Garden water bowl feature buying guide

Add a sense of serenity and stillness to your outside space with a modern garden water feature.

Garden water bowls

by Jill Morgan |
Updated on

The best garden water bowl features offer simple curves and a mirror-perfect surface, making them the garden water feature of choice this year. These curved containers, filled to the brim with still water, have long been spotted in show gardens but it seems that our collective wish for calm amid the chaos means they’re now quietly transforming our very own outside spaces. And we don’t know why it’s taken so long for us to cotton on to their loveliness!

These small water features can be installed in seconds, take up little space, are mesmerising and, because they mirror their surroundings, they fit in effortlessly with the style of any modern garden, big or small. These shallow, pared-back bowls can be used pretty much anywhere outside. Position one so it mirrors the blue sky and scudding clouds overhead or surrounds it with spilling stems for up-close reflections.

Garden water bowl features at a glance

Best extra large steel water bowl: Round Wood 120cm Curved Corten Steel Water Bowl – View on Amazon UK
Best budget water bowl: Adezz Corten Steel Water Bowl – View on Flora Select
Best glass-reinforced garden water bowl: Cascading Bowl Water Feature – View on Cox & Cox

Place one next to your favourite cocoon chair so you can absorb its calming charm whenever you have a cuppa outside – watching the reflections. Or position a serene pool of still water mid-border where garden birds will quickly make it a favourite drinking spot. A garden water bowl feature can also be useful for injecting light and life into dull and shaded areas, where the surface will bounce light around and illuminate foliage.

Even on an overcast day, grey skies and racing clouds will create a fascinating reflection and, when viewed by moonlight, the garden water bowl can take on a truly magical charm. Any watertight container can make a reflective feature when filled to the brim but on-trend designs are wide and low with gently curving sides. It's refreshing to see affordable water features. Available in different finishes, choosing a product is a matter of personal choice.

Best garden water bowls to grace your space

Best steel water bowl

Steel Powder Coat Water Bowls by AdezzAdezz/FloraSelect

While some genuine Corten Steel water bowls are pricey, this Adezz version from River Hill Garden Supplies is at the affordable end of the market. Showcase its rich, rusted finish with pale gravel and a tapestry of sun-loving plants.

Customer Review: "My beautiful water bowl has just arrived (with really efficient and quick delivery) and it’s just perfect. Captures the light beautifully and reflects the surrounding plants and sky in the water. Couldn’t be happier and looking forwards to the colour developing."

Pros

  • Various sizes
  • Comes with a small hole in the base and a bung which allows you to install a small pump if you are looking to turn it into a water fountain

Cons

  • Run-off can cause stain on other features

Best extra large steel water bowl

Round Wood 120cm Curved Corten Steel Water BowlRound Wood/Amazon

This large Corten steel water bowl sits on a circular foot welded to the base to make it perfectly sturdy. The unique steel weathers to develop its own protective rust finish, to bring depth to your garden and can be at any point throughout the weathering process when received. It's also available in a slightly smaller 100cm size.

Pros

  • Develops its own protective rust
  • Has a base that makes it even more sturdy

Cons

  • No customer reviews

Best natural stone

Stone water bowlRobert Dyas

This attractive "Tranquillity" water bowl is a great alternative to the steel versions, ideal for anyone who enjoys more natural textures in their outside space. It's crafted from sandstone which has a warm and inviting look and feel. This is solar-powered so just needs you to add water. Once you've done that, you can enjoy the babbling effect. This integrated LED lights for even more interest.

Pros

  • Built-in lighting
  • Solar-powered

Cons

  • Only available in one size

Best medium size steel water bowl

Floraselect bowlFloraselect

Bring life to your flower bed by framing your water bowl naturally with floating water lettuce and overhanging sedge to compliment this bowl's rich rust colouring. Available in 60x14cm and 80x18cm, this bowl offers a great hack if you don't have space for a full-sized pond or bigger water feature.

Pros

  • Two different sizes available
  • Great for small spaces

Cons

  • No customer reviews

Best glass-reinforced garden water bowl

Cascading Bowl Water FeatureCox and Cox

The effortless outline of the wide granite look bowl will appeal in both contemporary and traditional outdoor spaces. The graphite-toned piece will strike a beautiful contrast against brick, stone or grass and the water bubbles elegantly from a brass-coloured spout providing a relaxing backdrop to days in the garden.

Pros

  • Contemporary design
  • Elegant relaxing feature

Cons

  • No customer reviews

Best deep water bowl

Bocca water bowl Floraselect

This is a minimalist option, with the crisp, white finish only enhancing its modern looks. This is made from powder-coated steel that's been treated inside and out, making for a practical scratch-resistant finish. This bowl is available in three sizes to suit your space; 80x41cm, 100x51cm, and 120x61cm.

Pros

  • Contemporary design
  • Inner coating

Cons

  • Only available in white

Best bargain birdbath

Wildlife World Nature OasisAmazon

Rrp: $50.00

Price: $40.00

This beautiful and affordable water bowl and small birdbath will leave puddles of light and provide water for the wildlife. Made from recycled plastic with natural bamboo fibres, this bath comes with a frost-proof guarantee.

