Enhancing Water Features With Hardscaping and Landscaping

Published on April 29, 2022

This project took great efforts from both our pond construction team and our landscape and design team. The cohesive nature of the stone-work that flows through the yard from the pond into the hardscape is elegant and inviting.

In today’s world, pond and koi enthusiasts don’t just want a home for their fish. They want a full showcase. 

When integrating hardscaping around the pond, the whole backyard is brought to life. Stonework and landscaping not only complement the pond aesthetically, but they also add more functionality to the space. We have been able to diversify the services we provide by integrating pond construction, hardscaping and landscaping for clients all over the Northeastern United States.

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As owner of Fitz’s Fish Ponds, I always try to envision the future of the company. While I have focused on building a business that creates amazing outdoor environmental experiences, I knew I needed someone with experience and expertise in hardscaping to help me expand in this way. In 2017, I reached out to Judd Mandell to lead the Landscaping Division for our company. With more than 30 years of experience, Mandell brings a vast knowledge of landscape design and construction to our team. His specialties range from rock walkways and patios with expert drainage to beautiful outdoor kitchens. In every case, the additions complement the water features we build. With Mandell as a leader, every aspect of his job is taken care of with great detail and precision to ensure the final product is exactly what the homeowners are looking for. 

Here are a few of our projects with varying designs that went ‘beyond the pond,’ as we showcased our craftsmanship in not only pond construction and design, but also hardscaping to create unique outdoor living spaces. 

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This water feature is built into both the retaining wall and the paver patio surrounding the pond area.

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Formal Design

An order for a formal, dedicated koi pond took us out to Fort Lee, New Jersey, where our hardscaping team had an incredible opportunity to showcase our sleek stonework. We designed and constructed a formal pond with a grand fountain filtration house as well as a matching outdoor kitchen. The homeowner’s sole request was to showcase their koi fish without distraction. This koi enthusiast has some large, high-quality koi that are truly beautiful in nature and deserve lots of attention.

The cohesiveness of the hardscaping throughout the entire space is evident in this aerial view. The quarantine tank, patio and outdoor kitchen play off each other, creating an inviting social space that highlights this formal pond.

Due to the massive amount of filtration it takes to keep this pond crystal clear, a decorative filtration house was designed that utilizes a stone veneer. Columns and crisp waterfall spillways were added to enhance the elegance of the structure. A built-in, above-ground quarantine tank was also included to make this stunning design extremely functional. To outline the perimeter of the pond, a retaining wall was built utilizing capstones to add seating areas around the entire pond. The hardscaping that surrounds the pond transforms the look and feel of the space and shows a depth to the type of work we can produce at Fitz’s Fish Ponds.

There’s only one thing left to complete a backyard with a pond like this — coupling it with a full outdoor kitchen and bar. In order to fulfill the desires of this homeowner, it was imperative to match the stone veneer used in the creation of the filtration house and retaining wall with the stone utilized in the construction of the kitchen. The outdoor kitchen features two grills, two refrigerators and a custom brick pizza oven. A raised bar with additional seating and granite countertops that match the style of the home and stone veneer were added to finalize this charming outdoor living and entertainment space.

Natural Design

This true showcase of our natural stonework displays what it feels and looks like to bring nature into a backyard to create an inviting and functional social space. The pre-existing slope of the yard was utilized to create a stairway around the back of the pond. A combination of flagstones, cobblestones and boulders was used to make these steps feel as though they naturally existed.

On another project, our team was presented with essentially a blank slate that originally had some onsite water concerns. We were charged with building a koi pond, beautifying its surroundings and constructing a pergola that would highlight a unique fire bowl. 

This project set out to bring the natural earthly elements of the environment into a pondscape. Mandell led the effort to design a landscape that created cohesiveness between the pre-existing landscape and the new construction by innovatively using flagstones, cobblestones and river stones throughout the project. A path was created from the existing patio to the new patio that surrounds the koi pond using large, 2-inch-thick flagstones dug into the lawn with a gravel foundation. To connect the spaces, the new patio included carefully arranged flagstones, and the gaps were filled with river stone locked with polymeric sand. 

