Marni Jameson, Six tips to finding your fountain
"Did you see the Fountain of Youth?” I ask Jessica, the graduate student living with us. She is freshly back from a day trip to St. Augustine, Florida, our country’s oldest city and home to Ponce de Leon’s famous water feature.
“No, we didn’t get there. Have you seen it?” she asks.
“Does it look like I’ve seen it?”
She smiles awkwardly, and searches for a graceful exit.
Fountains are on my mind these days because our new landscape plan calls for one to go on — and draw attention from — the 25-foot stucco garage wall that borders one side of the yard.
“I am also counting on this fountain’s powers of recuperation, restoration and rejuvenation,” I tell my husband, DC.
“It’s a fountain, not a day spa,” DC says.
A few days later, I’m standing on a 5-acre lot surrounded by dozens of fountains at Distinctive Statuary, a family-owned business in Orlando, Florida, that started in 1962. Tony Evans, our landscape designer, is with me to make sure I don’t choose something stupid, a valid concern.
“It’s hard to go wrong,” he says, reassuringly, yet the implication — but you still can — hangs.
Jason Bechstein, the founder’s grandson who oversees the sales lot, approaches.
“What sort of fountain are you looking for?” he asks.
“One that rolls back time,” I say pushing up the skin on my cheekbones.
He shoots Tony a look that says, “You’ve got a real doozy here.”
Tony shrugs and steers me toward a few contenders.
As we look, I realize that what I thought would be an easy, 20-minute task won’t be. Choosing a fountain is one of those decisions that, if left to me, which it is, I can completely overthink to the point of purchase paralysis.
An hour later, I have taken a deep dive into the Fountain of Minutiae.
“Well?” asks Tony.
“I’m not finding exactly what I want, but I am finding what I don’t want.”
He does not look encouraged.
“This one looks like a sink,” I say. “This one belongs in a theme park. This one’s too Aztec-y for my Colonial-style home. This one looks like a wedding cake. This one is too big, too small, too fat, too tall, too gaudy, too plain.”
Tony excuses himself for another appointment and asks me to let him know what I decide. Jason, now stuck with me, looks after him calculating that at the very least this man owes him a beer. I keep shopping the lot.
Two hours later, because acres of fountains aren’t enough, I’m in the sales office looking at catalogs.
Ultimately, I narrow my search to three on the lot and three in the catalog. I take pictures on my phone and bring them home to show DC and visualize them in my yard.
Finally, 24 hours later, I pick one that features water coming out of the mouth of Nereus, a Greek god of the sea. I text a picture to Tony to get his blessing. He, of course, knows he would be an idiot not to go along even if the fountain featured the head of Medusa.
I place the order, and await … transformation.
Yard fountains are lovely to sit by, look at, and listen to. They cool the senses, charm the soul and, yes, rejuvenate, if not your body, definitely your spirit. I think that is what Ponce de Leon found, too, after all.
If you have a place in your yard for a fountain, here’s what Jason Bechstein says to consider:
• Find your style: First decide if you want a freestanding or wall fountain. Bechstein sells four freestanding fountains for every one wall fountain. Then look for a fountain that goes with your architecture. Much as you love that French Versailles-inspired fountain, it won’t go in a Hacienda-style home.
• Size up your space: Scale is one of the hardest factors to get right. Fountains that look tiny on the lot or large in a catalog can appear just the opposite in your yard. Tape off and measure where you want your fountain, then rule out any that don’t fit the plan.
• Contrast your colors: Most fountains and statuary come in many colors. Consider bringing sample chips home to make sure the color you thought was terracotta doesn’t read pink in your yard. “The biggest mistake people make is picking a color that blends with the background,” Bechstein says. “They miss the point of a feature fountain. You want contrast.” I favor natural concrete, without added color, and like it even more as it weathers.
• Get a sound check: Though most fountains on the lot we visited were dry, Bechstein helped me imagine what they would sound like running. In general, the more tiers a fountain has and the longer the drop the bigger its sound. Fountains that cascade make more sound than those that trickle, or have water coming out through pipes.
• Clean with care: Anyone investing in a fountain needs to know they need regular maintenance. Don’t use bleach or chlorine to clean them, or you’ll ruin the equipment and likely void the warranty. This often happens when a pool service handles fountain care. Use an algicide designed to treat and clean fountains only.
• Factor in installation: Add to the cost of the fountain delivery and installation. You will need a dedicated waterline. Installers will connect the fountain to the waterline, prepare a concrete slab base for the fountain to sit on and balance it so the water is level and the pump runs properly. To feature your fountain at night, illuminate it with well-placed lights.
You can reach syndicated columnist Marni Jameson at www.marnijameson.com.