An introduction to pond, water feature & garden design.

So you have made the decision to have a pond, water garden or water feature. Good choice. A pond has a positive effect on you, your environment and your property.
There are many different types of pond, water garden and water feature. Some are formal, some are free-form and ‘natural’ and there are a multitude of styles in-between.
Water feature design on paper works well for formal features in a set design or structured landscape such as reflection pools, rills and fountain features. Whilst a free form pond can be specified and designed on paper it is often best laid out in rough components and then formalised on site. This allows for the water garden to truly fit into the surrounding landscape achieving the most natural look and feel possible.


Water garden and pond design features include:

‘Wet features’

  •   Ponds and Pools
  • Streams and Channels
  • Waterfalls and Sluices
  • Creeks and Dry beds
  • Swales, Winterbournes and Overflows
  • Springs and Culverts,
  • Jets, Nozzles and fountain heads
  • Aquatic planting,
  • Pond lighting

‘Dry features’

  • Decking
  • Bridges, Stepping stones and Walkways
  • Buildings and Structures
  • Statues and Ornaments
  • Copings and Slabs
  • Planting
  • Garden lighting
  • Hard landscaping
  • Soft Landscaping


What to consider when designing a water feature.

  • Filtration and Circulation: Squared and angular features do not circulate as well as curved and flowing shapes resulting in ‘dead’ areas and poor overall filtration. Use multiple jets, outlets, water features, and aerators to add circulation where needed if you cannot design for circulation. Always over filter your pond or feature.
  • Depth: Use caution when designing shallow features. They are far more susceptible to rapid temperature change which can lead to green water, low oxygen and freezing.
  • Light and Shade: Ensure adequate shade by using aquatic plants, peripheral planting and structures to cast shadow.
  •  Lighting: a water garden or water feature can look even more spectacular after dark. The addition of waterproof lighting extends viewing pleasure. Focus on specific features like architectural plants and sculptures and where water is moving like falls and features.
  • Aeration: any additional aeration is a bonus. Any feature which causes water movement is a potential aerator including waterfalls, streams and water features.
  • Splash and Evaporation: ensure minimal splash and keep it within the feature. Avoid areas of high evaporation including very exposed to wind and sun, and wicking from porous rocks, fabric and overhanging vegetation.
  • Maintenance and Servicing: longer wires and pipes, access to equipment. Serviceable equipment.
  • Aquatic plants: If you can incorporate plants in any way do and as much variety and abundance as your design will allow. Taller, slender architectural plants like rushes or sedges can work well in more formal features, troughs and containers. Lilies are great in any setting and can add colour to a reflection or formal pool. Wildlife ponds should be heavily planted with natives where possible.
    Plants provide shade, shelter and natural filtration as well as bringing life and colour to any feature.
  • Access and Vista (baby) is the water feature just for admiring? if so from where?  Features, structures,  planting and lighting should be positioned to allow full visual access whilst framing and accenting the water feature.
    Do you want to interact with it? If so from where? Access points (paths and clearings) crossings (bridges and stepping stones) and overhangs (decking and platforms) can be incorporated to allow more interaction with the water garden.
  • Reflection: the most essential element if some formal water features and a real benefit to all ponds and water gardens. Reflected trees/plants, structures and sculptures can have twice the impact.
  • Equipment and routing: position equipment in an accessible and serviceable location where it can still perform its function sufficiently and efficiently. Keep in mind where pipes and cables will run and allow space for upgraded or additional equipment.l in the future.
  • Texture and Colour: colours and textures can relate to planting and materials chosen for a pond build. Projects can benefit greatly from personal client input. It is important to ascertain which colours and textures a client favours. The surrounding landscape and buildings should be considered when designing a pond or water feature allowing them to blend into their surroundings and equally to stand out.
  • Plot size and dimensions: we strongly recommend that you maximise the size of your water garden where possible; many people soon wish they had committed more available space to their pond or water feature. If your plot is small then simpler shapes are more effective; for rounded ponds think basic circles, bean and pallet shapes with basic features. As ponds get larger you can begin to add more features and more complex shapes. More angular, modern and formal pools and water features can be adjusted into surrounding landscaping for the best effect. Often a simpler shape and style will look more clean cut giving a classier finish.


We hope this basic overview of some of the key design points can start you on the right pond design journey. If you have your ideas already or would like to discuss the potential for your site please do get in touch with us at Aquaflora Landscapes where we design, construct and maintain all manner of ponds and water features.