10 Easy Pieces: Bird Watering Holes


A garden is brought to life by birds, not only with the sound of their singing but the sight of their constant activity, from dawn to dusk. Water, too, is an essential component of a garden with vitality. More than a trickling decoration, it brings in the insects that attract birds; it cleans the birds, and hydrates them. There is really no point in putting out seed without fresh water—which can be as simple as a few bowls (shallow enough for a bird to stand in), on the ground near shrubs, on a wall, on a makeshift pedestal.

People who love birds know that formality is a human, rather than avian interest, and that informal watering holes enhance any space. One of the most memorable aspects of designer Cleve West’s last garden at the Chelsea Flower Show (in 2016) was a trio of large rocks with indents carved into them for holding water. He does the carving himself, and on occasion still makes the kind of bird baths that birds like; there is one for sale now at Lichen Antiques.

Above: Campo de’ Fiori have a range of carved and weathered limestone planters in oval (above), round, square or rectangular shapes, starting at $116.25 for an interior dimension of approximately 4″. If a vessel has straight sides, bees and other insects will find it difficult to get out. Add large stones that emerge above water level or keep the water shallow. Moss is also helpful.
Above: A bird will be happy with a wide bowl, or overturned dustbin lid. For more focused beauty in utility, Manufactum sells sensible birdbaths of granite-ceramic (aka Granicum) with an island to hop on to in the centre. €99.90; stainless steel stand also available.
The classic concrete bowls and planters that Swiss designer Willy Gruhl designed for Eternit in the \1950s have been used very effectively over the years for water as well as soil (by blocking the drainage holes). This vintage one is \$3,\200 at \1stdibs.
Above: The classic concrete bowls and planters that Swiss designer Willy Gruhl designed for Eternit in the 1950s have been used very effectively over the years for water as well as soil (by blocking the drainage holes). This vintage one is $3,200 at 1stdibs.

Above: Water evaporates more quickly from smaller vessels—a good reason to keep them topped up with fresh water instead of letting it stagnate. Made in New Hampshire by Dances with Stone, these hand carved river stones are given bathing-sized indents, with two small stone offcuts supplied to keep each mini pool in place. Available to order via Etsy from $80, and starting at a size of roughly 7-9” in length.

Above: Corten Steel curved water bowls by the Pot Company range between two- to over six-feet in diameter. Starting off as a blue steel, it naturally weathers, developing a coat of rust that prevents further erosion. The Pot Company is  trade only (and comes recommended by designer Sheila Jack) but they retail at various online outlets including Harrod Horticultural, where prices start from £159.



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