There’s just something about water that has an inexplicable draw. Perhaps it’s the soothing sound of a trickling stream that conjures images of a mountain brook or the roaring rush of a cascading waterfall that recalls the unleashed power of the ocean. Whatever the attraction, homeowners are captivated by water, often seeking new and inventive ways to incorporate these aquatic oases in their landscape plans.
Swimming pools aside, most homeowners gravitate toward fountains, waterfalls and ponds or a mix of all three, depending on their particular plan. “Water elements can be in practically any conceivable form,” says John Kenna, owner of Water, Color & Stone Inc. (www.watercolorstone.com). “The designer must learn how to ask the right questions so the clients’ intentions are not only understood, but their expectations are met as well.”
When choosing a water feature, homeowners should consider not only the style of their home, but also its setting. For example, a formal or traditional home may warrant a fountain feature, whereas a rustic home may be best suited for a naturalistic pond or waterfall, according to Rick Kaldrovics, president of Outside Landscape Group (www.outsidelandscapegroup.com). “I always recommend that a homeowner take their home and setting into consideration when selecting a water feature,” he says. “That being said, with a creative plan, there are ways to successfully break the rules and create your own desired look. In the end, the sound and sight of water in the landscape offers an inviting focal point that delivers a therapeutic haven no matter what style you choose.”
Pond vs. Pond-Less
Today’s water features can be designed with or without a pond, depending on the desired style and level of maintenance. Add a waterfall, aquatic plants and colorful fish to an open body of water, and you have all the elements of a natural-looking pond. However, this habitat must be carefully maintained. Eliminate the pond, and you can still enjoy the sight and sound of moving water. In a pond-less water feature, a fountain or waterfall does not simply form a pool of water. Instead, the flowing water seems to disappear into the ground.
“The pond-less water feature really attracts homeowners desiring a low-maintenance option,” Kaldrovics says. “The body of water is actually covered by gravel so the homeowner doesn’t have to see or manage the water clarity, algae, insects, plants, etc.; instead, this option delivers all the excitement of a water feature without the work.”
Water feature checklist
Before breaking ground on any landscape project, there are several items to consider, and when you’re including a water feature, that list may be a bit more extensive.
Style: After deciding on a pond or pond-less water feature, choose the extras you want to include. Will your pond contain fish? Is your fountain a small point of interest or is it the centerpiece of the landscape? What type of stones or hardscaping do you want to accent the project? Making these selections upfront will help define your space and give your designer needed direction.
Budget: Like many home projects, the price to install and maintain an outdoor water feature can vary greatly. “While waterfalls are the most commonly requested water feature we encounter, once homeowners see the price tag, they often change their mind and opt for a small fountain instead,” says Britany Heater, director of marketing and sales at Miller Landscape, Inc. (www.millerlandscape.net).
With prices ranging from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size, scope and materials, creating a wish list as well as a desired budget allows for realistic options and a speedier process. One area not to scrimp is the quality of the construction. “A well-built feature with good filtration can provide a leak-free, low-maintenance and long-lasting feature that is enjoyed for many years,” Kaldrovics says. “However, if corners are cut or it is improperly installed, a water feature can become a money pit and a nuisance.”
Maintenance: Determining the amount of maintenance you’re willing to perform or pay for is a great way to define the scope of your project. For those who love to get their hands dirty working in the yard, a more maintenance-intensive water feature could be perfect; otherwise, a relatively maintenance-free feature, such as a pond-less waterfall, is a better option.
With the installation of a pond, creating a natural ecosystem will certainly lighten the workload. To create this functional system, Kaldrovics suggests installing a pump to enhance water circulation and boost necessary oxygen levels. Next, install filter pads and plants to strain and filter the water. Introducing algae-fighting bacteria as well as fish and plants creates a natural and healthy ecosystem that is relatively self-sustaining.
Pond-less water features only require pump maintenance and the occasional cleanup of natural debris. “Everyone wants simplicity,” Kenna says. “A waterfall allows for the sight and sound of moving water without the concern of maintaining water quality for fish. Improvements to pumps and the advances in LED lighting have created better satisfaction and improved results for everyone.”
BY OUTSIDE LANDSCAPE GROUP
Deciding against a traditional pool, the homeowners, with the help and expertise of Kaldrovics opted instead for a natural water feature that would remind them of the rock outcroppings and natural rivers and lakes found in the mountains. After learning the couple’s granddaughter often visits, Kaldrovics introduced an idea that married the concepts of a pool and a pond. “The end result turned out fantastic with a 25-feet-by-10-feet plunge pond,” he says.
The plunge pond captures the rugged beauty of the Tennessee landscape, incorporating large natural boulders and rocks for that river feel. A pool-quality filtration system, including a chemically controlled water treatment device, provides safe, crystal-clear water for swimming. “We also installed a bright pool plaster combined with natural stone interior to blend swim-ability with natural materials,” Kaldrovics says. “To top off the sights and sounds of the active waterfalls, we removed the deck and created a two-tier patio space edged with a stone border, stone steps and a centrally located firepit to gather around in the cooler months.”
Bird Watcher’s Paradise
BY WATER, COLOR & STONE INC.
The most successful home improvement projects are those that complement or enhance your interests and lifestyle. When a Marietta homeowner decided to add a water feature to her backyard, mentioning that she enjoyed bird-watching and cooking outdoors, John Kenna, owner of Water, Color & Stone Inc., envisioned the perfect feature.
Instead of constructing an elaborate pond or ornate fountain, he based the design on the natural topography, creating a shallow stream that flows down the sloped backyard. Using rocks and driftwood to add definition, Kenna created a haven for Georgia songbirds. “Songbirds are not swimmers, so they need shallow pools they can bathe in, yet still stand up in,” he says. “Combining the stream with driftwood mimics the birds’ natural habitat.”
The relatively maintenance-free water feature strategically hides a rainwater-filled basin beneath the rocks at the edge of a paver patio. Complementing the pond-less water feature and adding to its easy, maintenance-friendly appeal, the stream’s natural current quickly flushes leaves and other debris to the bottom, making cleanup a snap. “One of the best parts of incorporating a water feature is that it can transform a backyard into an affordable mountain hideaway for a fraction of the cost,” Kenna says. “And, there’s no additional travel needed!”