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Slate Water Feature

The sound of bubbling water is a wonderful asset in any garden. In this indigenous garden a slate water feature is used to bring out the vibrant colours of the natural slate, which adds another dimension to the water feature. Once the selection of great plants is planted and thriving, the transformation of this corner of the garden is complete.

What you Need for your Slate Water Feature

  • ± 24 pieces slate of various sizes
  • Round fibreglass pond from River Rock
  • 8 bricks
  • Eden 130G-10M, 3-core 230V, 10m cable pump from KLB Engineering
  • 1m of 15mm copper pipe
  • 10cm of 15mm copper pipe
  • 15mm copper elbow
  • 1m plastic tubing to fit the 15mm elbow
  • Electrical point (to provide power for the pump)

Tools

Spirit level, hammer, electric drill, 8mm and 16mm masonry drill bits

Steps

1. The pond must be sited on a level area. Turn the pond upside down and mark its edge with sand. Dig out the area to the depth of the pond plus 50mm and ensure that the bottom of the hole is level and smooth. Spread a 50mm layer of river sand over the bottom. Compact the sand down well and use a spirit level to ensure that you have a level base for the pond.

2. Place the fibreglass pond in position. Make sure that it is stable as any movement could cause cracks in the pond later on. Fill the space between the pond and the sides of the hole with river sand, compacting it as much as possible to give the pond enough support.

3. Build a base for the water feature in the centre of the pond, using the bricks. Make it about ⅔ of the depth of the pond so that the first few layers of slate will be under water. Prepare for installing the water feature by connecting the 1m copper pipe to the 10cm piece using the copper elbow. Next, attach one end of the tubing to the free end of the 10cm piece and the other end to the pump.

4. The water feature consists of layers of slate, with the biggest at the base and diminishing in size so that the smallest is at the top. Drill a hole in the centre of each piece of slate. Start each hole with the 8mm masonry drill bit and then enlarge the hole using the 16mm drill bit (this helps to prevent cracks in the slate).

5. Starting with the biggest layer of slate, thread each piece onto the copper pipe. If the shape of any particular piece of slate is not ideal then simply knock pieces off with a hammer. Swivel the pieces around so that you will end up with a pleasing flow when the water cascades over them.

6. Fill the pond with water, plug the pump into the electricity supply and turn on on your new slate water feature. Any dust from the slate will settle after a while.

Planting around your slate water feature

Begin by preparing the area for planting. Once established, Clivias do not like being disturbed so prepare the soil really well beforehand. Dig generous quantities of organic material or well-decomposed compost, to which bone meal has been added, into the soil to a depth of 20cm. Once all the plants are in and well-watered put down generous quantities of mulch – we used bark chips.

Strelitzia nicolai

De­finitely for large gardens, the statuesque ‘wild banana’ can grow to 4 or 5 metres or even taller and needs to be planted away from buildings, swimming pools or pathways because of its root system. It is a proli­fic bloomer, the birds love it and a few specimens will be perfect for screening o‑ views of the neighbours.

Mackaya bella

A lovely plant for under trees, Mackaya bella grows to 2 or 3m in height and about 2m wide and stays green all year round. It bears pretty, white, bell-shaped flowers in spring.

Dietes grandi­flora

D. grandi­flora grows easily and always looks wonderful planted en masse. It isn’t fussy about where it is planted and it will grow in both deep shade and full sun. Its straplike leaves grow to around 1m in length. This tough plant lets one know when rain is expected by producing its glorious white flowers with touches of mauve and yellow.

Clivia miniata

A shade-loving plant, C. miniata is ideal for planting beneath shady trees (as are the other Clivia species). Its lovely flower clusters will appear in spring, adding welcome splashes of bright orange colour. Small Clivia plants will generally take about three years to settle in before they flower for the ­first time, but if you can’t get bigger plants it’s still well worth the wait.

Plectranthus ciliatus

A ground cover that grows to about 30cm tall, P. ciliatus is perfect for ­filling in gaps and creating a contrast with the other plants, such as the Clivias and Dietes. Its pale lilac-coloured flowers bloom on stalks in spring and through into summer. Plectranthus species grow easily; feed them with organic fertilizer and give them a good pruning every few years and they will bloom all through summer.

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