Life with a Water Garden

I don’t know about you, but as a child I was fascinated by water. Even the trickle of a creek behind our home became an endless source of creative play as I marveled at the wildlife and built little dams and tunnels. I think as humans we are all drawn to water in some way, but nothing compares to viewing the world through the eyes of a child.

1997 - My youngest brother and I

So this week, I thought we’d check in with some of our young friends who were the happy recipients of a custom backyard water feature last spring. ​They were more than happy to share their thoughts about what they enjoy most about their magical little space!

summer needs to stay all year long

(girl) age 8: “I love it because you can just climb around it and learn new things about it. You can just sit down and relax, and dip your feet in. There’s really no way to avoid doing that when you’re playing outside, unless Mom tells you not to. I like it because it’s peaceful- it’s so nice. Just so nice! I like to sample the herb garden too. The basil leaves taste the best. Not the rosemary though! I tried that one time, and it was just way too much. We should ask my little brothers what they think too!”

(little brother) age 5: “I really love it and I can’t wait to play with it after this January is over. In the winter I enjoy it because it’s a good sight out the window.”

(little brother) age 2: “I like the rocks inside.”

catching insects

I also asked them how they play differently in the yard, now that they have a water feature right outside their door!

(girl) age 8: “There’s definitely more to do and see outside now. Instead of just a playhouse, we can play around the water and set our toys up around the edge- you know, to create a nature scene. The only real problem is that when we have friends over, they say ‘Wow! You have a fountain?’ and it’s hard to get them to play anything else. It’s everyone’s favorite thing to do when they come over.”

(little brother) age 5: “I like all the bugs. My favorites are probably the dragonflies and the fig beetles. And the bubbling part is neat. The sounds outside the window are nice too; they help me sleep.”

(little brother) age 2: “No.”

elephant ears went crazy!

As some background: before we installed this feature, the space where it currently stands was an awkward, muddy space by the back steps. We were able to bring purpose and interest to this area, and it’s now the focal point of our backyard! By incorporating spillway bowls, jets, water walls, and lots of natural rock, we created a space that sparks imaginative play, and is perfect for sailing little boats or building towers of pebbles.

best way to spend Saturday

Additionally, we planted a variety of water-loving species of plants in and around the area to attract butterflies and birds, along with some planters filled with herbs. One of their favorites is a Mexican petunia (ruellia) next to the spillway bowl. It grows all new blossoms almost every morning, and the kids have enjoyed waiting to see how many blooms there will each day, and whether there will be more purple or more white flowers.

Mexican petunia in its glory

Some local visitors to the feature last year included many species of butterflies, frogs, fiddler crabs, friendly native bees, and countless birds. A great blue heron even stopped by to check out the space! While the water feature itself is exciting for the kids, developing an appreciation for local wildlife and experiencing it up close is truly invaluable. I feel so privileged to be able to help the next generation learn about these plants and creatures- and have fun in the process!

family gathering