Building a water feature — and making it appear
as natural as Mother Nature would intend it to
be — can be a huge task. Unfortunately, many
pond builders have a hard time understanding this when
installing a water feature in someone’s landscape.
Many companies offer pond building services with little
or no experience, training or artistic ability. Thus, sometimes
a pond owner who previously had a pond installed in their landscape by an inexperienced company will want
to tear it out and rebuild it to make it look more natural.
Anyone can build a pond, but adding enhancements that
create a well-constructed and natural-looking water feature
will set you apart from the by-the-numbers pond builders.
Walking away and being excited about the feature you
just built not only brings you happiness, but it also brings
out the “Wow Factor” in the customer’s mind.
Case StudyDwayne Chambers (chief marketing officer of Krispy
Kreme Donuts) and his wife, Dee, wanted their water
feature to sound good and appear as though it had been
taken straight from the Colorado Mountains, since that
is where they are originally from. After evaluating the
hillside behind their house, which had a slope of about
45 degrees, we knew we had the perfect setting to create
an amazing waterfall using large boulders. We knew the
techniques we’d use, too. Using weathered or mossy
logs, echo chambers and shadow effects — and paying
attention to the characteristics of the stones — will bring
out the best in any water feature construction, and that
was definitely true here. When constructing a natural
water feature outdoors, you must always think about
what Mother Nature would do.
Boulders Must Have CharacterJapanese wisdom states, “You can grow moss, but you
cannot grow character.” When visiting the stone yard, look
for boulders that have character to them — ones that have
been exposed to the natural elements and the environment.
Think about what type of boulders will enhance the area
you have chosen. There is a place for each boulder, so before
you start placing stones, study them, flip them over and
look at them from every angle … but try to always make
sure the weathered side is up. Broken, triangular and square
boulders should be left at the stone yard. They are unattractive
when placed in a water feature.
To add to the natural appearance, look for moss and
lichen growth and even stones with small plants growing
from them. Choose stones that have different layers or
grooves in them.
Once you have chosen the perfect boulders, have them
loaded onto a flatbed trailer where they can be removed by the use of a Bobcat or forklift instead of having them dumped on the ground with all of the other stones.
Chipped and cracked stones will tend to ruin your
masterpiece. If you have to move a stone around several
times just to highlight the character portion of that stone,
Creating Shadow EffectsThe goal when creating natural water features is to
build them like Mother Nature would have … or at
least try to imitate her handiwork! And a big part of that natural beauty is lighting. Many
contractors make the mistake
of not creating shadows in their
features. They place boulders
that have no irregular shapes or
natural appearance in the stream
or in the waterfall and expect
the water to perform the magic.
Stones that are too geometrical in
shape do not create interest and
end up appearing man-made.
Shadows, on the other hand,
provide a 3-D appearance, which
draws the eyes into the feature
and creates depth. If you look at
a waterfall in nature, you will see
that the water has carved through
the stones due to its force over
time. The carved appearance
leaves the top of the stone in
place, while underneath you will
see a shadow where it has been cut
away. This provides a real, natural
appearance in your feature.
Echo ChambersWhen you are trying to
increase the sound and direction
of the water, adding an echo
chamber in the waterfall can
be just the trick. Make sure to
place boulders in the waterfall
where you have a void or
cave-like area behind the water.
This will enhance the sound
coming from that location in
the feature. Echo Chambers are
like small amphitheaters, creating
their own sounds during
Mother Nature’s concert.
Mossy LogsOkay, so the water feature
is built, the water is running
… now what? This is the time
to start visualizing what would
happen if there were a storm or
a flood or some natural event
that Mother Nature decided she
wanted in this area.
Step back and observe the
entire area around the feature.
Are there trees? Are there additional
boulders in the landscape
or any other existing natural
features? The goal is to make this feature look as though it has been there
for years, so you may have to add these
Tree limbs or weathered logs that
have moss on them will always add interest to your water feature. In
nature, you may see fallen trees laying
down along the waterfall or up against
the side of the river or stream. Adding
some type of weathered, mossy log or
branch to the feature will fine-tune it
and give you that “wow factor.” You see
them in nature … why not on a manmade
project? By adding a tree branch
or log and visualizing it falling over
the feature, you again add that three-dimensional
Once the water feature has been
installed, it’s time to get as many plants
around it as possible to soften the
appearance. Look for plants that grow
over the stones and stick out into the
stream or waterfalls. This will greatly
enhance the natural appearance.
Waiting for SpringWith all the elements of our
customers’ water feature in place, we
are now eagerly waiting for spring to
arrive to see it filled with plants of all
types. This final touch will really soften
the appearance and give the project its
striking natural beauty. Then, we’ll be
ready for the final step that all pond
builders want to perform: stepping
back to say, “WOW!”