wishing for water

Remember wishing wells? In the early 1970s, when I first started paying close attention to gardens, every few yards would have a wishing well as an accent of the landscaping: Big lawns, lots of flowers, the wishing well, maybe even a lawn jockey. You don’t see wishing wells (or lawn jockeys) around these parts very often anymore.


The other day I was up on the roof deck, enjoying the breeze. Looking in a direction I don’t usually pay much attention to, I noticed this feature in the back yard of one of my neighbors. It’s a little hard to make out, so I’ve enhanced it a little. Hmmm. Looks like a wishing well, maybe 1970s vintage…

Jump ahead 30 years, to the more drought-conscious 21st century. Many Californians are reducing or replacing their turf. One of the ways that’s used to give some focus or structure to these de-lawned yards is to construct a dry stream bed.

(I thought it was interesting that both these yard accents are all about water. The wishing well celebrates the stuff, almost as if it’s available in a magical, never-ending supply. The stream bed is more of our time, and acknowledges that water is a resource that isn’t always plentiful and can’t be taken for granted.)


Down the street, another of my neighbors has done their own take on a dry stream bed. It has lawn along some of its length, but succulents and drought-tolerant plants the rest of the way. And in the middle of the stream…seashells. And these little yellow rubber duckies…

4 thoughts on “wishing for water”

  1. Marshall McCluhan referred to colors as “hot” and “cool”, not a new concept but he applied it to other cncepts as well. A quote: “There is a basic principle that distinguishes a hot medium like radio from a cool one like the telephone, or a hot medium like the movie from a cool one like TV.”

    Grass, in design, is the “cool” equivalent to water itself. The color blue may be as well but it also is “hot” because it demands focus if it is a brilliant enough hue. The suggestion of water – via dry creeks, wishing wells, old pump handles sticking out of the ground – works wonders for suggesting something wet and cool. I have applied myself like crazy to making killer dry creek designs in desert landscapes. Plant a few gaura, some clumped grasses – Voila!! Instant Ryparianism!!

  2. It is interesting the focus of the accents is water, but not really surprising. Water gives life to everything. Without it we would cease to exist. I think the more rare it becomes the more you’ll see novelties dedicated to water. Even without the water in them the very suggestion of water is enough to cool and refresh us.

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