The Leaning Fountain of Cleveland Street

We got a new fountain/birdbath this weekend. It’s cast stone, which is really a variety of concrete. It was fabricated to look old, sort of the landscaping equivalent of pre-washed jeans. I like it, though.

The new fountain, surrounded by blooming Virginia Bluebells and False Forget-Me-Not.
The new fountain, surrounded by blooming Virginia Bluebells and False Forget-Me-Not.

What happened to our old fountain/birdbath? Well, it was very nice, but it was also extremely heavy. Too heavy to carry into the garage for winter.

One winter I was not sufficiently careful protecting the fountain from moisture. Come spring, there was a crack in the base. I spent the next couple of years repairing cracks which kept reappearing.

The old fountain.
The old fountain.  If you look carefully you can see evidence of a couple of cracks.

Over time I got tired of this, especially as cleaning the old fountain was a major chore. This was partly due to heaviness, and partly due to all the stuff that would fall into the water held in the base. Finally we decided it was time for the old fountain, which had been in service about 10 years, to retire.

Juvenile robin at the old fountain.
Juvenile robin at the old fountain.

The new fountain is a lot lighter and can spend winter in the garage. It should also be much easier to clean.

The water is deep enough for avian drinking and bathing, but not too deep (songbirds only like a depth of two or three inches). It’s also taller, which should make it easier to take pictures of bathing birds from inside the house.

Like the old fountain, the new one makes a nice gurgling sound, which is pleasing to people and also attracts birds.

Getting  the new fountain level was a major challenge. That’s partly because it is standing directly on the ground, which is sloping and soft. The first time we turned on the pump, we stood back and realized that the fountain was leaning as if it were trying to walk into a stiff wind.

Eventually we got it close to level by means of shimming. I know about shimming because of Mr. Dawson’s high school carpentry class. According to Mr. Dawson, the key to getting doors to hang at the correct angle is sliding matchbook covers under the hinges – shimming.

Another view of the new fountain.
Another view of the new fountain.

The same principle applies to fountains. No matchbooks were used, but flat rocks, odd pieces of tile, and wood chips were all utilized. However, given the softness of the ground, keeping the fountain level will clearly be an ongoing project.

I feel a little bit guilty for not making my own fountain with some kind of DIY project. I’ve read lots of articles about how this can be done. However, Judy vetoed any DIY fountains, which caused me to feel simultaneously relieved and also slightly offended that she lacked faith in my DIY abilities.

Anyway, I like this new fountain, and I think some sort of water feature is a really good thing to have in the garden. Does your garden have a water feature, and are you happy with it?

54 Comments on “The Leaning Fountain of Cleveland Street”

  1. I’ve been looking for a bird bath, but haven’t found one I like yet. All we have at the moment is a large dish filled with water… the blackbirds love it though! I like the idea of a fountain and yours looks very nice.

  2. The fountain looks great, and the birds won’t mind it being 100% level. I haven’t yet put a water feature in the yard as most attract snakes here in Australia, so I have to choose carefully, and a fountain/bird bath might be just the ticket…

  3. This is a nice fountain. I am sure the birds will get used to it and use it too. When I have a garden item that is on a pedestal and I want to keep it level I place a square or round concrete stepping stone on the ground below it, level that and then place the pedestal on the leveled stone. It disperses the weight and it stays level for the summer at least. You can cover the stepping stone with mulch or what ever is on the ground around so it doesn’t become a distraction to the object you are placing on the pedestal.

  4. Usually I am not a big fan of cast stone, particularly because it never gets that used look that I like. This fountain looks as if it’s always been there, though! I like it! I have some water features in my garden too, the one I like best is a simple concrete tank (once used to feed pigs!!!). I just took some pictures of it, you’ll see it on my next post, apparently it’s water feature time! 🙂

  5. Good choice, I’m sure it will afford you (and visiting wildlife) much pleasure in the coming months. I have a small DIY fountain and have found a level base of bricks worked best for me as I was no good with shimming, it just kept going on and on and I never got it quite right.

