I have a corten water bowl in our garden which I absolutely love. The colour of the bowl quickly rusted to develop a rich orange patina but the natural consequence of this is rusty water too, not a look that everyone would enjoy. Having had this reaction recently from one of my clients considering a corten bowl, I decided to experiment and try out some natural pond dye. You can get a range of colours but having decided that a Mediterranean blue would look completely out of place and red a little blood curdling, I settled on black.
The dye we used is a natural product and claims to be harmless to wildlife and plants. We don't have any plants in our bowl but it is frequently visited by birds and squirrels. Only a small amount is needed, a quick swirl with a stick and the whole bowl was a shimmering intense black.
The deep colour creates a mirror like surface and the reflections this allows are beautiful but, maybe due to the water level or the bowl shape, the impact was lost unless you were very close. Unfortunately any pollen quickly forms a dust like patina on the surface, which also takes away the crispness of the reflections
I had intended to let the dye naturally decay so that I had an understanding of how long it would last before needing a top up. A few days of ominous black and mutterings from MrB later and we have emptied the bowl and welcomed back the look of natural water.
Our garden is very informal and the style is a mix of cottage garden and English romantic. The black felt out of place adding a slightly ominous air. Mr B also commented that the our little solar fountain bubbling in the centre resembled a mini oil well. Mmmm..not the look I was hoping to achieve.
Another claimed benefit is a reduction in algae and blanket weed but I have read mixed reviews on how successful this is. We have never had any problems with either in our bowl, despite leaf fall into the water from the overhanging trees. Some birds did visit the bowl during its black period but maybe not as many as usual, given the short length of time this may be due to natural variation rather than the any effect of the dye.
These dyes do have their place and the reflections on the mirror surface are stunning. But my little home experiment reminded me how important it is to consider the setting. It also showed that maintenance is required to keep the water surface clear if your aim is stunning reflections of the sky.