The stream in winter

When I added the artificial "stream" water feature to my garden in 2006, I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere it created. Its quiet, bubbly voice made a big impact, adding a calmness to the patio area that I never would have thought possible. It became so integral to the surroundings that when its first winter came around I did whatever I could to keep that water flowing.

I remember bringing buckets of hot water out there on cold evenings, hoping to keep the stream temperature above freezing for the night.


That was a pain, and didn't work too well on the coldest nights -- it's just not possible to keep the water 25ºF warmer than its surroundings without using a heater.

From any angle, the moving water is good.

So I got a heater... probably in 2008. It works quite well, turning on only to bring the water around 35ºF or so if I remember correctly. It's dead simple to use too -- just plug it in and drop into the water.

It works great too, keeping the water in liquid form. Raccoons barely ever pull it out of the water anymore either.

There's a problem though. Once ice starts forming above the stream -- maybe on the edges of rocks, or on a plant that happened to be near the water -- the heater doesn't affect it. The ice continues to build up and either "captures" a significant amount of the water, or it diverts the water so it can leave the stream. The result is that the water level in the reservoir gets too low.

Last year I turned the stream off once it got too cold and left it off until the spring -- that was the easiest solution, but it deprives the wildlife of water, and makes the garden so quiet. Something is definitely missing when the water isn't flowing.

The reservoir is down there.

This year I've sort of compromised: I turn the stream on during warm periods, and turn it off again when it gets too cold. Since I've already had problems with water leaking and the water level dropping too low (even during the summer), I've left a hose hooked up to my faucet all year with the business end in the stream. This makes it easy to add more water when needed.

When it gets too cold though, the water line freezes, and there's no way to add more water (other than filling up buckets and manually dumping it in -- which I've done a few times this year).

So I just turn the pump off, unplug the heater, and wait for it to warm up a bit. It's so quiet when I do, but there's really no better solution right now.

Unfortunately, it will probably be off for a couple of months, since it takes a few days above freezing for the water lines to thaw out so the water can circulate again, and that's very rare during January and February here. We'll get a warm day or two, but that's not enough to thaw the lines.

The dry stream bed. So quiet. So lifeless. Sigh.

Rebuilding the stream to fix all of leaks is one of those projects that I know I need to do, but really don't want to. I think it will probably be the first major project I do this year though.

I'm not looking forward to it, but maybe a few months without the sound of running water will help motivate me.

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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (January 3, 2011 at 9:31 AM)  

I love your stream. I've wanted even a small water feature for a long time now. Maybe this year I'll figure out something. In the meantime, I have your photos to be inspired by.

anne  – (January 3, 2011 at 7:17 PM)  

I can appreciate how much you enjoy your stream - that's why I love the ocean - I could listen to the sound all day. What a great feature to have. Maybe you could get one of those cd's that plays running water or waves for when your stream is out of commission.

Bamboo question - do you have all your bamboo in containers and/or raised beds (barriers?) or are any in the ground?

Alan  – (January 3, 2011 at 9:12 PM)  

Anne -- all three. Some are in containers, some are in raised beds, and some are in the ground. I rhizome prune to control the spread of the ones in ground and in raised beds.
I built a bamboo planter with a friend in my Sept. 1 post.

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