Recently in disappearing fountain Category

The New Pond... and Still Low-Cost


Last summer, we decided to create a very inexpensive disappearing fountain for our entryway, using as many free or salvaged materials as we could. We loved the result at the time, and it cost us a total of about $40. Here's that fountain that WAS:



While the fountain gave us much enjoyment for awhile, the inexpensive pump gave us some frustration. Sometimes the hose came off. Sometimes a cat or other animal would bump the rocks or hose tip, and water would drain out. Sometimes the pump would just plain stop. Everytime this happened, we had to dismantle the fountain, move the grill, get the pump going again, add more water, and rebuild the stone mountain. The little rocks were a pain to have to move and remove, too. I couldn't buy any plants to surround the fountain, because we kept having to work with it. To top it all off, the plants that were already there all died in last winter's hard freezes. And finally, I'd had enough. A change was in order.

We already had the basic set-up (see the link above), so I figured why not turn it into a pond instead? This way, if the pump had any more problems, access would be simple and direct. Plus, we could easily check on the level of the water, and we could support more wildlife, be it toads, dragonflies, or fish. The movement of the water would keep out the mosquitoes. And so that's what we did.

We (and by we, I mostly mean my wonderful son) dug the hole a little deeper and slid the tub back down into it. Then we lined the tub and the hole with a leftover piece of rubber liner from our backyard pond, and collected some flagstone we'd gotten off Craigslist. The little $21 pump (130gph) we'd previously used officially died in this process, so we upgraded to a $36 pump (300gph) instead. We arranged the flagstone around the pond to hold the liner in place, as well as hide it, and then we added a few extra stones to create a simple waterfall. The rocks we had used for the previous fountain became part of the waterfall. 

epondc08-05-10.jpg epondd08-05-10.jpgImmediately we were thrilled. This was definitely the way to go. The trickling sound of water as you walk toward our front door sets the soul at ease right away. And the flagstone complements the house nicely and ties in to the new porch we've been working on it (you can catch a glimpse of it in one of the photos below -- it's been one of our "secret" projects. Not so secret now! And also not officially done, but very soon.)

I brought some plants from the backyard pond, and finally bought new plants to complete the whole bed. We mixed in some compost to the soil before adding in the plants and then used vitamin-rich liquid seaweed to reduce their stress from being planted in July. Since it's not a full sun area, they should be fine, despite the 100+ weather we're having.


The plants I selected to surround the pond are mostly non-native. It is a tough bill to fill, that area. Mostly indirect light, with some patches of direct sun during the day -- and I wanted small to medium evergreens, for the most part. Nothing could get too wide or too tall. That's a tough list of requirements for native varieties.

epondi08-05-10.jpg So I chose instead a Sky Pencil holly for the tallest and smallest section of the bed. It will reach about 8-10 feet tall one day but stay within 3 feet in width. Its dark green foliage is a pleasure to see, complementing the entire entryway (which has 3 beds total). Next to it is a bicolor iris. I understand that I'll have to divide this plant periodically, but I placed it near the sidewalk for easy access. As it gets big, it will look really nice next to the waterfall.

eponde08-05-10.jpg On the other side, I kept the plants smaller, because opposite them in the entryway is a very tall Yew.

  epondh08-05-10.jpg A compact Dwarf Yaupon is surrounded by Asparagus Fern.

  epondg08-05-10.jpg Behind them, Hameln Dwarf Fountain Grass is a nice accent, its soft plumes swaying slightly in the breeze. I hope it can handle the indirect light -- it would probably prefer a little more direct sun than it is going to get. This plant isn't evergreen, of course, but it should stay pretty nice most of the year and with luck will come back each spring.

eponda08-05-10.jpgAnd in the pond itself, I brought Horsetail Reed from the backyard pond and an umbrella plant that needed some TLC. I also added a bit of submerged Hornwort from the backyard pond for oxygenation. We will probably add a goldfish or some other fish in a few days, so it will appreciate the grass to hide in.

epondf08-05-10.jpgRight away we had our first wildlife visitors. Amazing what the sound of water can do. A mud dauber immediately collected little mud bits from the wet soil from the new plants. And a new butterfly appeared, choosing to collect minerals from the wet flagstone, rather than from the damp soil nearby. It's a Tawny Emperor.

tawnyemp08-05-10.jpgWith its wings folded upright, it was almost completely camouflaged. But its beautiful tan and brown colors show through when it opens its wings.

tawnyempb08-05-10.jpgTotal costs for the pond itself (I'm not including the previous pump or the new plants, just the cost of creating this one.):

Tub $11 (from original fountain)

Pump (300gph) $36

Rocks -- free

Liner -- scrap piece -- free

TOTAL  $47  

Easy, easy, easy.

