How to build a waterfall or stream in your garden

How to build a waterfall or stream in your garden

Posted 8th Aug 2016

Image: Haynes Garden Landscaping Manual, by Paul Wagland


Check out this step-by-step guide to building a waterfall or stream in your garden 

1 Shape the soil along the route of your watercourse into a series of shallows and drops, aiming to make it look as natural as possible. If you can’t make use of a natural slope, build one up using soil, but make sure you compact it well.

Step 1

2 Run the supply pipe from the pump up one side of the route of the stream to the ‘source’, bedding the pipe into the soil or sand as much as possible. Cover the soil with a geotextile fabric, or a layer of soft sand to protect the liner.

Step 2

3 Cover the route with a single layer of flexible pond liner, ensuring that you leave some excess at each side. Attach the lower end of the supply pipe to a submersible pump, then fill the pond with water and turn on the pump to ensure that the water flows and none escapes.

Step 3

4 Cover the liner with suitably-shaped flat rocks, stones and gravel. Large or sharply pointed rocks should be sat on more geotextile membrane to protect the liner, and may need a blob of mortar to hold them in place. Add plants along the route of the water so that they overhang the flow.

Step 4



Planting around water features

We asked award-winning garden designer, Kate Gould, for her tips…

Water and plants are a magical combination but not all plants like damp feet, so when planning a natural water feature take your time and research what will work best in your particular situation.

Plants for damp shade: think leafy types here. Ferns, Hosta and the wonderfully named Farfugium all provide a foil in terms of leaves for more showy plants. Hosta and ferns in particular when planted in bold swathes are impressive in their own right but could be partnered with shrubs such as Cornus and Salix which, although bare in the winter, will add colour in the form of bright stems.

Plants for waterside edges in sun: here you will find the palette of plants is more colourful. Astilbe in shades of red and pink, Iris in blues and yellows, Primula in all manner of hues, white Aruncus and Zantedeschia. Hemerocallis also work well as do Lobelia cardinals varieties and somehow clashy colours that wouldn’t work elsewhere work around water.

The big and the bold: some plants grow to monsters and Gunnera, Rheum, Ligularia and Persicaria varieties can easily reach eight feet tall. In the case of a Gunnera planted in the right place with the right degree of shelter each leaf could reach eight feet across so unless you have plenty of space it is one to avoid!

Water in the garden is a joy and will encourage wildlife, therefore no matter what you plant it should be grown organically to allow wildlife to live in harmony with your scheme and help provide natural pest control.

Kate Gould is an award-winning garden designer with more than a decade’s hands-on experience transforming gardens of all sizes and a regular exhibitor at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show where she has been awarded three Gold medals. For more information visit


Garden Landscaping manual

Step-by-step images are taken from the Haynes Garden Landscaping Manual by Paul Wagland, available to buy for around £19.99. It’s full of practical ideas and information for garden landscaping projects, from laying paving and building walls to choosing plants and adding lighting.

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