While there’s nothing quite like having your own garden pond, a visit to some of the water features to be found in various visitor attractions around the world can prove one of the best sources of inspiration. Whether you’re on holiday in the area, or set out quite deliberately to visit a specific attraction, there is no shortage of places for the pond-enthusiast to visit – and many offer the chance to do a little aquatic-themed shopping too. Although some attractions have gone out of their way to appeal to mass-tourism, there are many others which have adopted a distinctly more low-key approach, so whatever your taste in watery visitor attractions, there is bound to be something to appeal. With some of the world’s best hotels boasting impressive water gardens, often you don’t have to go too far to see some impressive sights, but when it comes to famous ponds, there are some which really stand out.
Jishoji (The Silver Pavilion), Kyoto
Sometimes referred to as Ginkakuji, Kyoto’s Silver Pavilion was originally built in the 15th Century as a retirement house, before subsequently becoming a Zen Buddhist temple. The Pavilion’s grounds which chiefly comprise an informal Zen garden with later raked gravel features dating from the 17th Century also hold a real pond-lover’s treasure – and one of the most famous water gardens in all of Japan. The Jishoji pond garden was modelled on a similar feature at Kyoto’s much older Sahoji temple and even for a country so pond-centred in its approach to gardens and landscaping, it is a true jewel, making it a definite must-see on any visiting water-gardener’s itinerary.
Balboa Park, San Diego
Adjacent to San Diego’s world-class zoo, Balboa Park is home to an incredibly beautiful and varied selection of ponds, fountains and water gardens. Nestling comfortably alongside the attraction’s huge array of themed-spaces – including the likes of the Alcazar, the Japanese Friendship, Marston House and the Rose gardens – water is constant theme in this Californian tourist hot-spot.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Britain’s famous Kew Gardens is home to three major water features – the Lake, the Palm House Pond and the Water Lily Pond.
The majesty of the Palm House Pond has inspired numerous artists and photographers over the years – perhaps most notably Camille Pissaro who featured it in a painting in the early 1890s. In contrast with this more structured environment the smaller Water Lily Pond situated alongside the Woodland Glade offers a more natural setting dominated by lilies and irises throughout the summer. However, the Lake holds perhaps the most for the visiting enthusiast. It was the second artificial body of water to be built at Kew – the remnant of the first today forming the Palm House Pond. Extending to some five acres, the Lake was designed by the famous landscape gardener “Capability” Brown shortly prior to 1850, but one of the most interesting aspects of this visitor attraction is the way it has remained contemporary and relevant. In 2006, the “Sackler Crossing” was inaugurated on the site. Designed by architect John Pawson, the dark granite blocks and bronze balustrades offer a unique spectacle to challenge the perception of the viewer, while echoing the natural curves of the lake itself.
Monet’s Water Garden, Giverny, Normandy
It is hard to think of any water feature more universally-known than the lily-ponds immortalised by the great impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Moving to Giverny from Paris in 1883, Monet deliberately set out to create a garden in which nature seemed to run wild and the landscape was lush and verdant. Ten years later, he bought the property across the road and began work on the water garden which was ultimately to become the inspiration for the series of water-lily paintings he produced between 1901 and 1925. Although the gardens fell into neglect following the Second World War, after more than twenty years restoration, today’s visitors can enjoy the heavily Japanese-inspired lily-pond looking much the same as it did in Monet’s day.
For the avid water-gardener, the chance to look around visitor attractions of this kind has an obvious appeal and can often provide the germ of an idea for the next pond project back home. While it may not often be possible to recreate the full grandeur of some of the world’s most famous and impressive water gardens, they have certainly inspired more than a few garden pond features – although usually on a rather smaller scale!