Course CodeBHT307
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Using Water Features in Gardening

  Learn how to add another dimension to your garden and enhance your gardening skills with a water garden. Water gardens and water features within a garden are not only aesthetically pleasing, they also attract birds and wildlife. 
  Still water in a tranquil garden pond or pool creates a feeling of serenity and peace, while moving water in fountains, streams and small waterfalls gives a more dynamic feel to the garden, generating a sense of life, movement and sound.
This course can help you develop a capacity to conceive and integrate all types of water features into a garden. 
Water may be used in various ways in the design of garden landscapes, including:
Water used as a setting- Water can become a setting around which the rest of the garden is built. Here the garden is developed to enhance the water. Examples include designing the landscape to complement or enhance a view out onto the sea, a lake or river, or a view to a large pond or lake within the garden.

Water used as a spine in the landscape- A river, stream or canal which flows through a garden creates a line around which the garden is developed. This can unify the components of the garden and direct a person's attention along the path it takes.

Water used as central focus- A small or large water feature (eg. fountain, pond, or bird bath) can be used as a feature at the centre of a garden, which draws the attention from all other parts of the garden. The area where the water is located can then be developed as the centre of activity in the garden.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope and nature of water gardens
    • What size water garden
    • Water supply: rain, tanks,etc
    • Water quality
    • Siting the water garden
    • Evapouration rate, water depth, safety
    • Water in garden design: formal, informal
    • Edging, Water sculptures, shade
    • Water effects: sound, reflection, movement, light, cooling,
    • Water life: algae, fish, mosquitos, wildlife, plants
  2. Water Garden Construction
    • Introduction
    • Planning the water garden
    • What effect do you want
    • Matching the effect with the type of garden
    • Shape, size and location
    • Type of construction
    • Surrounds
    • Using a liner
    • Pre formed water gardens (Kits)
    • Pond edges
  3. Equipment: Pumps, lights, filters
    • Submersible pumps
    • Lighting: power source, DC power
    • Lighting design with water
    • Pond filtration systems: sterile or living water
    • Mechanical or biological filtration
    • Swimming pool filtration
    • Sand filters
    • Diatomaceous earth filters
    • Cartridge filters
  4. Ponds and Watercourses
    • Designing a natural watercourse
    • Siting a stream
    • Water circulation
    • Pond design
    • Dams
    • Bog gardens
    • Reed beds
    • Pond management
    • Oxygenating plants
  5. Spas and Swimming Pools: Design and aftercare
    • Choosing a swimming pool
    • What sort of pool do you need
    • Structural considerations
    • Cost considerations
    • Types of pools: concrete, fibreglass, vinyl
    • Above or below ground
    • Pump and filtration system
    • What shape
    • Special features in a pool
    • Heating a pool
    • Pool care over winter
  6. Indoor and Outdoor Water Features
    • Introduction
    • Pot ponds
    • Water barrels
    • Wall plaques and wall fountains
    • Water walls
    • Water spouts
    • Bird baths
    • Fountains
    • Cobble fountain construction
    • Waterfalls
    • Cascades
    • Canals
    • Using water features in a landscape
  7. Water Plants
    • Introduction
    • Waterside trees and shrubs
    • Bog plants
    • Emergent water plants
    • Floating leaf plants
    • Aquatic plants
    • Water lilies
    • Plants to avoid in water gardens
    • Surrounding plants
  8. Aquatic Animals
    • Introduction
    • Conditions needed by fish and aquatic animals
    • Maintenance
    • Fish
    • Frogs
    • Tortoises
    • Water snails
    • Insects
    • Birds
    • Troubleshooting

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the nature and scope of water gardens.
  • Identify and describe generic construction materials and techniques suitable for water gardens and pools.
  • Select appropriate equipment for use with water features.
  • Specify the design and construction of a pond or watercourse
  • Specify the design, construction and maintenance of a spa or swimming pool.
  • Specify the design & construction of a Water Feature other than a pond or water course.
  • Identity the water plants commonly used in water gardens
  • Identify a variety of aquatic animals suitable for water gardens, and their requirements


Shape, size and location are the three most basic, yet important, decisions you need to make about water gardens. They determine how well the garden functions, and how it fits in with the surrounding landscape. It is important to get it right before you start because it can be very difficult – and expensive – to change it later.

