The number one element that people request when designing a garden is water. This is just as important to most people than the specific plants that are selected or the paving materials to be used for a patio or walkway. Typically water is important because of the sound or white noise that is present in the back ground. The presence of water can come in the form of a fountain, pond, bird bath or other feature.
During a lecture yesterday at the NJ American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, a question was raised about the importance of including a water feature in a garden. I was giving a talk on ‘Creating Affordable Therapeutic Gardens’ and one of the attendees wanted to know if a water feature should be considered within the garden. My answer was a resounding yes! A water feature is an attraction and will encourage a person to visit the outdoor garden space. The attached picture is from a recently completed courtyard and the water fountain is the number one attraction in the garden, so far.
People like to sit by the water because it typically provides a soothing sound. This is an important consideration when selecting the kind of water feature to use. The water should provide a soft gentle sound and not sounds that are disruptive.
A good example might be the sound of water as it falls upon the roof during a rainfall. This is a ‘natural’ sound and one that we are all familiar hearing. Or the sound could replicate a bubbling brook as the water cascades over the stones.
What is interesting is that there is little research on what specific sounds are pleasant and what sounds are distracting. I would like to find a fountain manufacturer who would be interested in participating in a research study. I have talked with environmental psychologists who are interested in conducting the study. This would go a long way in moving beyond the anecdotal findings that we have to date.