this thing's incredible

This £14 Solar Fountain Turns My Garden Into a Veritable North London Versailles

Photo: Ailbhe Malone

For as long as I can remember, I have lusted for a water feature. However, a succession of gardenless rented flats and an aversion to anything that fell under the descriptor “trickling rock sculpture” meant that this dream was put on the long finger until I had a garden of my own. Then, a few months ago, my mum was watching a rerun of Gardeners’ World and Whatsapped me. There was a lady on the show who had bought a cheapie solar fountain off Amazon and used it to create a digless water feature in her London garden. I promptly forgot about it until February, when I signed up for a monthly Gardeners’ World magazine subscription, and the idea of the solar fountain resurfaced in my brain.

I couldn’t remember the exact model the lady had used, so began to research the topic on the Gardeners’ World forums. It seems that any model will do (they’re all pretty similar) — I bought this one for £14 on Amazon — but if you are keen to buy the exact item, a forum member mentions that they can snoop on your behalf, as they swap plants with the lady from the feature.

When the solar fountain arrived, I quickly assembled it: It comprises a disc with the solar panels on one side, the pump with some suction cups underneath on the other, and an adjustable spout. I chose the highest spout setting, and then chucked the fountain into a medium dish of water on my garden table. To my delight, it instantly began to spout merrily. I sent proud photos to every group chat — from a patio-gardening friend in Stoke Newington to a rooftop gardener pal in St Gilles, Brussels.

Senders Solar Fountain
£11
£11
Photo: retailer

[Editor’s note: My exact model is currently out of stock, but this one is almost identical.]

But I was rash. I soon found that the dish I used was too shallow. The suckers on the bottom of the pump stuck to the base of the dish once the fountain had spouted through the water that was available. It was easily remedied — I needed a deeper vessel for the fountain to float in. I bought a deep, wide steel basin on Amazon that afternoon, and now, the fountain pumps away eagerly, chasing the sun around the garden. Some of the commenters on the Gardeners’ World forums say their fountains have reached two meters in height — there may be a correlation between how deep your trough is and the height the fountain can attain. I’d guess that my guy reaches a 60-centimeter spurt in the March sunshine (my guiding measurement is a 30-centimeter ruler, a not-particularly-accurate metric). But whatever the height, the burble and gurgle is incredibly soothing.

There is a small snag I ought to mention: The panels aren’t strong enough to contest with shadow. When the fountain occasionally drifts to the shadier side of the basin, it pauses and needs a push back into the sunlight. To this end, I’m considering adding a magnet to the base of the tub so he doesn’t bumble about so much, but I’m also charmed by the fact that the little fellow gets spooked by his shadow. At present, I move his basin around the garden, like a sedan chair — trying to position him just so. But come April, May, and June, I’m excited to find the best place for him to bask, and finally turn my garden into a veritable North London Versailles.

£25

The basin in which my fountain floats is out of stock, but this is similar.

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A Solar Fountain Turns My Garden Into a Miniature Versailles