Waterfalls, Ponds and Streams

Japanese Garden Design

Photo of a natural-style rock waterfall in beautiful Japanese garden in the springA cascading waterfall offers a real taste of nature in any oriental back garden, whilst also providing a practical function by aerating the water flowing into a koi pond.

Relaxing Sounds

Where a Japanese garden has a pond, it is often accompanied by some kind of water cascade, which not only looks extremely attractive, but also provides a soft, splashing sound in the background. Fountains and waterfalls also have the advantage of helping to disguise and partially drown out any unwanted background noise, such as passing road traffic.

Further view of the waterfall, with azaleas and Japanese maples in the background

Position and Seating

Waterfalls provide a tranquil focal spot, with benches and seats often being placed nearby and angled to make the very most of this naturalistic man-made water feature.

Benches allow you to sit, rest and fully enjoy the flowing movement of the water and the adjacent landscaped scenery, all through the changing seasons of the year.

Creating your Water Cascade

Many gardens are not naturally level and often have a gentle gradient or slope, and so this simplifies the process of creating your waterfall,. They may be used to link two different ponds together, or to create a stream at the base of a pond, meandering its way through the plants and into a hidden underground reservoir, where it is pumped back into the pond, ready to recirculate in this way once more.

View of stream, waterfall, maples and spreading azalea bush covered with red flowersThere are a number of different ways to create a waterfall. Perhaps the easiest way is to cover a slope with a pond liner, and then disguise this with some stones, pebbles and gravel. Alternatively, larger rocks can be cemented into place to create natural tiers and small pools, where water gathers and trickles on the way down.

The bottom stone is especially important, as it is this final part of the flow that is the most visible, needing to be even and fairly uniform as it cascades down into the pond. Therefore, this last stone may need repositioning a few times and perhaps even some careful chiselling, to perfect the flow. Leaky waterfalls can be easily waterproofed by painting the joins between the stones with a clear waterproof pond sealer / varnish.

Picture of a large pond with cascade of water and oriental planting

Fibreglass and Plastic Options

An instant effect is best achieved by purchasing yourself a waterfall completely made from fibreglass or heavy duty grey plastic. Although these stones may not be real, their initial artificial appearance will improve over time as they become dirty and tone done, especially when moss and algae from the water begins to cover their surfaces.

Also, by planting the waterfall sides with overhanging plants, such as small dissected maples (acer palmatum dissectum species) and prostrate growing conifers, the appearance of these fake rocks can be softened and partially hidden.

Contemporary Materials

Modern waterfalls may be preferable if your Japanese garden has a contemporary flavour, with granite block staircases, slate flagstones, mosaic tiles and even sheets of metal being used to create something more unusual and unique.