Water is the lifeblood of our gardens

A precious commodity that maintains healthy plants and attracts wildlife, the role of water, how we use it and conserve it, has never been more important. Over half of the 3,500 gardens that open for the National Garden Scheme have water features ranging from solar powered fountains in small ponds to meandering natural streams, bog gardens, ponds, pools and lakes. We take a look at some of the wonderful water features in gardens opening for us in 2022. 

Small, naturalistic ponds can make a huge difference to any garden and are relatively simple to create. Three that work beautifully in their setting are at Clover Cottage in Cambridgeshire, 59 Thistleton Road in Rutland and 2 Hillside Cottage in Durham.  


Clover Cottage is a small garden packed with inspiring ideas on the use of space, squeezing in a pond with pebble beach attracts a wide variety of insects and wildlife into this charming cottage plot. Open in February, March and June the garden gives a taster of life through the seasons from gorgeous spring flowers to billowing roses. 

Over the last 15 years, the owners of 59 Thistleton Road in Rutland have transformed 1.8 acres of bare meadow into a wildlife friendly garden full of colour and variety. Against a backdrop of mature trees, the garden includes a small kitchen garden, rose pergola and a large, clear watered pond is planted with water lilies and fringed with moisture loving plants. Visit in June to find out how the owners created this lovely idyll.  

At 2 Hillside Cottage in Bishop Auckland in County Durham the garden owners have developed their hillside garden of just under half an acre over twenty-five years. At the very bottom of the sloped site are the bees, who forage over the surrounding countryside and in the garden and two ponds with a wild area and a perennial meadow which has cowslips in spring and a succession of flowers till it is cut in September. The larger pond at the top attracts toads, frogs and newts, has water lilies and a variety of other pond plants buzzing with insect life. 


Smaller still are the water features that add musical sounds and movement to your garden. While many are decorative or incorporated into the garden design, their ability to attract wildlife shouldn’t be ignored – every garden bird enjoys a drink and a wash! 

Lovely examples can be found at 1 Tucker Close in Somerset, The Old Rectory in Cambridgeshire and 8 Claremont Road in Buckinghamshire.  

Owners at 1 Tucker Close, Bev and Tim say: “We have a small walled town garden, designed and planted by us, on a fairly new estate. An unexpected design, so visitors tell us, with its wide beds, exuberant planting and small cauldron pond. Everything is planted with wildlife in mind. Despite it being only three years old, it looks mature and abundant, filled with herbaceous borders, fruit trees, decking, pond and slate rather than grass.” 

At The Old Rectory in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire your approach to the garden is through a stunning wildflower meadow and paddocks, past the long pond and then into the main walled cottage style garden under a new moon gate. This classical Georgian house with its evolving classical English garden also has some quirky little water features like the watering can and stack of old sinks (left) proving that you’re never too grand to add lovely touches that double as perfect bird baths and little wildlife havens!

8 Claremont Road in Marlow, Buckinghamshire is a small-town garden set around an unusual house built in 2015. Gravel paths divide the rectangular beds filled with herbaceous perennials, grasses and ferns and a sunken cow trough water feature and owner’s ceramics add surprise and reprieve for wildlife with the deliberate wild area beyond.  

Modern gardens incorporating water into their design are in abundance too. What may start out as a design feature inevitably attracts insects and wildlife where there is water involved. You can find inspiration at the White House in Dorset (lead image) and 26 Petersfield Road in Cambridgeshire.  

At the White House a 1½ acre garden is set on different levels, with a Mediterranean feel, planted to encourage wildlife and pollinators. There are wildflower borders and a pond surrounded by moisture-loving plants such as astilbe, monarda and persicaria. Sitting peacefully by the water is the perfect way to enjoy the garden and the wildlife.  


26 Petersfield Road proves that family, water and wildlife can be combined in a relatively small space. This unique garden in a village setting was re-landscaped in 2019 to create a modern family space with a little something for everyone. Classic garden features like a greenhouse rub shoulders with slightly less usual living walls. Modern porcelain paving blends beautifully with more traditional sandstone in beautiful hard landscaping. The owners slightly naturalistic planting approach and love of curves softens the space creating a relaxing atmosphere, with the sound of water from a split-level pond adding to the feeling. Inspiration for how to create a modern family space. 

Mention water in a garden and Monet’s garden at Giverny may well come to mind. The waterlilies, the willow and the wonderful bridge have inspired many gardeners to try and replicate the peace and tranquility of this most beautiful of gardens. and the owners at Lower Brookshill in Shropshire are no exception. Their Monet lily pond (pictured below) was created within a derelict and overgrown 10 acre site in 2010, where cultivated areas now rub shoulders with the natural landscape using fine borrowed views over and down a valley. A visit to this tranquil spot is a must.


If you’re looking for water-based ideas for your garden, large or small, you’ll find them in abundance throughout the gardens that open for the National Garden Scheme this year. From huge lakes to tiny features, having water in your garden adds a magical element and a vital respite for wildlife. 

For more on water in gardens visit our new Wildfowl and Wetland Trust partnership page here


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