Landscaping Made Easy

Consider Cobble Ponds For Your Landscape

Cobble stones make a great alternative to your landscape's water feature.
Mike Dooley, December 2017

For decades, water features consisted mostly of formal carved stone or poured concrete multi-tiered basins that overflowed from the top basins into larger ones below. While these look wonderful in a European plaza or 20th century garden, they might not be quite as in style in our more informal and natural southwestern gardens.

Today, most New Mexico residents’ gardens contain water features constructed using “moss rock” for a more southwestern look. Moss rock fountains, while attractive, can be very difficult to construct even for the well-seasoned professional. Many homeowners’ designs can wind up looking like a disorganized pile of rocks with a clumsy trickle of water flowing down them. Because of the grueling work involved in constructing these intricate designs, many landscaping customers don’t even have the wherewithal to say “it just doesn’t look quite right!”

Very often, the “do-it-yourself” installer also has to deal with leaks that have seemingly no points of origin, making them very difficult, not only to find, but let alone repair. Another issue to consider is keeping the leaves out and the water algae-free.

So, what’s an alternative solution that can still deliver all that southwest, rugged charm without the myriad of constructional obstacles to overcome? The answer: the cobble pond —or as they are also referred to— the “disappearing water feature.”

The design of a cobble pond can be much easier to execute. From the get-go, you’re not faced with the daunting task of moving around exceedingly weighty boulders in the hopes of achieving that natural, straight-out-of-the-forest look. With a cobble pond, you’re able to pick and choose beautiful objects of your liking for the water to bubble and emanate from. Yes, perhaps you’ll need to consider the immediate drawback of foregoing the colorful fish and lively water plants, but it’s worth keeping in mind that this is where a lot of that cumbersome and potentially injurious maintenance comes from.

So, what exactly is a cobble pond? Cobble ponds, or disappearing water features, consist of a heavy-duty plastic basin that is buried in the ground until the top is flush with the surface. The basin holds the water and pump, and a grate that covers both. The pump is usually accessed through a small door for the occasional cleaning or repair. Once the basin, pump and grate are in place, it’s all enclosed with decorative pebbles to conceal the workings. A flexible tube is connected to whatever fixture you wish the water bubble out from — like a ceramic pot or rock.

Unique pottery plumbed just for this purpose can be purchased from local vendors like Plant World, Jackalope, Mud Monsters or any store that sells water garden supplies. Picking out this piece is a critical step in designing your pond since it usually determines the style of the feature — so feel free to get creative and have some fun with it!

If you’re still left desiring a more natural look, you can purchase a moss rock, travertine or even a petrified log and have it drilled into your fixture. Happy Gardening!

Mike Dooley is the designer and owner of Dooley Landscape Designs. Visit his website at


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