Few things soothe like running water. If you don't happen to have a meandering stream in your yard, there's another way to harness water's therapeutic benefits: a garden fountain. It provides the same calming qualities and can dramatically lift the look of your landscape. Styles run from classical tiered towers to contemporary orbs, and a fountain's design speaks to more than aesthetics; the architecture determines how the water flows and the music it creates, from a splashing that drubs out street noise to a bubbling that provides a subtle background score to patio conversation.
On the flip side, the way the water moves and catches light has a lot to do with the feature's visual appeal. Water sheeting off a colorful, rounded urn is more playful than a forceful stream pouring from basin to basin. You pick a fountain for its looks, but knowing the options in materials can streamline the search. Glazed ceramics come in colors that pop; lightweight fiberglass can be elaborately shaped; cast concrete looks just like stone. In any case, you'll want to head to the garden center to see them in person. That is, right after you read everything you need to know right here.
Shown: On a patio bound by pavers and boxwood hedges, this formal tiered fountain begs guests to sit and stay awhile.