Rustic Steel Fountain
An unusual metal fountain adds soothing sounds to an urban backyard.
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Homeowners Mark and Elizabeth Fighera have already done a lot of landscaping with a wooden wall, plants and rocks but they've asked Landscape Smart to help with the finishing touches. They want a fountain as a focal point. They're expecting a baby, so they need something baby-friendly.
The First Meeting
Elizabeth and Mark meet with landscape designer Shirley Watts, who comes up with a design for a metal water feature. The fountain is self-contained, set inside a laser-cut steel box, with water coming up through a French-style urn and flowing into a basin. If the Figheras ever move, they can actually take the water fountain with them.
At first the homeowners are unsure about the design, which sounds too modern and avant-garde. Shirley explains that it will be rustic, not like shiny stainless steel, and the box will hold soil and plants trailing over the sides.
The box will be made of steel skeletons, which are what is left over after a sheet of steel is laser-cut. Shirley uses these skeletons for many types of garden projects and finds them at salvage stores and fabrication shops. At a fabrication shop, welders cut the panels to her specifications and then weld them together to form a frame (figure C).
At a salvage yard, Shirley chooses a few clay pots and pieces of plaster molding (figure D), which the team paints black for a uniform look. These will be placed around the fountain when it's finished. They use blackboard paint, which absorbs light and is very dense.
Contractor Fred Norgaard places the steel box catty-corner in the backyard and lines the bottom and sides with weed fabric to hold in the soil and keep weeds out. Then the box is filled with potting soil and compacted to form a firm base for the fountain.
A metal bowl from a salvage yard is used for the basin, but a flexible plastic bowl from a fountain supply store, or anything else that can hold water, will work well, too. A small recirculating pump and tubing go in the basin. The bowl is placed in the box on top of the soil (figure E) and a decorative metal grid--cut from a piece of scrap metal--is put on top of the box and basin.
A concrete block, painted black, goes in the center of the grid (figure F), and the tubing is pulled through the middle. A reproduction French urn goes on top of the concrete block, and the tubing is pulled through a hole in the bottom of the urn. Soil is added to the urn around the tubing, and a 4-inch-long PVC pipe is placed over the tube for support, with about an inch of the tubing protruding.
The plants for the urn don't need to be pond plants but should like frequent watering since they will be watered whenever the fountain is turned on. Shirley chooses plants for their texture and leaf color rather than blooming plants that need more care. She adds trailing plants to the holes along the perimeter of the metal grid, below the urn and around the basin.
To keep the soil in the basin from overflowing when the water is on, Shirley uses a "mulch" of recycling tumbled glass around the plants (figure H), but pebbles work well, too. They also add plants to the clay pots around the base of the fountain.
Finally, they add water to the basin and plug in the fountain. The completed fountain offers the gentle sound of water, with potted plants and unique plaster molding adding interest to the new focal point.
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