Front Exterior & Front Yard

Outdoor Water Feature Ideas (Reader Suggestions)

After reading the comments on yesterday’s post, many of you have given me a lot to think about! There were so many great suggestions regarding my search for the perfect water feature for our little “courtyard” area in front of the breakfast room windows that are nestled between the living room and studio exterior walls. If you missed that post, here’s what that area looks like now. That one plant has been cut down several times, and it grows back super fast each time. It will be cut down one last time when I get ready to work on this area, and I’ll figure out how to keep it from coming back.

Large Wood Planter Turned Into A Lily Pond Fountain

When I first saw the picture of this wood lily pond fountain, it looked very small. Then I watched the video of the person actually building it, and I realized that it’s actually quite large! Since I love to build things out of wood, this project is really right up my alley.

Screenshot from This Old House video on How To Make A Lily Pond

Traditional Bird Bath Fountain Combo

This water feature from Overstock is kind of the best of both worlds — a bird bath and a fountain — combined into one water feature. And the color seems pretty perfect for me! I love the tiered design, and I also appreciate that it’s not too fancy. It seems like a bird bath fountain that would look right at home in the yard of my house. And of course, I love those cute, fat little birds sitting in the rims! I don’t know that this is exactly what I want in my little “courtyard”, but I have lots of other places where this could go.

Bird Bath Fountain from Overstock

Pottery Fountains

Several people suggested various types of pottery fountains. This two-tier DIY fountain is a pretty basic and easy design to put together. This one is from Lowe’s, and the directions are very clear and show just how easy it is to create a fountain like this.

Two-tier pottery fountain, instructions by Lowe’s

This is another type of pottery fountain, but this is much more involved and requires digging a large hole in the ground to sink a large reservoir that holds the water that gets recirculated through the large vases. These beautiful dark blue pottery fountains are from Boulder Fountain, and there’s a video showing these in action here.

Pottery fountains from Boulder Fountain

Store-Bought, Self-Contained Fountains

Several people provided links to some pretty great store-bought, self-contained fountains. The great thing about these fountains is that you simply fill them with water, plug them in, and turn them on. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

I love the shape of this one, and those sweet little bronze colored birds are so pretty. I also love the simple modern rectangle shape of the fountain. I really like the overall design, but the color isn’t quite right for me. This one is from Wayfair.

Outdoor Fountain from Wayfair

I really love the way this one looks. It’s also from Wayfair. The color is much more to my liking, and there’s a video on the website showing the fountain with the water turned on. It’s really very pretty. I don’t like the birds on this one, though. I personally don’t like fake birds that are made to look real, because they don’t look real. I like my fake birds to look more sculptural (like the bronze birds on the fountain just above), so if I got this one, I’d paint the birds a solid color to look more sculptural. But what I do love about this type of fountain is that the water is shallow so that real birds can drink and splash around in it.

Fountain from Wayfair

Sculptural Fountains

These next two are very different, but I’m putting them into the same category because they both seem like sculptural pieces of art that also happen to be fountains. This first one is a metal lily pad fountain that stands just over four feet tall. This would be so pretty tucked into a garden, but I do wonder if birds could use this.

Tall Metal Lily Pad Water Fountain from Gardenesque

I also put this one in the category of sculptural art that is also a fountain. It’s made from a wine barrel hoop and copper pipe. The more I look at this one, the more I love it. The pattern of the water spray is so beautiful. It’s from this Facebook page, but there’s not really any information about it, so you’d pretty much have to figure out how to put this together by yourself.

Boulder Fountains and Pondless Waterfalls

Boulder fountains are generally not a favorite of mine just because, in my humble opinion, they try to look natural, but they rarely do look natural. I mean, there’s nothing natural about water spouting up through the middle of a large rock. But with that said, I have come across some that really do appeal to me. Here are a few:

I really like the understated design of this one. It still doesn’t look natural for water to be spouting up through the middle of a boulder, but I like that the water spray stays pretty low to the boulder.

I also really like the look of these three stacked flat boulders and the plants around them. I would want a more natural look with the surrounding rocks, though. Maybe a color other than gray? Maybe a more natural, scattered design?

I absolutely LOVE this one! It’s both natural (as in, made of a natural material), but it’s also sculptural since the boulders have clearly been cut into square shapes. It’s a little bit modern, but not so modern that it would look out of place in a traditional setting. Or maybe that’s what I’m telling myself because I love it so much. 😀 And there’s plenty of space there for birds to drink and bathe.

