A lot of people view outdoor water fountains as a distinctly formal element in a garden or landscape. This is unfortunate because the history of outdoor water fountains shows that they were usually meant to add an element of humor or charm in a garden space, and as a way of introducing amusement and entertainment to a more formal environment.
If you look at many fountains in the grand plazas of European cities, and even in the United States, you would notice that they often feature characters such as people, animals, and natural imagery. They use these details in whimsical and creative ways to create their effects, and they often instantly bring a smile.
The same sorts of imagery and sculptural features appear in outdoor water fountains available to everyday consumers too. A good vendor of fountains will make everything from pond or pool “spitters” to brass garden fountains shaped like people and animals available.
When thinking about the use of whimsical outdoor water fountains it is necessary to remember one major characteristic – the figures in the fountains will usually be the source of the streaming water. Thus, a mermaid might be pouring water from a seashell, a pair of seahorses may be shooting water from their mouths, and some fairies or pixies may be standing beneath the sprays of water that are emanating from their flower caps. Clearly, they are the functional elements, but they are meant to be much more than that.
These types of fountains tend to be major accents or focal points, but it doesn’t mean that they must be used in this way. For instance, a subtle pool spitter which features nothing more than a brass frog can be cleverly perched at the edge of a pond or pool where it is noticed only by the most observant. The frog would serve to aerate or move the water, and this would keep the pool healthy, but it would manage its work with a lovely touch of whimsy thrown into the mix.
There are also a lot of these whimsical fountains that are meant to be installed along a garden wall as well. These too hearken back to an earlier era when small wall fountains were a major element of any formal garden, but which were also usually less formal and far more entertaining than the central fountains with their jets of water and many tiers of descending pools.