  6. Very pretty. Looks just right in that location. We also put a square stepping stone under it to help with leveling. Much easier than leveling the smaller fountain base. Fountains are tricky to take care of, ours has not been running the last couple of years since the pump broke. But we have a new pump finally so no excuse. I’ll put that on my honey do list.

  7. I built a DIY fountain with my daughter…still going strong after five years or so (California is a bit kinder to outdoor things there). I tried to fix a cracked bird bath with that black spray stuff you see on TV, but it didn’t work. I did manage to get black stuff in a lot of areas I didn’t want. I can understand your wife’s desire to limit the DIY efforts.

  8. We inherited a concrete birdbath with the house. Our winters are mild enough to spare us bringing it in, but it does seem to settle a little bit each year: hence constant shimming. It doesn’t reflect our taste, but the birds love to splash around in it, so s’all good. Your old one was so elegant. Did you recycle it as a planter?

  9. Your new bird bath is really lovely Jason. We have my daughters rescued cat living with us, so our bird bath has been put away as it may as well have a sign saying lunch on it. But one day we will have one and I hope its like yours!

  10. It is wonderful. I hope you have many hours of enjoying the bathing birds, and less of the cleaning! We just bought a huge bird bath at an estate sale. Yes it is a beast to clean, but fortunately here on Coastal georgia, we won’t be bringing it inside for the Winter. I have two smaller birdbaths in the back yard. The smaller one is a real attraction for the birds. The new large ones has attracted some BIG crows, but they are characters and I like to watch their antics! Enjoy yours!!!!

  11. I like your new birdbath/fountain! I had to chuckle when you mentioned shimming. Multiple times a week, I tip over my birdbath and I have to “re-shim” it where it rests on bark mulch. Sometimes it’s quite the balancing act, with little bits of bark mulch and branches slid in at various edges. Enjoy your new addition. It looks beautiful with the Virginia Bluebells around it!

  12. I have a few birdbaths but really want a fountain/bubbler. But we have a single outdoor outlet and it’s in the worst possible spot for anything other than a winter heated birdbath. I like your new fountain. It has a weathered, antique look that I like. I would have bought one, too.

  13. Ha! Judy made a good call as this fountain is pretty and perfect in that you will be able to move it easily with our winters like you said. DIYs are great but this way you can spend more time amongst your plants! Great fountain Jason! It looks right at home in your bed! Nicole

  14. Your new fountain looks very nice surrounded by the blue flowers. It amazes me how quickly your garden has sprung to life after being buried under so much snow this winter.

    I have 2 birdbaths in my yard, neither with a fountain. I would like to get some moving water. Meanwhile I just enjoy the sound made by my Woodstock wind chime.

  15. I could relate to this post-we have a small courtyard at our house and have always had fountains + I know about “leveling” + “winter protection.” This year, we decided to leave it outside and cover it. It was so much easier in the spring not having to drag it out from the garage and find all the pieces! Talk about cracks, my husband is the master and getting one more year out of the fountain. I use my old foundtians in my garden beds. I even buried on in the middle of a bed but it works for me since I have a “potager” style garden:-)
    Interesting fact about the depth of water-had no idea:-) My dream someday would be to find the crack less fountain I could move aorund with one hand that never is unlevel!

  16. Love your new fountain! And thanks for the info on shimming–I never took a shop class, which I regret:) I have a small fountain I plan to install this spring, but I’m on the lookout for a bigger one I can afford. Wish I had some DIY talents to build my own!

  17. I’ll echo the other comments – love the new fountain. I’m also glad to hear that other people spend considerable time with the “will this be the best angle to photograph the birds?” question. I’ve arranged so much hardscape, furniture, plants, you name it in order to get better sight lines and photo angles.

  18. This is a lovely post and as a writer appealed to my sense of nostalgia as the old gives way to the new, even in the garden, a must. This is always a wonderful blog and I love following. Thanks for all the hard work it takes to give your readers something worthwhile to read.

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