When it comes to pondless waterfalls, I’m pretty particular. Out of every ten that I look at, nine of them look incredibly fake. But this one from the Garden Answer YouTube channel is the most natural one I’ve ever seen. This is a screenshot from the video, and you can see how gorgeous it is. If you’re planning a pondless waterfall, I HIGHLY recommend that you watch this entire video because the guys who installed this one had some amazing tips and suggestions for getting that natural look.

Pondless waterfall from Garden Answer on YouTube

Sugar Kettle Fountains

Until yesterday, I had never even heard of a sugar kettle. Now I can’t get enough of sugar kettles! To get the authentic cast iron kind, you’ll pay quite a bit of money. As in, a LOT of money. But you can also get replicas made of fiberglass, and while they’re not quite cheap, they’re a fraction of the price of the cast iron kettles. But the possibilities with these sugar kettles are endless.

This is my favorite one that I’ve found yet. If these are cast iron, I can’t even imagine how much that big kettle would cost. But isn’t it pretty?!

I also really like the simplicity of this one.

Anyway, those were a few of the ideas and links that people provided for me on yesterday’s post, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking through them, doing a bit more research, and imagining each type in my little “courtyard” area. I don’t know that y’all have made my decision any easier, because now I have so many more options before me that I never knew existed before. 😀 But it’ll be fun to narrow them down and find exactly which one I want to showcase in that little area of my front yard.

If I were forced to decide today, I’d probably choose either my own design using the wine barrel hoop idea or some sort of sugar kettle fountain design. As of this very moment, those are the ones that stand out in my mind for that particular area. The more natural bubbling boulders and pondless waterfalls seem better suited for the back yard, and those pretty store-bought, self-contained fountains can be tucked into other (smaller) corners of flower beds. But I want something pretty big and eye-catching for this particular area in front of the breakfast room windows, and it needs to be tall enough and large enough so that we can enjoy it from inside as well as outside. So a sugar kettle or tall sculptural fountain seems like a great choice.

I loved looking through all of your suggestions! Now my mind is spinning. 😀 But if you have more, keep ’em coming!

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22 Comments

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Peggy
    June 1, 2022 at 11:09 am

    The sugar kettle one is GORGEOUS! If I didn’t already have a flat rock tiered pondless feature, I’d be seriously looking at that. I do like the pottery ones also.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Len Carver
    June 1, 2022 at 11:21 am

    I love every one of these fountains I would have a very hard time deciding on one or two only. But what I really want to address is that bush, you said you have cut it a few times, to get rid of it completely you are going to go more drastic. Cut it down and drill 2-4 holes in the stump/root. fill it with liquid glass which you can buy at hardware stores, I bought mine from an Ace Hardware store in KS. It will rot out the root so it doesn’t return otherwise you will be cutting it every year or two. Can’t wait to see what you choose for a fountain.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Carla from Kansas
    June 1, 2022 at 11:23 am

    To keep that bush from returning you MUST pull it out by the roots. Cut a lot of it off but leave enough that you can hook a chain up to it. Hook the other end to the truck and pull it out. Otherwise you will fight it forever.

    I want and have wanted for some time a trio of those cobalt blue tall vases with water bubblers.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Barbara
      June 1, 2022 at 3:58 pm

      Correct. She has to get all the roots out. I also love those 3 tall vases, this idea would be perfect for a small courtyard.

      I have had a fountain on our deck/balcony that gave up pumping water, but still looks nice there. I also made a fountain myself. What I found was that it is tricky to actually have the water sounding good.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mary Leah
    June 1, 2022 at 11:23 am

    My mind immediately went to cobalt blue, but that’s just me 🙂

    Word to the wise: try to keep a separation between plants and the foundation of your house. We had a pretty bad termite issue on an exterior wall because of banana plants too close. 1. They are water filled and drew the termites, and 2. The pest control company didn’t pick them up on inspection, “because we couldn’t get behind the plants to look.” 🙄

    That’s a great courtyard area. Can’t wait to see your choices!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mo
    June 1, 2022 at 11:59 am

    Having had various fountains, a big deal to me is “quiet water”. Some fountains are very loud. Just irritating. My 2cents. Can’t wait to see what you do!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jo Ann
    June 1, 2022 at 12:21 pm

    Pour Clorox bleach in an area dug out around the big plant. Do that several days in a row. The area should be about 6/7 inches out from the trunk. Hope this works !

