Garden art: Trickle down effects

Garden art combines form and function to bring splendor to your grass.



From the July/August 2008 issue of the magazine.


If you think that a sprinkler is just a device for getting water onto your grass with a minimum of fuss, you haven’t seen the latest trend in garden art. Imagine free-standing sculptures that not only water your lawn, but also put on a show while doing so. “I have a brass fish that stands 30 inches high,” says Perry Molema, Canadian director of Aquascape Inc, a manufacturer of waterscape products in Brampton, Ont. “It spins on its tail and water gurgles up and splashes down. That bit of water sound drowns out urban noise and makes my backyard feel like an oasis.”

Douglas Walker of Black Creek, B.C., is one of the best known creators of what he calls kinetic sculptures for the backyard. Walker, a photographer, stumbled across the idea four years ago while designing his own garden. He wanted something to give his tiny pond a focus. “I picked up a copper pipe from a local garage sale and decided to hook up a pump to it,” says Walker. “Then I got it to sprinkle water. When it was finished, a neighbor saw it and wanted to buy it as a gift for her father.”

Walker’s fountains incorporate bits of glass and old water faucets, as well as discarded musical instruments such as tubas, saxophones and trombones. They’re built to move — or, as Walker says, “perform.” In full motion, water bubbles and gushes from horns of copper and brass, creating sprays of mist that dance in the sun. “People love the motion,” says Walker. “My sculptures are whimsical and the water ties all the pieces together. People walk away with a smile on their face when they see them.”

John Smith of Yucca Valley, Calif., is another premier garden artist. An engineer by training, he stumbled into design 10 years ago when he couldn’t find any sprinklers that he liked. He asked his brother Cyr, a painter, to help him create a sprinkler that would cast a wide spray of water, like fine rain. It took them two years to come up with their first working design. Since then, they’ve sold more than 10,000 of their works.

John and Cyr work together to come up with the designs for the sprinkler heads. John then plans where to place holes to create an interesting pattern of spray. “It’s garden art first and a sprinkler second because it won’t be sprinkling much of the time,” says John. “But it’s a dynamic art, so you have to create a design that’s balanced while spinning, because you want them to create a beautiful cascade of water. Believe me, they take quite a bit of tweaking to get right.”

Rain makers: Where to shop for garden art

• To see the Smith brothers’ mobile water sculptures, visit

• To view Douglas Walker’s garden sculptures, click on His pieces are usually under two metres tall
and cost from $250 to $10,000.

• Kathleen Mand Beck is a Wisconsin artist who has developed an interesting Floral Collection of copper sprinklers with prices starting at $129. Check out
her work at

• Missa Hills of Providence, R.I., will produce sprinklers to your specifications through her website She will build sprinklers to any height and design them to water the specific shape and size of your backyard.

• Steve Rayman, a sculptor in WestDes Moines, Iowa, builds his water fountains in large geometric shapes. He constructs each work by hand, using heavy copper tubing that he claims will withstand “several lifetimes” in the garden.

• Want to build your own sprinkler? Check out It offers copper sprinkler kits starting at $140.

3 comments on “Garden art: Trickle down effects

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