How to build a serene garden water feature

Building a water feature doesn't have to cost a fortune, and, from waterfalls to streams, you can do it all yourself - here's our handy guide

Fixing rocks into a DIY garden stream

A water feature makes a delightful piece of garden decor and the soft trickle of a stream or waterfall can bring a little bit of seaside to even the most urban of spaces. Often, homeowners draft in landscapers for their water features, but garden design needn’t be expensive, so we’ve put together our own step-by-step DIY guide.


Step 1

Shaping the soil for a DIY garden stream
© Haynes Garden Landscaping Manual

Shape the soil along the route of your watercourse into a series of shallows and drops, aiming to make it look as natural as possible.

If you can’t make use of a natural slope, build one up using soil, but make sure you compact it well.

Step 2

Bedding piping for a DIY garden stream
© Haynes Garden Landscaping Manual

Run the supply pipe from a pump up one side of the route of the stream to the source, bedding the pipe into the soil or sand as much as possible.

Cover the soil with a geotextile fabric or a layer of soft sand to protect the liner.

Step 3

Flexible pond liner
© Haynes Garden Landscaping Manual

Cover the route with a single layer of said liner – you’ll need a flexible pond liner – ensuring that you leave some excess at each side.

Attach the lower end of the supply pipe to a submersible pump, then fill the pond with water and turn on the pump to ensure that the water flows and none escapes.

Step 4

Fixing rocks into a DIY garden stream
© Haynes Garden Landscaping Manual

Cover the liner with suitably shaped flat rocks, stones and gravel. Large or sharply pointed rocks should be sat on more geotextile membrane to protect the liner, and may need a blob of mortar to hold them in place.

Add plants along the route of the water so that they overhang the flow.


We spoke to award-winning garden designer Kate Gould for some more expert tips…

Kate Gould is an award-winning garden designer with more than a decade’s hands-on experience transforming gardens of all sizes and a regular exhibitor at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show where she has been awarded three Gold medals.

Water and plants are a magical combination but not all plants like damp feet, so when planning a natural water feature take your time and research what will work best in your particular situation.

Plants for damp shade: think leafy types here. Ferns, Hosta and the wonderfully named Farfugium all provide a foil in terms of leaves for more showy plants. Hosta and ferns in particular when planted in bold swathes are impressive in their own right but could be partnered with shrubs such as Cornus and Salix which, although bare in the winter, will add colour in the form of bright stems.

Plants for waterside edges in sun: here you will find the palette of plants is more colourful. Astilbe in shades of red and pink, Iris in blues and yellows, Primula in all manner of hues, white Aruncus and Zantedeschia. Hemerocallis also work well as do Lobelia cardinals varieties and, somehow, clashy colours that wouldn’t work elsewhere seemingly do around water.

The big and the bold: some plants grow to monsters and Gunnera, Rheum, Ligularia and Persicaria varieties can easily reach eight feet tall. In the case of a Gunnera, planted in the right place with the right degree of shelter, each leaf could reach eight feet across so unless you have plenty of space it is one to avoid!

Water in the garden is a joy and will encourage wildlife, therefore no matter what you plant it should be grown organically to allow wildlife to live in harmony with your scheme and help provide natural pest control.

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Step-by-step images are taken from the Haynes Garden Landscaping Manual by Paul Wagland. It’s full of practical ideas and information for garden landscaping projects, from laying paving and building walls to choosing plants and adding lighting.