When you decide on the water garden’s shape you need to take into account the style of the house and garden, the shape of the land (topography), the type of construction used to build the water garden, and of course, your preference.

Pond shape and garden styles
Generally, formal ponds are used in formal gardens and free-form shapes are used in informal gardens. Ponds in formal gardens are based on strong geometric shapes – squares, rectangles or circles – with cleanly defined edges. They may be constructed on one, two or more levels with water flowing from one pond to the other, then pumped back to the upper level.

The shape of a formal pond may reflect the lines of the house or other nearby structures such as courtyard walls. For example, a pond that is built against a wall will be square, rectangular or semi-circular in shape.

Informal ponds are generally constructed as free-form shapes, similar to the shape of a pond in a natural setting. They are designed to blend in with the garden and are usually (but not always) surrounded by plants to soften the edges.

It always helps to draw shapes to clarify your ideas …draw the shape of the pond on paper or mark it on the ground with lime or a garden hose.

For most people, their first water garden tends to be small, and if that works well, they might become hooked and try something larger.

When deciding on the size, think about how its scale will relate to the surrounding landscape. Generally, formal ponds look better in smaller gardens.

Natural ponds, where fish and water plants form part of a self-regulating ecosystem, should be as large and deep as possible. Shallow ponds evaporate quickly and experience greater temperature fluctuations that can be harmful to plants and fish. If you want to grow waterlilies or keep fish, the pond needs to be around 60 cm deep.

Ponds with fountains need to be large enough to catch the spray – this is especially important in small confined spaces such as courtyards where people are likely to be in close proximity to the fountain.

The natural place for a pond is in a low-lying position or a depression in the garden. Always remember that water doesn’t flow up hill and it will not sit still on a slope … it sounds obvious, but you need to think about this when designing a natural-style pond.

Formal ponds can be sited anywhere on the block, and unlike informal and natural ponds, they are often raised above the surrounding ground level.

They are usually placed in a prominent position where they act as a focal point in the garden; for example, in the centre of a courtyard or lawn, or at the end of a formal hedge.


How Will You Benefit?

  • Learn to design and develop a wide range of different types of water gardens
  • Indulge a passion for water gardens - know and understand more about the options
  • Fast track business or employment opportunities in water gardening
  • Save money and time -no traveling to classes
  • Determine when, where and how long your study sessions are, for yourself
  • Make better decisions about the building, management and care of water plants and gardens
  • Improve your career and business prospects in horticulture and landscaping



Meet some of our academics

Barbara SeguelTeacher and Researcher, Biologist, Aquaculture expert. Barbara has a B.Sc. and M.Sc in Aquaculture Engineering. Over the past decade, Barbara has worked in Hawaii, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, and is now settled in Australia. She has co authored several books and courses and has worked with ACS since early 2012.
Bob James Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry. He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. He has worked a Grounds Manager at a major university; and a manager in a municipal parks department. Over recent years he has been helping younger horticulturists as a writer, teacher and consultant; and in that capacity, brings a diverse and unique set of experiences to benefit our students.
Gavin Cole Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. In the mid 90's he worked as a manager and garden designer with the well respected UK company -The Chelsea Gardener. A few years later he formed his own garden design business, at first in the UK, and later operating in Queensland Australia. He has since moved to, and works from Adelaide. Apart from his work in landscaping, Gavin has been a prolific garden writer and a tutor with ACS Distance Education since 2001. He is currently part of the team of garden experts that produce Home Grown magazine.
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.

Check out our eBooks

Landscaping with Australian PlantsDiscover more about Landscaping with Australian Plants with this ebook, add a different design element in your garden by using beautiful and highly practical Australian Native plants. Attract wildlife, save water by using plants that are suitable for your area. Perfect for passionate gardeners, students and gardening professionals.
Growing FernsA complete guide to growing Ferns in Australia, New Zealand and beyond. A great reference for professional and amateur gardeners, and fern enthusiasts from anywhere around the world.
Landscaping & Gardening in the ShadeThe ‘Landscaping and Gardening in the Shade’ ebook will guide you through everything that you need to know about designing your own shaded garden.
Water Gardeningby John Mason. Ideas and inspiration for landscaping and maintenance of ponds, fountains and other water features in the garden.



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