Often enough, fountains are meant to be small in scale and find themselves tucked into a secret corner in the garden waiting to be discovered. These little hidden gems of the landscape are often used to bring the element of water into an outdoor space without overwhelming the surrounding landscape. They can draw the focus when necessary, and at the same time, they can blend into their surroundings as just a simple part of the whole.
>> This Year’s 2021 Water Artisans Awards Includes a”Best Formal Ponds and Fountains” category!
Although this fountainscape in Westchester, New York, is anything but small and hidden, it still holds to many of the same principles that most fountain displays share. The homeowners were seeking an entirely new and contemporary backyard design — something stripped down and simple. When they approached us, we guided them through several backyard improvements, including a large deck expansion featuring Ipe planking accentuated by sleek, stainless-steel cable railings adorned with LED down lighting.
The yard also features a 20-by-40-foot in-ground pool surrounded by a patio of 2-by-2-foot French gray Umbriano pavers from Unilock. Surrounding this patio in a black granite border provides a modern touch and a stark contrast to the adjoining lawn. No matter how contemporary this backyard was going to be, it was still a yard, and this meant allowing for a healthy portion of well-manicured lawn. After the pool was installed, space was at a premium, and this couple still had their hearts set on a campfire area and a water feature.
This is where creativity meets necessity and the idea of a water feature and campfire area become one. All good designs have many layers to peel away, and this one is no different. The most easily overlooked of all these layers is the background. Twelve-foot-tall Green Giant arborvitae create a living border in the corner of the yard. With formal spacing and natural textures, they set the stage for the juxtapositions to follow.
Providing enough space for a campfire area and lawn meant that the water feature would need to be pushed to the corner of the yard, so the idea of using the feature as a linear border presented itself. Originally just a few walls in the corner with some accent plantings, the concept began to grow.
Blending the Natural
This unique fountainscape now features 16 Aquascape Slate Stacked wall units. Stacked side by side, they create a 30-foot-long feature that is half fountain and half border planting. With the central units acting as a 7-foot-tall water wall, the adjoining units feature colorful perennial plantings directly into the wall units themselves.
Because they are man-made, fountains tend to take on a formal appearance. Knowing this, the importance of plants in this design cannot be overstated. Large taro are placed directly in front of the walls, unapologetically screening the falling water. Angelonia, Montauk daisies and Dragon Lady begonias burst forth from the tops of the wall units, flanking the central water wall while creeping jenny cascades down the wall surfaces, following and mimicking water itself. Papyrus planted in the top of the sphere halves radiates upward to disguise the walls some more.
These planted elements transform the cold and dark textures of the walls into a lush oasis with their contrasting verdant green hues. This marriage of natural and man-made textures continues into the foreground patio. By utilizing some of the same 2-by-2-foot stones used for the pool patio surface and spacing them 5 inches apart, the green grass lines dissect the surface and soften the look while making the surrounding lawn seem larger. Here a comfortable campfire area is created. Relaxing is as simple as putting a light to the new Breeo smokeless fire pit.
Campfire or not, there is no lack of entertainment once the sun sets on this backyard. Underwater lighting throughout this feature draws its own attention as 20 separate fixtures, a mix of color-changing lights and warm white lighting create a unique and captivating background.