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jennie
    June 1, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    I love browsing my local nurseries and landscape companies. There is one I go to in the Kansas City area that has some amazing water features. You can really get some ideas from them professionals. Maybe call a few to come out and give you estimates. Then if they are to outrageous at least you can have their ideas on paper to build from 😁. Can’t wait to see this part of your house take shape. Loved following you when you transformed the front porch. Your work is gorgeous.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Yvonne
    June 1, 2022 at 1:11 pm

    For removing that large plant I strongly suggest a chain and a pickup truck to jerk that out of the ground. If you only cut it off, it will continue to return over and over again to be a constant source of irritation, causing problems with whatever you decide to install in that spot.
    Any of the water features listed here would be beautiful and I have no doubt you will choose something spectacular. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    MonW
    June 1, 2022 at 1:16 pm

    For the problem plant:
    drill into the stump and pour nitrogen fertilizer into the drilled holes to rot it from the inside.
    Add more nitrogen as you notice the stump disintegrating.
    That worked nicely on an ash stump in our yard until the grinder could come and grind it down.

    Yes, you could try pulling the stump with a truck and chains, but location can be an issue.

    I think Young House Love had a Landscape Architect consultation back in 2012; https://www.younghouselove.com/the-wilderness/ . Reading what they learned in one hour, is eye-opening.

    Water features:
    I saw this bubbler fountain, solar, self-contained and DIY, when I was looking for something else yesterday.
    She gives part sources, tips, etc. and a dry test indoors to convince her of the best fitting top.
    She also links to the blogger who inspired her.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns0OKDA4E3I&t=25s

    You’ll want to consider the water noise and your neighborhood noise, maintenance and weatherization, before you build. Car traffic? People at home? We were gifted a modest tabletop fountain at our previous house and loved it on the covered patio in the middle of the block in our back yard.
    That same fountain at our current corner lot with non-roofed deck is less appealing and tedious with an outlet needed. The added street noise drowns the fountain.

    I could see you choosing some of the taller pottery vase style bubblers in teal or cobalt.
    Or even a combination of the vases in your favorite colors.

    I could also see you revisiting these options when you do your walking track in the back yard for further styles along the way.

    Mosquitos:
    After reading, we use the round mosquito donuts directly in the water to stop the little vampires. No harm to birds.
    Wash your hands after touching. Double check if it will be safe for Cooper.

    Birds:
    Hummingbirds like a mist or spray and a nearby perch to dry. You are in the migration path.
    The red sage is one of their favorites along with bee balms from Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg.

    I suspect you both will enjoy the “in-person research” in your area with the van.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    sharon
    June 1, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    Kristi, once cut down, cover the area to the drip line, which usually equals the span of the branches, with cardboard, plastic or any dense material then mulch over it. This will basically smother the plant. It’s so much easier than trying to get all the roots. I’ve had success with thorn bushes, poison ivy, grass and other unwanted plants using this method.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mason Leskowitz
    June 1, 2022 at 1:31 pm

    Just a tip I got from YouTube about solar fountains:
    Choose a fountain that does NOT come out of a solar panel. Have the solar panel separate from the fountain, the reason being the fountain/solar panel combo deteriorate quite quickly.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Go86NPGlA4
    Good luck!
    I’m following to see what you decide!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Laurie C
      June 1, 2022 at 8:43 pm

      I like the sugar kettle fountains too. I’ve never heard of them either, so I’m off to the internet hole for a while! ;).
      Also, that looks like a hackberry tree to me. We have several and they are huge and the birds leave “seeds” everywhere to sprout. We live in the Coastal bend, so not too far away from you.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mrs. David
    June 1, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    Dear Kristi,
    The position of your courtyard is perfect for views from your breakfast room and your living room. I would suggest you take advantage of a taller fountain so that you can view the water and the accompanying birds and wildlife that will visit it each day.

    Spring and summer are so much more delightful for me now that I have a fountain. I never imagined how much the birds would utilize it since we have two other birdbaths available in our yard.

    I have a four-tiered fountain with the top/finial where water bubbles out; the birds are crazy about that spot. It’s like their own little “spa”.

    If you or Matt spend a lot of time in the breakfast room each day; please consider choosing a taller fountain that you can enjoy from the comfort of your recliners…or even standing at the kitchen sink or counter.

    Here’s a couple examples really similar to the one I have.

    https://www.homedepot.com/p/LuxenHome-Pineapple-3-Tier-Outdoor-Fountain-WHF900/313136923

    https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07D3YMNKW/?coliid=I2BH2OXNMQZ67K&colid=HJIFHXDVIMLZ&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it&th=1

    Mine is flat on the top where the water bubbles out and that’s the spot that the birds go crazy for. So much so that they’ll wait their turn on a nearby branch. I’ve seen as many as five birds perched and waiting their turn in the fountain on a hot day!

