“Have you seen the fountain of youth?” I ask Jessica, the graduate student who lives with us. She just returned from a day trip to St. Augustine, Florida, our country’s oldest city and home to the famous Ponce de Leon water feature.
I think of fountains these days because our new layout plan calls for one to continue – and draw attention – to the 25-foot stucco garage wall that lines one side of the yard.
“I also rely on the recovering, restoring and rejuvenating powers of this fountain,” I told my husband, DC.
“It’s a fountain, not a day spa,” DC says.
A few days later, I find myself on a five-acre lot surrounded by dozens of fountains at Distinctive Statuary, an Orlando-based family business that started in 1962. Jason Bechstein, the founder’s grandson, and Tony Evans, our landscaper, are there to make sure I don’t choose something stupid. It is a valid concern.
As I watch, I realize that what I thought was an easy 20 minute task, won’t be. Choosing a fountain is one of those decisions that I can overthink to the point of buying paralysis. An hour later, I plunged deep into the fountain of minutiae.
“I can’t find exactly what I want, but I find what I don’t want,” I tell Tony. “This one looks like a sink. This one belongs to a theme park. This one is too Aztec for my colonial style home. This one looks like a wedding cake. This one is too big, too small, too big, too big, too conspicuous, too simple.
Tony apologizes for another date, while I continue shopping. Two hours later, because acres of fountains aren’t enough, I’m at the sales office looking at catalogs. In the end, I limit my search to three on the lot and three in the catalog. I take pictures on my phone and take them home to show off DC and view them in my backyard.
And finally, I choose one that presents water coming out of the mouth of Nereus, a Greek god of the sea. I place the order and I wait… the transformation.
Garden fountains are great to look at, to watch, and to listen to. They refresh the senses, charm the soul and, yes, rejuvenate, if not your body, certainly your mind. I think that’s also what Ponce de Leon found. If you have a place in your garden for a fountain, here’s what Jason Bechstein says to consider:
Find Your Style – Decide first if you want a freestanding or wall mounted fountain. Bechstein sells four freestanding fountains for each wall fountain. So look for a fountain that goes with your architecture. Even if you like this French Versailles inspired fountain, it won’t fit in a Hacienda style home.
Size Your Space – Scale is one of the most difficult factors to master. Fountains that appear tiny in the field or large in a catalog may appear the exact opposite in your garden. Glue and measure where you want your fountain, then eliminate the ones that don’t match the plan.
Contrast Your Colors – Most fountains and statues come in multiple colors. Consider bringing home chip samples to make sure the color you thought was terracotta doesn’t show up pink in your garden. “The biggest mistake people make is choosing a color that blends in with the background,” says Bechstein. “They are missing the point of a characteristic fountain. You want contrast. I prefer natural concrete, without adding color, and I like it all the more because it deteriorates.
Take a sound test – Although most of the field fountains we visited were dry, Bechstein helped me imagine what they would look like when running. In general, the more levels a fountain has and the longer the drop, the louder its sound. Cascading fountains make more noise than those that run off or have water coming out through pipes.
Clean With Care – Anyone who invests in a fountain should know that they need regular maintenance. Do not use bleach or chlorine to clean them, or you will ruin the equipment and possibly void the warranty. This often happens when a pool service takes care of the maintenance of the fountains. Use an algaecide designed to treat and clean fountains only.
Installation Factor – Add to the cost of delivering and installing the fountain. You will need a dedicated waterline. Installers will connect the fountain to the water line, prepare a concrete slab base for the fountain to sit on, and balance it so that the water is level and the pump works properly. To showcase your fountain at night, illuminate it with well-placed lights.