Monday, May 19, 2008

The Disappearing Fountain Project

I have been thinking about adding a fountain to my back yard for quite some time now. It all started when I saw an episode on 'Central Texas Gardener' that was all about disappearing fountains and what you needed to build one. They made it look so easy! So, last week I took the plunge. I made a trip to the Hill Country Water Gardens in Cedar Park and picked up a keen blue jar and all the parts to assemble my very own disappearing fountain. I talked to the guy there, and he was super-helpful and answered all my questions and showed me how to put together the fountain. Easy as Pie! I can totally do this. I am no stranger to a pick-axe. Here is how it went down:

Part One: The Acquisition

1. I picked out the jar. I knew I wanted one of those ripply ones and blue is my favorite color, so I sized up the jars and picked out a medium one.
The Blue Jar:

2. Get the right size pump. I picked out a pump that would make a nice bubbly fountain - not too big - not too small (pricey little buggers!):

3. Acquire other pond making accessories: With assistance from the nice pond guy, I got the right size reservoir for the jar, the grate that goes on top of it, the screen that goes on top of that, some tubing to connect jar and pump, and oh - some concrete blocks to support the jar. I also picked up some pond rocks to cover the grate.

4. Have the nice gentlemen at the pond place drill a hole in the bottom of the nifty blue jar and attach the socket for the tubing. Also have the guy cut out an access hole in the grate for the pump. They did all this for me while I waited.

5. As said jar and accessories were being modified, I paid for my new project and then sat around waiting for them to finish up the drilling and cutting and loading all the goodies into my car. It took about 15 minutes. I entertained myself by jamming to my favorite tunes - my selection for the day: 'The Detroit Cobras'.

6. Drive home very carefully - I had to take the turns very slowly as jars tend to roll about.

Now for the hard work. Here is how you put it all together.

Part Two: The Assembly

1. Get a sturdy pick-axe and dig a hole so that the reservoir sits in the ground with an inch to a couple of inches still above the ground. If there is a flood, you don't want dirty water flooding into the reservoir.

2. Set the reservoir in the ground and use a level to get it as even as possible. You want to make sure the jar will sit level so the water flows evenly down and around the sides of it. Once it is level, set the concrete blocks down in the reservoir so the jar has something sturdy to sit on.

3. Fill the dirt in around the reservoir so it stays put. Arrange the grate on top so you have the access point where you want it. The pump will go just under this access point in the reservoir. Set the dirt screen on top and cut a hole in the center where the tubing will match up to the bottom socket in the jar.

4. Have an assistant set the jar in the center and hold it up a bit (or more correctly, TIP it up - they are heavy!) so you can attach the tubing to the socket in the bottom of the jar. Then attach the other end to the pump. Set jar down CAREFULLY.

5. Fill jar with water. Yay! Once the pump is submerged and the jar filled, plug in the pump. Test to make sure the water is flowing properly around the jar. If the jar is not quite level, jam a couple thin rocks underneath to level it out. And..Tah-Dah! Your very own disappearing fountain.

6. Add rocks on and around the reservoir to mask it and make it look fancy.

See? Easy as Pie!


Pam/Digging said...

You did make that look easy. Thanks for the tutorial. Now that I've seen you and Annie in Austin install a disappearing fountain, I'm mighty tempted to get one of my own.

Ralph said...

Very impressive.

austin urban gardener said...

wow that looks awesome!

Diana said...

I wish it were easy as pie - but I am certain you really worked hard to make that all come together so beautifully. You could come put one in for me!

katina said...

dude, I don't know how you manage to do it, but I'll talk to one of my coworkers about something, and then i'll visit your blog a few days later and you've gone and blogged about it! This happened with the rolly-pollies, and now with this one.

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Lee - it looks great and I hope you're enjoying the sound of the water, too.

Your instructions were very clear and should help someone putting in a lighter-weight fountain, but I had to grin at the idea of anyone holding up our nearly 300 lb block of stone over the grate for more than a millisecond...that was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole thing, knowing we could turn a $100 grate into trash in 2 seconds.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Rachel @ in bloom said...

Beautiful! I'm envious. One of these days, I'm going to get my water feature.

Lee17 said...


It really was easy - as long as you don't have one of those massive monoliths like Annie had to work with! I think you would need to get some helpers with something like that.

Lee17 said...


Thanks! I was impressed with myself. I am handier than I thought I was ;)

Lee17 said...

austin urban gardener,

Thanks! It really turned out nice didn't it?

Lee17 said...


Well, really easy SWEATY pie ;) The hole digging was the hardest part!

Lee17 said...


HA! Must be that gardeners often think alike ;) That, and I have telepathic powers....

Lee17 said...


Thanks. You are so right that those stone blocks would be a nightmare to move around! The jars ARE pretty heavy though. I am lucky that my significant other was once a body builder - he helps me out with all the heavy lifting. Not that a girl can't lift stuff, but why should I if I don't have to? Right? ;)

Lee17 said...


I know! Didn't it turn out great? You should so get one! They are ever-so relaxing ;) And fairly easy to put in yourself.

2N said...

Dude that is way cool! I am SO going to do that in my backyard! Does it make noise?

Lee17 said...


I know! Isn't it? You should totally put one in your backyard! Yeah it makes noise - it sounds like a babbling brook or something, which is really nice when it is 100 degrees out like it is today down here ;)

Benjamin Vogt said...

Certainly looks nice. It took me 6-7 hours to do mine because the great was NOT stable at all (cinders didn't even reach up to the bottom of the grate, for example). I built mine in May, too, and blogged about it. We just added some bigger stones as you did, vs. just small, and that makes it look nicer like yours.

kversp said...

Just stumbled across this ... looks great! One question: how hard was it to get the wiring out to that point in the garden?

Anonymous said...

Looks like an online store is using your images.