Rock Fountain

We have a small flagstone terrace at the entrance to our old house in eastern France. It’s modest, and when we moved here, it was just flagstones surrounded by the gravel of the driveway. There was one additional element to it: An old millstone next to the front door.

The millstone is basically a big stone cylinder with a hole in the center, as if a giant pressed his thumb into the middle.

For years, I put potted flowers into the hole, but without drainage, any heavy rain left the soil waterlogged. Nothing lasted longer than a few weeks.

Because I am a slow learner and not decoratively inclined, it took me quite a while to come up with the idea of installing a recirculating water fountain. I took stones from a 19th century wall that had once bordered our garden, and put in a little solar-powered spout.

Even that took me a long time to figure out: If the water spouted up through the small head, it dispersed and the fountain dried out within a couple of hours. If I placed stones so that the water ran gently on the surface of the rocks rather than spritzed skywards, the little holes became clogged with the dirty water (there’s a lot of airborne dust that ends up in the fountain).

So this year, I had the bright idea of removing the fountain head and just letting the water burble up from the main spout and I think I may have finally hit the right combination. No clogging, the water spreads evenly over the rocks.

One of my great and unexpected pleasures in this whole process has been the number of small animals and insects that drink at the fountain. Lizards hop down from the neighboring wall to sunbathe and have an occasional sip, birds nip down for a drink, and the water fountain has become a gossip point for pollinators. Bees, wasps, butterflies – all take their turn.

I planted a couple of large lavender plants, accented by a few smaller flowers in pots, and the miniature garden is alive with butterflies, hummingbird hawk-moths, and bees for most of the summer. In the end, I didn’t expect this tiny terrace installation to become such a magnet for so many different creatures seeking pollen, shade, and water.

It took me a while, but I think I finally got it right.