For all of the high-end accoutrements and little extravagances that have worked their way into everyday home landscaping discussions in recent years — from simple fire pits to elaborate outdoor kitchens — water features such as fountains and ponds still meet with a fair amount of skepticism and outright resistance from many homeowners.
It's not because these folks wouldn't enjoy the calming, meditative effects of running water in their yards and gardens — quite the contrary. So what's the problem? Quite frankly, it's not the H2O that homeowners fear but the L&U, as in labor and upkeep. From maintaining water quality to keeping drains clear of debris to monitoring pump mechanics, the perceived vibe coming from a water feature for many gardeners is less one of serenity and more one of stress — they're beautiful, yes, but who needs all the hassle?
Derailing this built-in concern, however, is the fact that water features have never been quite as simple and maintenance-free as many of those on the market today. Of course there are hundreds of varieties of ponds, waterfalls and fountains from which to choose, and the more one adds to a display the more upkeep will come into play, but these days adding at least some small water element to a garden can be fairly affordable and stress free.
"The technology has really improved," says Kathy Bartley, a member of Illiana Garden Pond Society, the organization that will be hosting the upcoming Waterscape Weekend, a two-day garden and pond expo at the Lake County Fairgrounds. "The companies producing these features and supplies understand the maintenance hurdles and the costs involved for gardeners, so their main focus in recent years has been utilizing technology to really cut down on those issues as much as possible."
For the 11th consecutive year, prospective pond owners will be able to see for themselves what's new and noteworthy in water features at the expo, which is designed to showcase the many ways in which water can work its magic in a variety of garden settings. The event will feature three large walk-through landscape gardens in the Agriculture Building and more than 50 vendors (including Gardens on the Prairie — see sidebar) dealing in everything from fountain equipment and illumination options to live fish and general planning and design, as well as a number of informational seminars and demonstrations. In addition to everything a gardener might want to know about ponds, streams and waterfalls, the weekend will also feature clinics and displays covering topics like organic gardening and new trends in garden décor.
"A few of the new vendors this year will be focusing on things like growing heirloom vegetables and finding good Midwestern wines, so there will be some focus on food and gardening as well," Bartley says.
Proceeds from the expo help to fund the nonprofit Illiana Garden Pond Society's activities, including its program to donate and maintain ponds and fountains at a number of area schools and nursing homes. Most of all, though, the weekend gives society members like Bartley and the presenting vendors a chance to demonstrate to some possibly skeptical gardeners the many benefits and the newfound ease of bringing water into their landscape plans.
"We just hope that people come to realize that bringing water into a garden on any scale — large or small — is a wonderful way to transform the space and truly relax the soul."