There are myriad ways to beat — or at least distract yourself — from the heat of a mid-summer day. Some take planning and building, like this wonderful “water rail” for a terrace in Arizona, by Phoenix landscape architect Greg Trutza. The
stream of recirculating water follows the curve of the deck and spills into a small spa at one end (photo courtesy Sunset Magazine). It’s inspired by the somewhat more elaborate trough or channel fountains at famous European gardens.
One example is the great three-part staircase of the Generalife Palace in the Alhambra, at Granada, shown at left. Dating from the Muslim period in the 14th century, each of the three sections has its own central fountain — the irregular, low, wave-like walls function as gurgling railings (photo at left courtesy alhambradegranada.org).
Another important precedent is the extravagant Renaissance water garden of the Villa d’Este at Tivoli near Rome, from the 1550s. It was designed by the architect Pirro Ligorio and built by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, whose numerous inherited archbishoprics provided him the income to indulge a taste for luxurious art-filled living. Ippolito was the son of Lucretia Borgia and Alfonso d’Este and a grandson of Pope Alexander VI (no doubt another immaculate conception — oh those rascally Renaissance popes!) so, to say he was well connected is an understatement. Here’s the villa’s grand curving balustrade with ripples and rills built-into the plaster work — just in case you didn’t get the
sense that water was flowing (photo courtesy susankdyer.com). Obviously Ippolito had a great eye for design — I guess you could say he was the Larry Ellison of his day. The Villa d’Este’s liquid landscape, with its huge number of overflowing basins, jets, spouts, streams, and cascades has probably
influenced more garden designers than any other (the photo above shows the so-called Sybil Fountain, courtesy Unesco.org). And though Ippolito was made a cardinal in 1538 he didn’t actually get around to being ordained a priest until 1564 — clearly the building of this roughly 12-acre water garden became a
significant distraction and anyway, if you’re already a cardinal, why bother? (Photo of the so-called One Hundred Fountains, courtesy susankdyer.com.) As in Rome itself at this time, water (i.e. the control of the aqueducts) was power. Ippolito just knew how to play with it — and in it — better than anyone else.
If you don’t happen to own a Renaissance villa there are other ways to stay
cool, like this outdoor shower by designer Erin Martin. Wall, pipe, drain — you can’t get much simpler than that. And if all else fails, use the hose.
For more water in the garden ideas click here!