Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: Make a Splash in Your Water-Thrifty Garden

By Ron Sullivan
Friday September 14, 2007

We’ll have our usual autumn hot spell, and things will get all dusty and drab, and we’ll all want to grow something green where we can. We’ll plant winter veggies and herbs and something to flower in December maybe, camellias and manzanitas and azaleas.  

This year we’ll need to beware water rationing. It’s odd how mild the recent warnings and requests from EBMUD and the other water districts have been; the reservoirs that I and others who talk to me have seen are scarily low, and the idea that we’ll have a deep-snowpack winter, never mind a locally rainy one, is practically a fantasy.  

So why am I telling you about fountains? I’ve found it’s aesthetically and psychologically wise to concentrate the water you do have, and establishing watering zones—most of the supplemental watering done in one small area, usually close to the house, and more water-thrifty plants taking up the rest of the garden—is Step One.  

Step Two might reasonably be water at play, a focus for the eye and ear of moving water. I suspect it’s a human universal to enjoy the movement, sound, light refraction and diffraction and reflection, and cool hospitable atmosphere of dancing water. 

Given what I saw at TAG Fountains Garden Pottery (the business card has those last three words equitably arranged around the shop’s name; maybe the idea is not to play favorites?) the zone-planting idea is also a necessity if you include a fountain. They all splash a little, but not quite so predictably that you can count on that for the surrounding plants’ supply.  

I myself like fragrant-leafed plants where they can be jostled now and then and release their scent. The majority of such plants seem to be droughty desert- or chaparral-dwellers whose fragrant oils are part of their water-retaining capacity, holding moisture in the leaves and also discouraging herbivores from making a main dish of them. 

Notable exceptions are mints, and a ring of whatever mint strikes your fancy around a fountain—carefully contained of course, given their invasive tendencies—would be twice hospitable, throwing out the occasional zing of fragrance and garnishing (or composing) a cool drink. 

This TAG place has quite the variety of shapes to choose from: pillars, balls, nymphs, abstracts, your basic spitting lionhead, and one that struck me as startling, an apparent Buddha-head of the hobnail hairdo variety with water flowing smoothly from his topknot to veil his entire face and head.  

I guess it tweaked my attention because, though there are Jesus and Mary statues among the various sculptures there, they aren’t plumbed. No weeping Immaculate Heart, and the lamb The Good Shepherd carries in the crook of his arm isn’t piddling on him. Think of the possibilities left unexplored! 

Lots of pots, mostly large; ornaments to stand or hang, from Green Man to gazing ball; hanging votive-candle lamps with a dressy jeweled look; a chiminea and an alleged tiki that looks more like one of the moai from Rapa Nui.  

(For local tiki carving, go on down to the Templebar at 8th and University and see what Kem Loong Jr. has been doing.)  



TAG Garden Pottery Fountains 

725 Gilman St. 



10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily