We had a customer reach out due to two unsightly, leaking cement waterfalls flanking her backyard staircase and she wanted to replace them with natural water features. After a quick meeting, I knew exactly what I was going to do: artistic fountainscapes.
Why? Well, I could use some carved boulders from Big Bend National Park here in Texas.
During the design and estimate process, our customer wanted to make some changes. She only wanted to do one fountainscape and keep the side of the staircase clear for a fire pit and she also had the incredible idea to expand the fountainscape from my original idea of three to four boulders to six – to represent each member of her family. I absolutely loved this idea so I asked for each of her children’s ages so I could pick out the perfect rock sizes to really represent them.
She hired a demo crew and I stopped by one afternoon to check on the progress. Right when I walked up, I realized it was an extended family member of mine so I knew she was in good hands. Small world!
Not long after the demo was completed it was our turn to come in and make magic happen. After cleaning up, we framed the side and back walls with cinder blocks and created a multi-tiered elevation.
I tend to avoid all things masonry since my expertise is in natural-looking rock work, but in order to grow, we have to live outside of our comfort zone. I was able to make it work despite the small outdoor space. Even though this was originally set up as a water feature by a pool company, I didn’t want to rely on the existing reservoir to hold water since she had issues with leaking. We installed a geotextile underlayment and 45 mil EPDM rubber liner. Since a pump vault wasn’t going to fit in the pre-existing basin shape, we customized two of the water blocks to create housing for the pumps. The rest of the water blocks fit perfectly in the reservoir.
I wanted to stage the Big Bend boulders like a gathering between family members, as if they were posing for a photo. So we placed the two larger ‘parent’ boulders towards the back and the four ‘children’ boulders in between and around them. Then, we added some accent rocks to balance out the space and keep a natural look.
From there, we ran the plumbing that was a little more tricky than I’m used to with each fountain having its own flow control. We hooked up the pumps, installed the lights, the gravel and filled in the back wall area with dirt to create a planting bed. Lastly, we hid all the cords, mounted the lighting transformer and did a final clean up.
When we started this install, the whole team had recently come back from the Water Garden Expo in Oklahoma. We were inspired by all the beautiful ponds and waterfalls created by some of the best installers in the nation.
Plus, the Water Artisans of the Year contest winners were there and we saw a lot of gorgeous lush moss in the photos, so we knew we had to order some moss for this project.
Within two weeks, we received the moss and headed over with all the plants. The customer only wanted plants that were low maintenance and would come back next year, so we added red lantana, variegated dianella, holley fern, purple potato ivy, and aquatic grasses. I knew this fountainscape looked good, but once it was planted it brought things to a whole new level.
I may say it every time, but this is my new favorite water feature. It’s my goal to feel this way, to try new things, to grow and learn, to level up my skills and create something different, something to be proud of. I’m excited to have this Texas sized family fountainscape in my portfolio and I’d love to do more of these!
Dan Johanson | Focal Point Features | FPFeatures.com
Dan has been in and around the water feature industry for over 17 years. He is an obsessive hobbyist with an overlap of passion and expertise for creating art from nature. Dan’s wife Melissa has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and turned his passion into a small business that they have been operating and growing for 4 years.