Water in a small, confined space will soon turn manky unless it's moving. FOR every day we spend looking at other people's places on a garden safari, we pay with at least twice as many days of backbreaking work trying to make ours look as good.
That, after four years of this behaviour we haven't succeeded, proves it is a fool's game. After traipsing around the lush subtropical gardens on the Kerikeri safari we made the decision that, if nothing else, we would get the water feature in our courtyard operational by the end of the weekend.
This was partly inspired by the amazing water garden we'd just seen, and partly just by the need to have something actually finished.
The water feature has been a work in progress for several months, and the components of the last design were reincarnated as pot-plant containers a week or two ago.
The level of water engineering skill required to make water flow from the bottom level to the top and back again was completely beyond us, so we replaced the three containers with a large, half-circular concrete pond and started again.
If you're thinking of a pond or a water feature - as you do with the approach of summer - the first thing you must acknowledge is that water in a small, confined space will soon turn manky unless it's moving.
That does not mean swishing your hand through it when you go past. It means a pump.
Small pumps for water features are simple and inexpensive.
However, hiding them can be difficult.
First, they're usually black, which is fine unless your pond is white.
After numerous attempts to camouflage it with shells, pots, wall plaques and the like, and after The Partner refused to chisel a channel in the plaster to hide the cord, I stuffed the pump into our white ceramic toilet-brush holder, weighed it down with stones, and stuck it in the corner of the pond.
It obligingly spat up a small spout of water, which made a nice gurgling noise but didn't look quite as stylish as I wanted it to.
I sat down with a glass of wine to await inspiration.
The Partner, who was deeply involved in weedeating, had to be called upon to make a curved, wooden platform to sit over the corner of the pond and hide the top of the toilet-brush holder.
It took 17 minutes to string three extension cords from the house to the shed to empower the saw, and 14 seconds to cut the piece of wood I needed.
I sanded it, stained it and sat it over the corner of the pond.
The toilet-brush holder disappeared, the water spout hit the underside of the wood, spread out in an attractive fan shape and made an even nicer noise.
The Partner went back to his weedeating and I had another glass of wine to help me to decide on such important considerations as water plants and fish.
The moral of the story is: Work with the skills you have. You may not end up with a three-tier water feature with tricky little waterfalls running from one to the other, but you might get something finished, at long bloody last.
Hey, give us a smile
Garden safaris always elicit sighs of envy, gasps of admiration and occasionally raised eyebrows. But the best response is always a smile.
It doesn't matter how flash or how fabulous a garden is, if it doesn't have something in it to make you smile, it's not complete. These were our picks on safari.
1. It's hard to camouflage a septic tank vent, but you can enhance it. This one has been encircled, appropriately, with two chains - a clever visual pun, we thought.
2. This simple sculpture made us all think we should be at home wielding the fork in our own garden.
3. Garden sheds are, well, garden sheds, and we often neglect the aesthetics of them. No so here. Not a single person passed by these wee swingers without stopping for a closer look.