In 1986, Gander came up with the novel idea of staging the world's biggest beach party in one of his pastures near landlocked Williamsburg, Iowa. He trucked in tons and tons of sand, set up a mechanical surfboard, hired well-known rock bands from the 50s and 60s, coupled that with a show featuring cars from that era, and began to promote his venture. It was wildly successful, drawing large crowds of sunbathers who loved the combination of sand, old rock songs, and old cars. The contest winner christened the sandy pasture "No-Wa-Wa Beach."

Pea gravel fountain in author's garden

Make Your Own
No-wa-wa Fountain

Perhaps you already have an old fountain that you could adapt using rocks, as I have done. If you'd like to duplicate my terra cotta fountain, here are the items you'll need and where to find them:

Terra Cotta Fountain

The terra cotta fountain I used is a fairly popular one, so you might find it at one of the larger garden centers or big-box stores. If you'd like to order one, here are some current suppliers: Serenity Health, Amazon, Plow & Hearth, Outdoor Decor

Supplies you'll need:
Pea gravel, one bag (smallest size available)
Nylon clothes line rope
Clear silicone caulk, one cartridge
Caulking gun

These items are available at home improvement stores and hardware stores. Pea gravel is also available at garden centers.

Birdbath Fountain

New or used pedestal birdbath with a fairly deep bowl (3.5" or more): New ones are available at garden centers and home improvement stores. Here are some online sources: Birdbaths. com, Online Discount Mart 1, Online Discount Mart 2, Krupp's, Yardiac, Before purchasing, be sure you know the depth of the bowl. Textured spray paint is available at paint-, hardware-, and home improvement stores.

Plants I used:
Amazon Mist Sedge (Carex comans)
Annual Lobelia 'Crystal Place' (Lobelia erinus )
Dichondra 'Silver Falls' (Dichondra argentea)

I've borrowed Steve's term, somewhat apologetically, and applied it to my waterless fountains. I have two of them, both of which are--to use a term currently in fashion--"repurposed." In its original life, the fountain at left was solar-panel-powered. It had no electrical storage capacity and so it only ran when the sun was shining. The pump, located in the large bowl at the bottom, was somewhat under-powered and somewhat fragile. It lasted all of three months. (I must admit that local raccoons, who often used the large bowl as their wash basin, may have had something to do with the pump's early demise!)

After languishing in our potting shed for a year or so, half-buried under a stack of trays, the fountain caught my eye one day as I was searching for a particular pot. I didn't have the heart to throw out a perfectly good set of terra cotta pieces, but what was I to do with them? I pondered this minor dilemma for several days and came up with a novel solution: Instead of flowing water, I would have flowing rocks!

The design is very simple and easy to put together. I bought a bag of pea gravel from a local nursery, opened it, and spread its contents on our driveway. Next, I got out the garden hose and hosed the rocks down to get rid of the limey dust and other particulate matter clinging to the rocks. When they were shiny clean and dry, I hijacked some of my wife's wash line cord (the nylon kind) and cut it into appropriate lengths.

I started by sticking one end of the cord into the bottom of the urn at the top of the fountain and placing a heavy rock on top of the cord to hold it in place. Then I ran the cord down into the small bowl below it and cut the cord when I reached the bottom center of the bowl I repeated the procedure with each succeeding bowl, running a length of cord from its center, through the spout, and down into the bottom of the next bowl.

Once I had cut all the lengths of cord, I donned a pair of rubber gloves, got out my caulking gun, and loaded it with a tube of clear silicone caulk. I coated the lengths of rope liberally with the caulk, using my gloved hands to distribute it evenly along the rope sections. As soon as I had coated a section, I draped it across the dry rocks on the driveway. When all the ropes were coated and draped, I removed the gloves and used my bare hands to press rocks on the top sides of the rope sections, making sure that the entire surface of each rope was covered with rocks and the rope was no longer visible. I left the rock-covered ropes on the driveway until the caulk had set and dried.

To assemble the fountain, I gathered the rock-covered pieces of rope and, beginning again with the urn, repeated the earlier rope process, this time weighing the ends of the rope down by piling handfuls of pea gravel on top of them, filling each container almost to the brim. This created the illusion that the rock was actually flowing from one container to the next.

Squirrel detail on bird-
bath pedestal
Birdbath fountain on author's patio
My other no-wa-wa fountain is a repurposed concrete birdbath. I found it several years ago at the local landfill, where it had been dumped illegally. (The landfill is for vegetative refuse only.) The whole area had been set on fire by persons unknown, so the birdbath, although made of concrete, was badly scorched. I brought it home, cleaned it up as best I could, and set it on our front patio until I decided what to do next.

I had recently discovered textured paint in spray cans and decided to try one in a neutral color that created a rough, slightly "pebbley" texture. It worked beautifully and has taken three years of exposure to the weather quite well. Next, I drilled some drainage holes in the bowl, using a half-inch concrete bit. I filled the bowl with potting soil and, to create the illusion of a fountain, I planted a small clump of Amazon Mist Sedge in the center to provide the upward and outward motion of spouting water in a real fountain. I also wanted to create the illusion of water cascading over the sides of the bowl and chose aptly-named Dichondra ‘Silver Falls,' to create that effect. Finally, to add color to the composition, I planted some annual blue lobelia to represent the color of the water.

So there you have it: Two fountains to add beauty and interest to your garden with no water, no expensive pumps to replace, no breeding place for mosquitoes, no leaky hoses or containers, and no increased charges on your utility bill.


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© Larry Rettig 2009