Customer review: "Fantastic birdbath and easy for the bees and insects to drink from because of the design. All made from recycled goods which I liked. Lightweight and easy to clean, easy to move around and fill. Great value. I will be getting another. Recommend this product and the seller."

Pros

  • Made from recycled material
  • Perfect for birds and small mammals

Cons

  • Only 30cm in diameter

Best shallow trug for a water bowl

black shallow garden rugAmazon

Rrp: $47.96

Price: $44.29

Why not get creative? Surround this 35L shallow trug with plants, and you won't notice it's made of recycled plastic. Its smooth black inner makes for great reflections.

Customer Review: "We cut the handles off and buried this up to the brim to make a small wildlife pond/bird bath. Generally has a queue of feathered friends waiting for a splash about and a drink and has caught the local hedgehog having a slurp as he does his rounds. Strong enough to set a mix of bricks and stones in with plenty of room for a few marginal water plants. Very happy."

Pros

  • Good value
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Unsightly for some

FAQs

What are the different types of garden water bowl features?

Corton steel garden water bowls

The hottest look right now though is Corten steel. With its rusted look and industrial feel, it makes a bold statement that works beautifully alongside smooth, pale paving, gravel, and loose, airy planting (think grasses and tall meadow-style flowers).

Arriving with a dull, grey finish, the beauty of this material is that the surface weathers and changes over a period of four to nine months, developing a rich palette of red and brown tones peppered with unique marks and lines.

After this time, the metal will self-seal and preserve its textured surface without weakening the steel. Do be careful where you position a Corten steel bowl as it can stain pale and porous surfaces during the first nine months.

Powder-coated steel garden water bowls

Powder-coated steel bowls are an eye-catching alternative and their durable, sealed surface promises clear reflections. Many companies will coat water bowls in a RAL colour of your choice, giving you the option to tailor a container to suit your space.

RAL is a colour-matching system used in Europe to define colours for paint, coatings and plastics – have a look at the colour range at Ral Colours. The darker the hue, the better the reflection, so if you’re after a mirror surface, opt for a deep shade for maximum effect.

Glass-reinforced garden water bowls

Glass-reinforced concrete adds solidity and weight to bowls with sturdy forms and wide rims. They come in a variety of finishes from bare concrete and natural stone to verdigris, the interiors coated with a sealant to ensure they're watertight.

Raising up a water bowl can change the reflection and look of the feature. Some designs that double as fire bowls and planters have tripod legs, and this added height makes them perfect for bloom-filled borders. It’s easy to raise a standard water bowl too – a sawn log, timber sleeper, or stone block all make stylish plinths.

What size garden water bowl should I buy?

Water bowls come in many different widths from 60cm diameter up to a whopping 180cm, while custom-made designs can be made even larger. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to match the size of the bowl to the size of your garden. A generous one will make a big impact in a compact space and the reflections will make the area feel bigger and more open.

In a larger garden, you can use the surprise factor of a smaller design, tucking one into a border or hiding it around a corner, waiting to be discovered. Nestled into low-growing plants such as hardy geraniums or bugles, they take on a different dimension where the foliage hides the container’s sides and only a still, perfect circle of water is revealed.

While a single bowl has the wow factor, there’s nothing to stop you from going for a trio placed in a row or a more relaxed, triangle arrangement.

Garden water bowl
©Getty Images

How to install a garden water bowl

Regardless of material or size, these simple water features are easy to install. Most bowls have a flat central base and are designed to sit straight on a level surface. Those with a curved back can be bedded into a layer of soft sand and levelled up. The key is to remember that water will always level itself so it may be necessary to tweak the bowl once it’s part-filled to avoid an irritating tilt and a sloping waterline.

There’s much debate about whether it’s best to fill a water bowl using a garden hose or with rainwater. In some hard-water areas, the excess lime can leave a white, chalky tideline on dark containers, but it’s seldom noticeable.

Algae can be a problem but there are a few simple steps to avoid it. Keep the water topped up to the brim – we get enough rain to ensure this happens naturally for most of the year but you’ll need to give it a helping hand in summer. Don’t position your water bowl under trees or shrubs, as fallen leaves and debris will soon build up and can cause water to become stagnant. Regularly skimming the water’s surface with a net is also a good idea and, at least once a year, empty the bowl out, wiping away any mould and algae, and rinsing it clean.

Garden water bowl with flowers
©Getty Images

If you do still find algae is a problem, then adding a wildlife-friendly anti-algae solution can help keep the water clear and stop bacteria from building up, while non-toxic pond dyes can reduce photosynthesis and algae and weed growth.

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Jill Morgan writes regularly for Modern Gardens, and loves everything to do with gardens, plants and outdoor living. Her long thin, town garden is the setting for many family and creative projects from bird feeding and veggie growing to den building and mini-pond dipping.

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