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A feature packed water garden in Westerleigh, Bristol

A water garden including: ponds, waterfalls, streams, pool, fountain jet and a swale. Including a bridge, summer house with overhanging deck access and lighting. Heavily planted both within and around the water garden.

This large private/domestic project based between Bristol and Bath involves the conversion of an unused rough garden area into a beautiful new water garden.
The original water garden design was sketched as a double wildlife pond set up with a single stream and waterfalls to connect them. The water would then recirculate between the two ponds.

Some key water garden design and construction points outlined on site and with the client:
Happy to let the pond establish over time.
Would like a summer house area with hard standing.
Would like dry stable pedestrian access.
Good vistas from all around the site specifically from the house and the summer house.
Rough site with some but insufficient gradient.
A natural effect with a wildlife pond feel. Large areas given over to peripheral and aquatic planting especially within the bottom pond. This not only looks great but also creates habitat, shade, cover and competition for nutrients.

Although the original specification was wildlife pond/water garden upon seeing the near finished project the client advised that they would like to have some fish. The bottom pond had already been designed to become a large bio-filter and the top pond to have plenty of circulation and aeration from the pumps and waterfalls. We have suggested a small shoal of a native fish species could be added to the top pond to add further interest without requiring added external filtration systems.

Many projects evolve as they are built. As one water feature is mapped out it can lead to adjustments or additions to other areas. In this instance we have added a second weir and stream section to join the first creating a central island area. We also enlarged a pool within the first stream to the size of a small pond. Having multiple components allows people to be led through as well as around the water garden making it a more interactive and submerging experience.

Top Pond Area

The top pond is fed from a stone waterfall section constructed off the back corner. The water recirculates from the top pond to feed this water feature. This pond has been designed to mold to the shape of the summer house and deck area. The oak deck overhangs the water edge and is supported by oak legs set down into the pond. The crenelated edge of the deck is used to soften the harder material against the pond water. The deck has been continued around both sides of the building to meet the path and grass access and to allow full appreciation of the water garden. The deck is set only centimeters above water level giving great reflection and allowing for easy toe dipping on those hotter days. The summer house has an overhanging roof of three feet to allow for shade inside without blocking the light outside. It is insulated and clad inside with a laminate floor and full electrics including a separate control panel for the pumps and fountain. All cables are run discretely under the decking. The Summer house and deck are intentionally integrated into the shape of the water garden to prevent these structures from dominating the garden.

Bottom Pond Area

The larger bottom pond build has been designed with a large planting area at the far end near to the stream inlet. This is a wildlife enclave and also a natural biological filter which will harvest and use free nutrients within the water garden thus reducing the presence of green algae. The pond edges have been blended with planting beds constructed of stone and pebble, planting pockets larger rocks and turf banks where the grass runs straight into the waters edge. The swale exits the pond at the near edge and is finished with rock and pebble to match the stream sections. Lilies are placed on intermediate shelves to provide shade, cover and colourful blooms within the warmer months. There is an adjustable floating fountain located in the centre of the rounder section of the pond. It has a twelve jet head and is powered by an adjustable pump with controls in the summer house. The large recirculation pump is located in the near side of the bottom pond and its pipework and cables follow a buried conduit up to the top pond.


The stream sections each begin as a weir where water falls into the stream channel below. These stream sections have been constructed from pond liner over a protective underlay on top of compacted earth. These are then dressed with stone and pebble to match the surrounding Bristol area and the farmhouse on site. The waterfall sections have been built from stone and a specialist waterfall foam. We have built the waterfall drops to vary between rubble stone and single stone shelf effects. We have meandered the longer stream across the space between the two ponds and incorporated a deeper pool on the main bend. The shorter stream then drops into the main stream and they become one channel that empties via a final stone waterfall into the bottom pond. We have placed the last waterfall back from the edge of the bottom pond to create a natural looking outlet.