    The fountain has drawn birds to my view that I was not seeing just with feeders and bird baths. Indigo buntings, Northern Orioles, Blue Birds, Yellow Warblers (I live in Southern Michigan).

    If you or Matt enjoy, or think you’d enjoy, bird watching at all, opt for a taller fountain that can be seen from your windows while sitting down.

    If the fountain you like doesn’t come in a color that works with your siding, it’s easy to spray paint and then seal with clear, Flex-Seal. My husband has done it many times to refresh our old fountain.

    I’m really glad for the option of more mobility for Matt. I’m a homebody but cannot imagine being basically housebound for years. Congratulations on your new wheels!

    I will enjoy seeing how this courtyard develops. Have a great day!

    YHWH Bless You : )

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sheri
    June 1, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    You will be able to find similar tubs and round sculptures in Round Top.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    CathyR
    June 1, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    This is going to be a tough choice! I love the barrel stave one but without instructions it could be tricky. The last few with stacked rocks are my choice. I’m a rock gal…love them all over the place! Good luck😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    CathyR
    June 1, 2022 at 4:26 pm

    Ps…Re the returning bush…yank that sucker out like a bad tooth! I had landscapers pull giant taxus bushes at my former home bu wrapping a heavy chain around the plant, then the truck axle. True it was a huge, heavy dump truck so no harm to it and yours doesn’t look as big so maybe around your pickup axle? I’m not 100% sure but leaving a big hole might insure it won’t return!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Beverly
    June 1, 2022 at 4:57 pm

    One consideration is keeping it clean…with all your surrounding trees will it be difficult to keep the sugar kettle style free of leaves and debris?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Brenda Heyward
    June 1, 2022 at 5:01 pm

    So somethings to consider with ponds and fountains. One you will have lots of visitors{bugs, snakes, raccoons, posuums, you will have to deal with mold in the tubing, around the house if u place it in a corner of your courtyard. Also if you put a walkway around, slippery as fountains will spray with wind etc., They are alot of work to maintain

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sian
    June 1, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    Why couldn’t your barrel hoop sit inside/on your sugar kettle(s)?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Susan L.
    June 2, 2022 at 11:06 am

    I’m wondering about the bush in your courtyard. It looks very like “Tree of Heaven,” which is an invasive weed. If you didn’t plant it and don’t know what it is, that’s probably it. I have seen them actually grow into trees with trunks, but they really should be destroyed so they don’t populate. You might need several treatments of a brush killer, or you could try using a heavier string and girdling the stem and some of the main branches.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sherry
    June 4, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    Just a few things to consider from someone that has had several fountains/fishponds and what I have learned.
    1. The higher the drop is from the water outlet to the pond or next tier, the louder the sound.
    2. Tiered or single cement birdbaths are a royal pain to clean. The sides turn green with algae
    And cleaning them is a pain as you can’t do it without emptying the water first which means you need a pump because they are to heavy to tip the water out.
    3. Water lilies look nice in a fountain and they look good in the store display but water lilies prefer still water so unless you have a very large pond you can have water lilies or a fountain but not both.
    4. A bubbler looks nice but there is usually not much sound to them. They are fine for birds to drink from but they need water they can splash around in to have a bath. Some will just sit on the rim of the bath and pick up water and throw it over themselves.as long as it is deep enough that they can lean into it and reach the water.
    5. Water features are easier to keep clean if they are in the shade. The more sun, the more algae.
    6. Putting the pump inside a basket or something that the water can be easily pumped thru but leaves etc don’t get thru to plug up the pump.
    7. If making one with a plastic or rubber lining get the material from a garden centre or other retailer that knows what plastic is safe for birds and especially fish. the cheaper stuff is usually not.
    8. It is an option to buy or make your own “rocks” from fibreglass. Real rocks are nice but need machines or several strong men to move them into place.
    9. Try to leave space around the feature for a chair or too. It is so relaxing to sit close, hear the sound of the water and watch the birds. They will get used to you being there and will gradually come the water when you are there.
    10. A bird bath is better with a bird feeder close to it as one attracts the other.
    11. You will need to clean up bird seed or shells from the water that the birds bring in.
    12. Don’t make the feeder too close to the water or seeds will get tossed or fall into the water.
    13. If feeding with sunflower seeds it is cheaper in the long run to buy black oil sunflower seeds with out shells. Then the ones that inevitably fall do the ground don’t sprout in the lawn. Less mess overall and the birds love them.
    14. All the work to setup and maintain a water feature is worth it when the first robin of spring has a bath in your fountain.