Garden Fountains Past and Present

By Dan Gregory

The railing is a spillway in this patio terrace by Phoenix designer Greg Trutza.


Summer means relaxation time in the backyard. A water feature can add to the enjoyment, like the wonderful "water rail" for a terrace in Arizona, by Phoenix landscape architect Greg Trutza, shown above. The 
stream of recirculating water follows the curve of the deck and spills into a small spa at one end (photo above courtesy Sunset Magazine).

It's inspired by the somewhat more elaborate trough or channel fountains at famous European gardens, like the Villa d'Este at Tivoli near Rome, from the 1550s, and its grand curving garden balustrade with ripples and rills built-into the plaster work -- just in case you didn't get the sense that water was flowing (photo courtesy, not to mention its monumental Sybil Fountain (below, courtesy
The Villa d'Este was designed by the architect Pirro Ligorio and built by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, whose numerous inherited archbishoprics provided him the income to indulge a taste for luxurious art-filled living. Ippolito was the son of Lucretia Borgia and Alfonso d'Este and a nephew or grandson of Pope Alexander VI (oh those rascally Renaissance popes!) so, to say he was well connected is an understatement.

The Villa d'Este's liquid landscape, with its huge number of overflowing basins, jets, spouts, streams, and cascades has probably influenced more designers than any other garden. And though Ippolito was made a cardinal in 1538 he didn't actually get around to being ordained a priest until 1564 -- clearly the building of this roughly 12-acre water garden became a significant distraction and anyway, if you're already a cardinal, why bother? As in Rome itself at this time, water (i.e. the control of the aqueducts) was power. Ippolito just knew how to play with it --  and in it -- better than anyone else.

If you don't happen to own a Renaissance villa there are other ways to enjoy the sight and sound of water at your new home. Consider the wall fountain. It can mask street noise or draw the eye and is especially useful as a way to lend character to narrow side yards.  Prefabricated examples abound, like this X3 trough
unit from Garden Fountains. If a more contemplative feel is what you want, a small reflecting pool might work — for moonrises and cloudscapes. Here’s a roof deck that uses the simplest palette of materials — a raised sheet of water, decking, horizontal wood fence, grasses, and a brick chimney — to create a serene .
outdoor room. The pool is literally a water table as reflecting pool -- or you could call it a sort of coffee table! (design and photo by Jinny Blom. ) It too has early precedents -- the original water table idea is from
the Renaissance -- like the one at the Villa Lante near Viterbo in Italy, built for yet another cardinal, as part of a grand terraced water garden (photographed by leogiordani). The cardinal liked to cool his wine bottles in the trough at the center (still a good idea!) and the small stream ran through the table and down to the next terrace. Something a little jazzier, perhaps, with overtones of ancient rituals via Las Vegas -- not Rome --
is the fire and water reflecting pool made of basalt by architect Korn Randolph from Water Studio for a Hollywood residence. Now that ought to get summer in the garden of your new home off to a good start!

Sun Jun 29 00:00:00 PDT 2014