Silent stream

One of the main features of my garden is the stream that I built in 2006. It's next to the stairs that lead down to the patio, and has been providing both visual interest and wonderful sound to the garden for six years. It's had its problems though: the way I built it allows leaks to form, the reservoir is too small, and debris often clogs the pump.

I usually battle to keep it running throughout winter too, using a birdbath heater to keep it from freezing (which is ridiculously easy some years, and impossible others). Some years I just turn it off when constant freezing temperatures are forecast, and that's a sad day as the garden gets eerily quiet.


This year though I really have no choice. The stream will be silent and dry for the winter.

You see, the pump has failed.

I've been using this brand of pump since day one, and I've had to replace it a couple of times. I think the main problem is debris getting past the filtering elements and causing excessive wear. I may be able to replace this pump under warranty, but I'll take the timing of the failure as a sign that this is the year that I'll finally rebuild the stream.

Here it is when it was just built in 2006:

And this is it a few years later:

I mainly include these photos so I don't get too depressed about not having the stream running, and to also inspire me to get this feature looking its best for next season.

So I'll be ripping the whole thing out in late winter/early spring (depending on how the winter goes) and rebuilding.

I'm not looking forward to this project, but it needs to be done. The main problem I need to correct is depth. Here's a diagram of the problem:

This shows a cross-sectional view of the stream, as if we cut right across the stream to take a look. (Think of the water flowing right into your face as you're looking at these drawings.) On the left you can see that the ground slopes to the right, so in the middle view when I dug the channel for the water to follow it was deeper on the left than the right. The third image shows how I fixed this by building up the right edge.

It's this right edge that's been a problem for me. There was not a lot of room to make a wide enough "wall" of earth here. Even though there are rocks to help keep things in place it has settled. As it has settled the water has found ways to trickle out over the edge of the liner, causing the stream to empty.

Here's the right edge as seen from both sides:

It was also very difficult to get the rocks positioned correctly on that side I built up. They keep shifting and I eventually got tired of moving them.

To fix this raised edge problem I'll remove all of the rocks, the rubber liner and underliner, then dig a deeper and wider channel making sure that there is no way for water to escape even if things settle a little bit again. I'll probably cut back the invading Vinca first though.

It's going to be a quiet winter without the stream.


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 9, 2012 at 1:23 PM)  

Your stream is beautiful now, but after you rebuild it, it will be even better--and I'll be even more jealous :-).

Christine @ The Gardening Blog  – (December 9, 2012 at 3:48 PM)  

This is a wonderful feature in your garden - I can hardly imagine that it can be improved on, I love it as it is.

Lisa  – (December 9, 2012 at 10:52 PM)  

I can't wait to see this re-done! I love a water feature or two in a garden!

Anonymous –   – (December 10, 2012 at 8:16 AM)  

Alan when you are in the process of rebuilding your waterfall please let me know. I would love to come out for a day and help you! Get free labor for a day, and at the same time you could show me/teach me about building a water feature such as this. thanks! Beth

ricki  – (December 10, 2012 at 1:25 PM)  

What an impressive undertaking. Six years is a pretty good track record, and now you know how to even improve on it. I join the envy brigade.

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