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10 Easy Pieces: Bird Watering Holes

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10 Easy Pieces: Bird Watering Holes

March 8, 2022

A garden is brought to life by birds, not only with the sound of their singing but the sight of their constant activity, from dawn to dusk. Water, too, is an essential component of a garden with vitality. More than a trickling decoration, it brings in the insects that attract birds; it cleans, and hydrates them. There is really no point in putting out bird seed without fresh water, which can be as simple as a few bowls—on the ground near shrubs, on a wall, on a makeshift pedestal.

People who love birds know that formality is a human, rather than avian interest, and that informal watering holes enhance any space. One of the most memorable aspects of designer Cleve West’s last garden at the Chelsea Flower Show (in 2016) was a trio of large rocks with indents carved into them for holding water. He does the carving himself, and on occasion still makes the kind of bird baths that birds like; there is one for sale now at Lichen Antiques.

Above: Campo de’ Fiori have a range of carved and weathered limestone planters in oval (above), round, square or rectangular shapes, starting at $87.50 for an interior dimension of approximately 4″. If a vessel has straight sides, bees and other insects will find it difficult to get out. Add large stones that emerge above water level or keep the water shallow. Moss is also helpful.
Above: A bird will be happy with a wide bowl, or overturned dustbin lid. For more focused beauty in utility, Manufactum sells sensible birdbaths of granite-ceramic (aka Granicum) with an island to hop on to in the centre. €99.90; stainless steel stand also available.
Above: The classic concrete planters that Willy Gruhl designed for Eternit in the 1950s have been used very effectively over the years for water as well as soil (by blocking the drainage holes). But the Swiss designer also came up with some intriguing bird-specific designs, including these concrete bird baths which are being sold individually for $895 at First Dibs. They are pleasantly mushroom-y.
Above: Water evaporates more quickly from smaller vessels—a good reason to keep them topped up with fresh water instead of letting it stagnate. Made in New Hampshire by Dances with Stone, these hand carved river stones are given bathing-sized indents, with two small stone offcuts supplied to keep each mini pool in place. Available to order via Etsy from $80, and starting at a size of roughly 7-9” in length.
Above: Corten Steel curved water bowls by the Pot Company range between two- to over six-feet in diameter. Starting off as a blue steel, it naturally weathers, developing a coat of rust that prevents further erosion. The Pot Company is  trade only (and comes recommended by designer Sheila Jack) but they retail at various online outlets including Harrod Horticultural, where prices start from £144.
Above: This Achla designed classic bird bath and stand from Gardener’s Supply Company ($315) is made from brass, balancing on wrought iron legs that fold away. It will accommodate a pump or heater: gently moving water is attractive to birds; while winter heating gives all-season access, vital in snow and ice. A good range of equipment is available at The Birdhouse Chick.
Above: Cast from an old design made out of lead and found at a holiday house owned by the Frick family, the Bermuda Shell Birdbath is made from stone resin, and steadied with integral feet. Suggested by our friend the potter Frances Palmer. 28″ wide, from Pennoyer Newman, $975.
Above: Danish design company Eva Solo has long led the field in good-looking and practical accessories for birds. Their hanging bird bath is easy to clean and refill; perfect for small outdoor spaces where everything is on show. Ships from Denmark and around Europe for around €40.
Above: Unglazed terracotta is peculiarly suited to bird feet, while the glaze holds water. Hanging from a tree or staked in turf or soil, the hanging terracotta bird drinking bowl (€44,90) and birdbath on a shaft (€99.90), made by French ceramicists Poterie de Rédan, more must-have items from Manufactum.
Above: Target’s rail mounted burnt copper birdbath (made of copper-plated stainless steel) has a peened surface that gives it traction with bird feet. A clever design (from Achla) allows it to hang outwards, away from houses and their residents. Online only, $97.99.
Above: Consider having one of these, or three. One of a trio of bird baths carved out of rock by Cleve West at the Chelsea Flower Show, 2016. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

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