‘Hosta Island’

We have isolated this area from the rest of the water garden as it is surrounded by a moat of running water. We have planted with a variety of Hostas, Hellabores, Hucheras and small ground covering plants. Structure comes from the Phormium, Flax, Acer (Japanese maple tree) with the addition of occasional larger rocks. A reclaimed pennant stone path meanders across the island area with stepping stones across each stream section. The whole island is mulched with bark to suppress weed growth. A pebble beach area runs up from the pools edge into the planting. One added benefit of this moated area is that the slugs cannot reach our Hostas!


The swale also known as an overflow or outlet from the bottom pond has been designed to allow a slow diffusion of surplus rainwater back into the earth rather than piping it straight off into existing drains. This more environmentally minded approach allowed us to create a planted natural looking feature which runs down towards the low point of the garden. A land drain reservoir has been located close by in case of very wet conditions. Locating the swale as we have across the course of the path has allowed us to build an oak sleeper bridge. If you take the predominant wind direction in to account you can also use your swale as a natural skimmer.


The path begins with a set of simple oak steps framed by small planting beds. It has been arced around the right side of the water garden directly from the hard standing by the house past the wild flower meadow area and round to the summer house. Block paviours were specified and have been run in a linear fashion giving a consistent curve and allowing the clients easy and dry access year round. The path is broken up by the oak sleeper bridge which passes over the swale. The path follows the shape of the pond areas in a continuous curve. There is grass access to most of the site and a pennant stone stepping stone path over the island.

Pond Lighting

Pond lights have been added within the top pond to highlight the deck and waterfall. Underwater lights have also been positioned along the streams to accent the waterfall drop areas. Column style garden lights have been installed along the path area. All the water garden lights are easily controlled from the summer house control panel. All lights are LED and run on low voltage making them environmentally friendly, cheaper to run and safer as they are fit to purpose.

Landscaping and Planting

This water garden is framed with a backdrop of plants. Silver birch trees planted in threes give structure and bring height to the open grass areas, Phormiums/Flax are used as focal points and to draw attention to certain areas. The surrounding hedge of Photinias and Laurel blends into the existing hedge and creates a softened boundary. The beds have been bark mulched to suppress weed growth and the darker colour helps to clearly define the beds and display the plants. A wild flower meadow area has been seeded outside the path as a backdrop to the bridge and swale. Turf has been laid for instant lush green cover and consolidation, in places we have run it right into the water to give a very natural bank. The planting runs to a theme of lush with a tropical feel given room to grow, spread and fill the beds. This led us to a colour scheme of greens and reds accented with occasional white variegation and flowers. Species used include several varieties of grass including Carex, Cordyline and Phormiums. Large leafed Fatsia Japonica and colourful Persicaria. The swale and side of the summer house have Gunnera which will grow out to cover a larger area.

Water Garden Planting

The pond designs are planted with space allowing them to mature and spread. In a year the aquatic plants will be well established. Some aquatic beds have been edged with stone and filled with pebble. We then plant directly into the pebble using it as the planting media. This allows the roots freedom and access to secure the plant and find nutrients. Beds have been organised to have swaths of the same or similar species of aquatic plant. Some are all upright plants like Lustrife or Iris others are lower growing like Marsh Marigolds. Individual plants have been located in a variety of planting pockets including rock, Hessian and turf. The stream and water fall sections have been planted up with occasional Myosotis and small rushes. Aquatic Lilies of several species have been planted in areas around the pond. These are great plants for the water garden as they grow in spring the leaves float on the surface covering a large area keeping the water cooler, reducing sunlight penetration and providing cover for organisms. They provide shape and have colourful blooms across the months from Spring through to Autumn and when they die back in Winter they leave a clean and open area of water.

If you are considering the addition of a beautiful water garden to your property or indeed a pond or water feature please do contact us at Aquaflora Landscapes to discuss your options and let us help you realise your water garden potential in Bristol, Bath and beyond.