The best part of the whole pond experience? Looking out the window throughout the day and seeing a pretty scene. Keeps a big smile on our faces, and it spreads the peace inside, too.   :)

Oh Deer


Well, we'd been warned. Deer will rub antlers on young trees.

deerdamage10-09-09.jpgBut they seemed to leave our Lacey Oak alone all year -- well, as it turns out that's because it isn't until fall that they do the antler rub thing! We noticed the damage while planting our new Anachacho Orchid nearby. Cry. I haven't had a deer incident this major since they ate my beloved Spotted Squill, a.k.a Alien Tentacle Plant! Well, there's also the pineapple sage, but I can't be 100% sure on that one, as it was closer to the house.

I think the tree will be ok. The damage isn't all the way around, and it's on only one of the three main trunks. But I'm also very glad we noticed it today and not tomorrow, because tonight more damage might have occurred.

deerfence10-09-09.jpgAnd luckily when we planted the Lacey Oak, I also bought the materials to protect it with. Perhaps actually using said materials might have been the wiser path... But we at least had them in the garage and didn't have to go shopping.

So now we have one of those yards with the goofy fences around the trees. We decided to put the Anacacho behind bars with the Lacey Oak to protect it, too. It's the first understory tree to go under the story of the Lacey Oak. This would be more impressive were the trees, say, bigger. But they will grow!

deerfenceb10-09-09.jpgNow for some good news -- the disappearing fountain is back and functioning again! We never did solve the mystery of the shifted rock, which led to the unexpected emptying of our new disappearing fountain and potential pump damage. But happily the pump still functions, and our fountain still remains the $40 disappearing fountain! We changed up the rock structure, so hopefully it will be harder for some creature to displace the tube. That little rock is only there for interest, not for directing the water flow.

40fountain10-09-09.jpgWhether it was cat or deer or rain or human or Sasquatch that caused the tube to shift, we'll never know. But I still think a deer is likely responsible for the removal of the nearby pineapple sage. And the nursery didn't have any the last time I was there. I was sad. Oh deer.


This Garden Rocks


This garden rocks! Why? Because it has rocks. We love rocks here at Great Stems. They add character, they add unity, they can be used as benches or stepping stones, they edge garden beds, they prevent erosion, they support plants or other objects that need it, they fill up gaps in the plant areas, they make water features look natural, they provide shelter for little creatures, and they are just plain cool. 

Take this fossil, for instance.


Or this giant quartz rock, of which we found two or three on the property. I guess it's quartz -- I'm not really up on my geology. I love the way it looks surrounded by pigeonberry.


A few days ago, I removed the massive dwarf papyrus from the pond, partially for aesthetic reasons and partially because it was working on creating several new root systems. But removing it also lets me show off what is perhaps my favorite rock on the whole property. It is this rock that earned our pond the name "Gator Pond."

gatorrock10-05-09.jpggatorpond10-05-09.jpgThe rocks forming the back wall of the waterfall actually look like the back of an alligator -- I forgot to get an angled shot to show you that a little better, but I'll do that another time. Now I just need to figure out where to put my dwarf papyrus.

Removing the dwarf papyrus also let us see our fish better -- they love to frolic under the waterfall. The waves don't make it easy to take a picture of the fish, however.


And of course, we love all the rocks forming our raised pond's exterior and falls.

Sand is basically pulverized rock, and here is a big pile of it. It might look like a sandbox, but it's the sand that was under our shed before we moved it on Saturday. The kids and the dogs have been playing in it. We'll be using this sand elsewhere in the garden.

sand10-05-09.jpgAnd the dogs seem fine with the change in location of the shed. They chase one another around, past, and behind this shed. We moved the shed to make room for our next three raised veggie beds.

shed10-05-09.jpgHere are some temporary stepping stones marking the path to the bench on the raised pond. At some point this will be a real path, probably made of decomposed granite.


We use some rocks to line paths and to edge garden beds. We also use them around the base of the little backyard trees in a lame attempt to keep the dogs from charging across and breaking the trees. It works as long as they don't get crazily energized in their playing. Here's a firebush and aloe in one garden bed. Ignore the weeds. I do.

  firebushbed10-05-09.jpg And here's our newest addition, another find off of Craigslist (which is where we got the rocks for the pond). I stuck my foot in for a size comparison because this is one big rock, but I think it just managed instead to make my foot look big. I look forward to choosing plants to go around it.


