Shaping water

RHS Chelsea Gold medal winning designer, Richard Mercer, on the unique qualities of water in the garden.

Of all the elements we use in garden design, water has the greatest potential to transform a space. The essence of life, it offers us endless possibilities; it can be still as a lake or pond, run gently in a rill or stream, or cascade as a waterfall or fountain.


Whatever its form, water has an almost mystical ability to affect our mood, by quietening or stimulating our senses. Since water is integral to any natural landscape, a garden without it will often make us feel unsettled, as if something is missing.


In our latest project, a large plot spanning two acres, water combined with stone has acted as both a backdrop and focal point in different areas. Our brief was to enhance an existing woodland garden featuring mature trees and shrubs to complement a newly built home.


After surveying the space and getting to know our clients’ likes and dislikes, we drew up a wishlist and developed several options on paper. As always, we took care to maximise the existing mature planting. The approved design was inspired by curves and had a Japanese influence to include box hedging, a gravel garden, flowering shrubs such as azaleas and rhododendrons and a cobbled path leading to a circular patio, summerhouse and outdoor bar.


The focal point is a magnificent split level rock garden set against a vast weeping willow with a zigzag oak bridge and a cascade, created from 30 tonnes of water washed limestone. After meandering over rocks and pebbles, the stream flows around an island planted with a beautiful Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Inaba-shidare’.


The cascade is supplied by two pumps. Water emerges at multiple points creating a diverse flow pattern and eventually disappears into a concealed underground tank, making it shallow and relatively safe for children. We regulated the flow precisely to produce a pleasing pitch which creates a soundtrack for the entire garden. The couple are both thrilled with the results.


Having trained at Pershore College over 25 years ago and been awarded an RHS Chelsea Gold Medal, our team has completed projects of all sizes, both domestic and commercial, across the Cotswolds and beyond. We focus on one project at a time and I am always on site to personally oversee the process.


To book a free initial consultation about your project please call Richard on 07860 603598 or email




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