How to create a container water garden | Alys Fowler

Our gardening expert on mini ponds

Japanese temple gardens are world-renowned for good reason, but although all that perfectly raked gravel and artful pruning can be incredibly moving, I’m not sure it transfers well to a different setting. Or, to put it another way, I had no desire to come home and recreate any of it. The street gardens of Japan, however, are another thing; I want every one of them. At any opportunity, by the front door, in a sliver of a front garden, outside a restaurant or corner shop, there’s a gathering of pots, holding everything from herbs to miniature azalea, bonsai and houseplants out for the summer.

My favourites are the container water gardens, often no bigger than a bucket. Container ponds offer just what a large pond might – a slice of the sky and a mirrored surface to change the beat between plants – and yet can be squeezed into the smallest of spaces. I came home inspired. My mother donated a large iron cauldron-like thing, which, because it sits on top of the soil rather than sinks into it, reflects a floating sky among the foliage and introduces a very different sense of space.

Related: How to grow Chinese mallow


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