important, EAL - and so is the sight since water is life. My Webster's defines 'totemic' as "a natural object... assumed as the emblem of a clan, family, or group"...I like that!

    Thanks to all of you for the comments,


  38. Annie, this is all very cool! I'm amazed at the work you guys did and the end result was fabulous (I sound like an HGTV show! eek!) It came at the right time because I want to add a water feature -- maybe with a little less work though.

  39. Hi Annie,
    That looks like it was a lot of work, but it's so beautiful and natural looking now that it's done.

    It has a very soothing sound, too.

    I hope you get a lot of enjoyment from it this summer.

  40. Shazam! Your disappearing fountain IS amazing! The work was obviously worth it...congratulations! The butterflies will enjoy it, too...way to provide habitat!

  41. Thanks, Rosemarie from IL, you can say fabulous - I won't mind one bit!
    I hope you find a water feature that works for you.

    Hello Zoey from MI - thank you. It's right outside the window and makes mornings better!

    Lisa, I think the butterflies may prefer to land on the wet rocks around the base and maybe the lizards will like that part, too. We've been watching birds land on top while bees and wasps hover and touch the sides. The fountain isn't very large, but magically attracts animal life ;-]

    Thank you from Annie

  42. I had to come and check out your fountain after you mentioned it. I shouldn't have! Now I'm thinking of drilling rock to make my own.

    I love the way the water bubbles out of the stone and flows down and disappears. Having the bubbling sound is a real bonus.

  43. Hi WiseAcre,

    In the months since we installed the fountain we've had birds come to drink that never appeared here before - I've read that the sound of water attracts them.

    If anyone can make a stone fountain from scratch it would be you!! Your stone work is so excellent!


  44. My husband is going to ban me from your site if I show him this post. This is EXACTLY what we want near our pergola. How kind of you to give us such an informative post telling exactly how to create such a fountain. I'm so jealous!


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