water features banner


Enhance you living enjoyment with a stream garden
flowing through your patio
(This article is about designing a landscape with a stream.
To learn how to build a sream, click here.)

As the before photo shows, this was an existing patio garden with nothing particularly wrong with it - it simply lacked interest. The owners wanted a change. They craved a quiet, informal setting which would delight the senses in a peaceful way while providing a touch of excitement. Seems contradictory, but in actuality, a garden stream offer just that. It is peaceful, with the gentle flow of water and water plants swaying in the current and fish lazily gliding about. To have it in your own backyard, though, is exciting. Besides the flora and fauna you provide, a stream attracts birds and other gentle creatures - it becomes a habitat that is always changing but always there - a living part of your world.

 patio waiting for a stream

 A pleasant patio, but a beautiful one?

All too often we have a garden or patio which seems fine. It works. Its good. But with a little imagination that same place, a place we see or visit often, could become beautiful and in so doing, add significantly to the quality of our lives. Planting groups can be vivified by distinct harmonies or contrasts simply by changing a couple of plants, a walk way can become enchanting by an arbor or a patio can be given life with the addition of a water feature.

There was plenty of space for a garden stream without detracting from the living area so long as it wrapped the edge of the patio. Since the natural head-water was the far left corner, (also out of the way but very visible), the stream could meander beneath the Hemlock, skirt the right edge of the property and terminate in a small pool which swings slightly out toward the middle of the patio.

 stream garden

 A stream with swimming fish now graces the patio.

The upper pool, where the water emerges, is built in the style of a natural spring with water flowing from a stone wall, into the pool. A waterfall was built such that as the water nears the top of the stone basin it begins its flow out, over a series of falls and into the stream. This widens and narrows here and there along the length of the stream and winds in and out, skirting the patio edge. (A portion of the bricks were removed in order to construct the stream.) From the small pool at the end of the stream the water is pumped back, underground along the outside edge of the stream, to the upper pool where it reappears as the flow into the basin.

The lower pool of the Garden Stream

 stream garden pond

 The lower pool into which the stream flows

Because only a small flow was appropriate for this sized pool and the water tended to become too still and slow in the middle of the stream an additional pump was installed in the middle of the stream which simply re-circulates the water, creating a current to help move the water along. This is purely for the aesthetic value of movement, as the water flows by gravity from top to bottom without the additional pump.

 stream gardden

 The center of the stream is kept moving with a small pump.

As is always the case in creating the natural stream, stone type and stone placement are vital. They should be of the kind found in and along streams, especially if used in the stream, and they should be placed in as realistic a manner as possible. This can be especially difficult when building a stream where there has never been one but every effort to simulate nature will make the difference between a stream that actually ‘works’ and one that appears completely contrived.

Natural River Stones are an important part of a Garden Stream

 garden stream

 Natural river stones give the stream a real, natural apparance.

Planting the Stream Garden

Cotoneaster horizontalis and Euonymus fortunei spread along the upper pool’s ledge and climb down over the wall. Opposite them, on the other side of the water fall an Acer palmatum Dissectum arches over the trickling cascades. A Wisteria sinensis climbs up the Hemlock, (Tsuga canadensis) with tufts of Liriope muscari in a grassy bed beneath, along an Azalea (Rhododendron x ‘Delaware Valley White). Behind is a well formed Pieris japonica (Andromeda), forming a picturesque backdrop to this quiet vignette. Clumps of grasses, (Miscanthus) daylilies, (Hemerocallis), Iris, Dianthus and various bulbs line the stream’s edge.

An ordinary rear patio garden was transformed into a natural haven with an upper pool spilling over a small waterfall into a stream and down into a small lower pool. Careful selection and placement of stones and the planting of appropriate, naturalizing plants turn the whole into a delightful scene as if stolen from a woodland and placed for easy enjoyment in an urban garden.

 stream garden  garden stream

 Plants soften the edges

 A patio with its own stream garden

Print This Page