And of course, our latest rock creation. Looks different without water flowing, doesn't it?

  fountain10-05-09.jpgNotice the water is turned off now. Well, it's even worse than that. We had to dismantle it to figure out why the pump started screeching yesterday. Turns out the water was gone from the basin, and we checked it for leaks, but there were none. We thought that maybe an animal drank some of the water from the top and shifted the rocks covering the tube, causing the water to splash or spray out of the basin. Or maybe a visitor moved the rocks. Or maybe yesterday's downpour shifted something. In any case, now we're worried the pump might be damaged. Only ran one day, bringing our $40 fountain to about $60 if we have to replace it. So when we rebuild it tomorrow, we're going to have to be really careful that the tube cannot shift. I'm crossing my fingers that the pump is ok.

But what's odd is that next to the fountain is a little plant stub, the remains of my pineapple sage, as if it was chewed off. Do deer eat pineapple sage? Is it possible they licked at the running water and shifted a rock? And would they come that close to my front door, especially if there's so much water available around the neighborhood right now? It could have been broken by a human, but I couldn't find the rest of the plant, if so. A mystery!

sagenub10-05-09.jpgSo I still love my rock fountain, but I will love it more when we rig it so the tube is super secure. And I might need to place a sign that says, "Deer and humans, please don't touch! Our neighborhood deer can read, I'm sure. Or perhaps eat the sign, at least. And I'm by gosh getting another pineapple sage. 

The $40 Disappearing Fountain


fountaing10-03-09.jpgFor some time, we'd been wanting a little fountain in one of our front entryway beds, a sort of zen moment of trickling water as one approaches our front door. But getting a classic planter-style container with reservoir would have cost us more than $500, and it wasn't really my style anyway. So I wanted to see how cheaply we could make a disappearing fountain using as many materials from home as we could. We could have probably made it for $21, but we decided to be "practical" and buy a couple of other items. It actually cost us less than $40 -- I rounded up for the sake of the title. I'm not counting the cost of the electrical outlet, as we were going to be putting one out there anyway, not just for a fountain, and we already had a bunch of those parts anyway.

fountainh10-03-09.jpgMoney spent: We bought a large tub normally used for mixing cement ($11), as well as a small 130 gph pump (about $21). We also ran out of window screen, so I bought some more aluminum screen material ($7), but the rest will be used for plant containers, so I'm not really sure whether to add the cost in -- regardless, that's still less than $40. We seriously considered not using the basin and using other items we had at home, but in the end, we decided this might be best. 

Materials gathered: An old grill from our neighbor's uncle's junk he was having hauled off, leftover block-style rocks from our other neighbor that we had used to circle a tree in the backyard, a concrete block, and little colorful rocks we found in the backyard.

At this point, I have to give out kudos to my 12-year-old son. This was more or less his pet project, and while I gave some guidance in regard to the plan (he had some rather far-fetched ideas and I had to bring him back to Earth a bit), he did the bulk of the work.

The first step was to dig out the plants from the area and give them new homes in the front yard (that really did a lot to make our front yard better, too). And then the hole for the basin was dug. The basin we chose turned out to be ideal for the job -- the rock under the soil would have prevented the use of a deeper reservoir. (Please ignore the plastic edging in these photos -- it came with the house, and at some point it will go away, because I can't stand it.)


The concrete block is there to support the weight of the rocks on top of the grill, and we stuck some rocks underneath to let water flow. The ones we settled on are in the leveling picture below.

Dad helped with the leveling (and he also got to play electrician to put in the outdoor outlet).

fountainb10-03-09.jpgWe wrapped the window screen around the grill and cut a little hole for the pump tube.

fountainc10-03-09.jpgThen we poured in some water collected from the recent rains (the change in rocks in the images had to do with some adjustments we made regarding the pump placement).

fountaind10-03-09.jpgAnd the rest was just building the rock feature and collecting the little rocks for the base. Simple as that! Here's a picture of the rock work in progress...


I love that it's a little rock statue, and while I envisioned something like it, it came out even better than I imagined. Now I just need to choose some plants to go around it! I'll probably end up spending more on those than I did on the fountain itself...

fountaini10-03-09.jpgThank you to my son for all his hard work and dedication to getting the job done, and thank you to my husband for the electrical work that I'm sure he'll get finished soon (hint, hint).

Now, I should point out that disappearing fountains are technically a no-no during our city's Stage 2 water restrictions. We'll turn it back off when water is an issue again, but right now we have so much rainwater gathered that we actually have to find a place to put it all -- the grounds are saturated and the bins are overflowing. This fountain is only going to be filled with rainwater from the roof or gray water, NOT hose water. And I think it looks wonderful whether water is flowing or not, so when it has to be turned off, it's still going to make me happy. The water just gives that nice trickling sound, and I'm hoping we'll see some wildlife visit on occasion, too.


Meredith O'Reilly happily
gardens for wildlife in
Austin, TX. She enjoys
educating people of all ages
about native flora, fauna,
and healthy environments.

Nature Blog Network


Powered by Movable Type 4.21-en
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID