Water and gardens: naturally together!

30 November 2020

Using water to embellish gardens is an age-old tradition. For many centuries this natural alliance has nourished, protected and inspired. Does climate change mean the end of water gardens? On the contrary! Water management may change, but water will always find a niche in our gardens. Flashback on the place of water in gardens conference by Sylvie Ligny (Garden_Lab) at Paysalia 2019.

From water management to artistic landscaping

Water has always been a fundamental part of landscaping works, even before the appearance of gardens as we now know them. Initially works controlled the presence and flow of water to channel it to where it was useful. Marvels of hydraulic engineering were deployed to enable marshlands to be used for growing food, defense and then decorative gardens. The techniques used were incredibly ingenious!

Then Renaissance water gardens arrived. Nobles paid huge sums to highly skilled fountain-makers, the specialists in water management, to create works merely for their beauty (see our selection of the world’s most beautiful fountains). A new, highly sensitive, dimension for water in gardens and a poetic trend in landscaping which has boomed since the 20th century with waterfalls, mirror effects, run-offs and waves.

Two water gardens which brilliantly combine hydraulic engineering and beauty

Courances castle park
This French garden is a perfect illustration of how water used evolved over time. At the origin of the castle’s park, monks diverted a small stream in the 11th century to install agricultural mills. In the 15th century, this water was reused to fill defensive moats. Each generation added new water works, capturing the 14 local springs to landscape the park which has been awarded the French “Remarkable Garden” label.

The Persian garden
Another example of ingenious water collection thanks to hydraulic engineering! The purpose this time is not to drain but to channel water - sometimes collected several kilometers away - into the gardens. The irrigation systems manage the water intelligently, without waste. First of all it feeds the kitchen gardens and is also used to create an “oasis”, an “Earthly Paradise”.

Take a look back on the oldest gardens in the world… which still exist today!

So many benefits from modern water gardens!

Water protects biodiversity

A pond in a garden is much more than a space filled with water! It contributes to safeguarding the biodiversity of wetlands – a project the French call the ”trame bleue”. Man originally set out to drain these zones but has now realized that this approach has gone too far and the lack of water has had a huge negative impact on biodiversity.

Water creates an atmosphere

Like the Japanese Shisen-do garden, landscaping collects water to transcend the surroundings. Between rain chains (esthetic Japanese gutters) and shishi-odoshi (Japanese bamboo fountains making a characteristic sound), water makes gardens Zen!

Water creates emotions

Water in gardens stimulates the senses. Its musical quality and even just its gurgle are mood-changing! Once the right balance is struck, water is comforting.

Landscaping for the senses :
Hearing | Sight | Touch | Taste | Smell

Water solves urban problems

It is only quite recently that water has been restored to its rightful place in cities. Some even used to hide their streams. Cooling, creating wellbeing and sometimes even a cradle for floating gardens as in Rennes (France), water improves community life quality.

Innovative water use - differentiated management

On Earth, the water cycle is perpetual but its availability differs according to geography. Traditional water management methods are no longer appropriate. Water circuits must be redesigned to ensure the sustainability of habitats, support water recycling and introduce waste stabilization ponds… Sustainable water management really is possible in homes and gardens too with innovative hydraulic engineering!

To thrive, gardens have always needed water so it is not likely to disappear from our landscapes. The challenge we now face is to handle it with intelligence, as the Syndicat National de l'Arrosage Automatique (the French National Automatic Watering Association) explains in this interview. Come to the next Paysalia to discover the latest trends in water gardens!


© Photo credit - Nataliya Hora / Adobe Stock
Courances castle - JONATHAN / Adobe Stock
Persian garden - Lionel Taieb / Adobe Stock

Share this page: