We were contacted in early March 2017 by a prospective client in western North Carolina. They wanted to expand their outdoor living space with a water feature. The potential client stated that they had a small existing freestanding fountain, but wanted to replace it. They were looking for a more natural design on a larger scale.
We were able work a consultation into our schedule that week, as our cleanout season was still in full swing. Once on-site, we made our way to the backyard to see the existing entertainment area that they were looking to transform. The backyard had a very eclectic, “cottage” feel, but it also had a small “gentleman’s-farm” feel. There were several different kinds of chickens meandering around, goats wandering in a large, picturesque fenced area and a few alpacas hanging out. There was an existing natural stone patio that was surrounded by mature trees and a large deck with an elevated gazebo overlooking the proposed site. It was quite the unique setting and the perfect location for a water feature.
When we do a consultation with a potential client, our main goal is to determine what they want. We then need to conceptualize a design within their budget. The client gave me some ideas about what they were looking for, but they really wanted to rely on us to come up with something that would ﬁt the space. They only had one request —“ to immerse themselves in the feature with their “little one,” Stella.
We designed a very natural, plunge-style swimming hole with a small waterfall and stream. The pond eventually grew to 12 foot by 16 foot with a depth of 4 feet. We incorporated a small, 13-foot meandering stream and waterfall, which returned to the system under a large evergreen. The design included an Aquascape Signature Series 1000 Skimmer, an Ultima II 4000 ﬁlter, a Helix Large Static Filter and a Performance Pro Artesian 2 Pump powering the system, which included two tangential pond returns. The total project cost for this installation was right at $23,000.
On the second day of construction, we had a bit of a shock in the morning. We were in the middle of ﬁne-tuning all of our excavation as the fabric was coming in, and I heard one of the owners yell, “Stella!”
Then he screamed again. “Stella!”
Out from nowhere came a black Lab at Mach 2. My stomach fell to my feet. Stella wasn’t their child — she was their dog! I stood there for what felt like an eternity trying to think back to the consultation. I remembered distinctly the client saying, “It has to be stable for our Stella.” I had made the safe assumption that Stella was a child. I have been on hundreds of consultations over the past 20 years, but this was a ﬁrst. Here I had totally designed this plunge-style pond for a couple and their child!
The client immediately sensed that something was up, as I’m sure my jaw was on the ground. He asked me what was wrong. I proceeded to let him know what I had wrongly assumed. My team and I had a good laugh with the client.
It became very clear, though, that I needed to change the design, as I finally realized that the pond was really intended for Stella the dog. The client said that Stella was a very active Labrador that loved swimming, but she also loved jumping into water. I decided to extend the depth down to 4 feet to accommodate Stella’s jumping. We took the existing planting shelves and converted them into platforms for jumping. This just required doing away with the river cobble and going with ﬂagstone for a more stable medium for jumping and climbing. We also went ahead and added another exit point to the pond across from the main stairs. This allowed Stella the option for exiting the pond. The ﬁltration and turnover rates were sufﬁcient, so I didn’t see a need to change them.
We had a crew of three working on this project for five working days, but it took a little over a week and half to be completed due to an overlapping project. The last day of the build was the best day for us. As the pond was ﬁlling, Stella soon realized what was happening. She began to pace back and forth around the pond as we were wrapping up the edge details. At times, she would run around the perimeter of the feature just whining. She also knew exactly where the steps were to enter the pond. She stood there trying to come in, but the client repeatedly told her in a very calm voice, “Not yet … not yet!”
We ﬁred up the pump and began to check all the ﬁtting and connections —“ and boy, did Stella go crazy! She started jumping all around and was smiling —“ yes, Stella the dog was grinning from ear to ear. The jobsite came to a standstill, as all eyes were on Stella. The client got up from his seat on the deck and came down to the feature. Stella feverishly began bouncing around, and the client only had to say one word: “OK!”
Stella, without hesitation, leaped from the second step and made a huge splash in the middle of the pond. We all soaked in her excitement. She began swimming and slapping her front legs on the surface of the water. She splashed the water with her front legs and then tried to bite the water as it splashed up. I had never seen a dog do this —“ especially with such excitement! It was at this point that I realized Stella was my best client ever. I look forward to being able to do more builds for pets. Her reaction and excitement for what we had created was just as rewarding to me as the pond was to her.
Benjamin Timmermans is the president and lead designer for Liquid Landscapes Inc., which is based in Asheville, North Carolina. He has more than 24 years in the landscape and waterscape industries. Liquid Landscapes has been nationally recognized for innovative waterscape design and construction. Benjamin focuses on a dedication to customer satisfaction through an emphasis on quality, workmanship, professionalism and meticulous attention to detail. He has great passion for the water-feature industry and is constantly looking for ways to contribute to its betterment.