For years I admired my neighbor’s fountain. I didn’t know them. They lived on the next block but I passed their house often and loved their cement fountain. It sat beneath their front windows, near the entryway. I often imagined how lovely it must sound and wondered what birds sipped from it. If I had the money, I knew just where I’d put it in my garden. When I discovered the same fountain for sale at a local garden center and saw the price tag, a whopping $550, I knew it was going to be a while before I could justify the splurge. Or would it?
A “For Sale” sign went up on their front lawn. Days later, a “Garage Sale” sign followed and plastic flag bunting was strewn above the driveway. Among the menagerie of household goods sat the fountain and I slammed on the brakes. Thank God no one was tailing me! A tag marked $75 hung from it. I had $60 on me and she accepted. How’s that for serendipity? The bottom basin is a beast so she agreed to hang onto it until my husband could help me haul it home. And so began my acquaintance with fountain care and upkeep.
Give It a Scrub
Pick a warm day. Sticking your hands in very cold water isn’t pleasant. Once I’ve disconnected the pump and removed it from the fountain, I give everything a good scrub. The basins can get pretty slimy with algae and bird droppings along the rim. I typically scrub it every other week throughout the season and like to do it one last time before covering it for the winter. The fountain doesn’t have drain plugs so I remove the funky water with a large cup. I picked up a grout scrubber at the grocery store. The long handle and narrow profile make it easier to get into the nooks and crannies, especially on the smaller basin. A few drops of Dawn dish soap and a splash of water are all that’s needed. The fleur-de-lis top and the smaller basin are removable which makes it much easier to clean.
Unfortunately, my pump broke at the end of the season so I’ll be replacing that next year. Sometimes the intake valve can get gunked up on it too so I flush it out with a strong spray from the hose.
A larger stiff bristled brush is ideal for the lower basin and makes quick work of the slime build-up. Emptying this one is a bit tricky. I have to tip it and then rest it on my thighs to scoop out the remaining soapy water. Not the easiest thing to clean but I can’t complain. I’m just so thrilled to have it in my garden! This is when a strong back and core come in very handy.
And voila! It’s clean. Now I allow it to dry out for a few days, longer if it rains, before covering it for the winter. Cement is porous. Trapped moisture in a freeze/thaw climate can cause it to crack. For a little added protection, I lay a few old towels in each basin so that any remaining moisture after the cover goes on will be absorbed by the fabric and not the cement. I lay the upper parts of the fountain on top of the towels in the bottom basin and store the pump separately on my garage workbench. But you can keep it all together if you choose.
The Last Step
Before picking a cover, measure both the height and diameter of the fountain. I found these Warp’s storage bags at my local Ace Hardware store last year and gave them a try. They come in a variety of sizes. Although the heavy weight plastic bags are marked for indoor storage purposes, these worked beautifully and the price was right. At $7 for three bags, it suited my budget. For added protection, I used two bags and snagged a few of my husband’s bungee cords in different sizes to secure it beneath each basin. The covered fountain reminds me of a UFO, but it came through the winter unscathed and I was able to reuse the bags this year. Even better, they’re American made right here in Chicago.
Every Spring, when garden chores kick into high gear, I look forward to the unveiling of my beautiful fountain. I’m so tickled with it and how it came to live in my garden.
Do you have a water feature?