The koi pond featured a dual waterfall that was integrated with the pre-existing slope of the landscape. By integrating the waterfall into the existing slope, multiple outdoor living spaces were naturally created through the use of boulders as sitting walls. In order to lead from the patio up to the decorative gravel overlook and allow access to the pond bridge stones, freeform, large, natural stone-slab steps with spaced-out gravel landings between them were incorporated. Finally, decorative natural-rock edging was utilized to enhance the separation between the patio and pond.

A combination of flagstones, cobblestones and boulders was used to make these steps feel as though they naturally existed. The space is tied together with a seating area underneath the pergola that features a unique fire bowl. This design display demonstrates how natural elements can enhance a space, making it serene, beautiful and practical.

We designed and constructed a 12-by-15-foot custom-built, live-edge wood pergola with four concrete footers and braces on top to enclose the flagstone patio and boulder sitting wall underneath. The patio was assembled using more tightly compacted flagstones with custom ½-inch joints, which helped us capture an aesthetic that highlighted the natural elements of this space. We included additional boulders behind the back portion of the firepit to create a retaining wall that would also double as another sitting wall. 

To highlight the entire area, a Belgium block border set in a concrete footer outlined the perimeter of the entire patio and allowed it to stand out in the lawn.

Landscaping and lighting that matched the aesthetic of the pergola and firepit were used to polish off this natural space. Topsoil, fertilizer, hardwood mulch and pine straw were used to ground the landscape in its natural environment, while Joe Pye weed and cardinal flower were used to add pops of color to the landscape. The planting bed was enlarged, and the plantings along the property line were upgraded, including two tall arborvitae trees to provide additional privacy. Thirteen low-voltage LED lights were embedded throughout the space to highlight the pergola and illuminate the steps and plants surrounding the pond. The specific lights used matched the aesthetic of both the pergola and the firepit, bringing this oasis to its completion. 

Blended Design

In an example of formal-meets-natural, we pioneered a major transformation for a spectacular formal entrance at a home in Kinnelon, New Jersey. The front door entryway of the home is extremely unique in that a bridge travels over a fishless pond in the front yard, which serves as a sort of moat. Windows with small balconies open to view the front-yard water feature. 

Integration of the boulders within the retaining wall, landscaping and water features brings natural elements into the home’s formal entrance.

The homeowner’s request was to integrate the pre-existing trees into the pond design, incorporate relaxing sounds of running water and keep the pond water clear. In addition, the homeowner wished to have a waterfall view from multiple angles of the home. Therefore, due to the specifics of this design, Tim Bock, our pond construction manager, collaborated with Mandell to use digital software to draft the design and layout.

Our main focus was utilizing the hardscaping to blend the formal elements of the home’s exterior while working with the natural elements of the pond and water feature. One of the design elements of the home that contributes to its elegance is the detail of the iron railings on the bridge and balconies. Our team always considers these details when designing a landscape, and here we focused on the hardscapes as a way to fuse both the formal and the natural style of the space. 

The retaining wall was built using a natural stone veneer with sporadic boulders and irregular flagstone coping. We wanted to be sure the hardscaping work complemented the natural water feature, so the same boulders that were used in the waterfall were also incorporated into the retaining wall.

The homeowner’s No. 1 request was to make this landscape something they could enjoy from multiple angles. So, in every spot we could find to put water, we added water. Although each view from the home allows access to a waterfall view, each viewpoint provides a slightly different experience. The view from the bridge highlights the backside stream, while the view from the balcony windows highlights the entire pond and double-waterfall feature. The view from the driveway and garages offers an entirely different perspective, highlighting the pre-existing trees as well as the front side stream. Large boulders were used throughout in order to channel the water in between and create multiple spills that connect both the front and back streams. We used the natural elevation of the property to embed streams and focus on the different sounds it would create. The running water highlighted in this feature immediately instills a calming essence to the home, giving it a true feeling of retreat. 

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In order to construct the water features, we needed to fiberglass the inside of the pond, especially since it is adjacent to the home. We painted the pond with a UV-resistant gel coat and connected the new water feature with the pre-existing plumbing and filtration systems.

When filling this fishless pond, the homeowner requested that we use chlorine to ensure no algae would grow, maintaining a clean, finished look at all times. 

>> Looking for more articles and content on best practices with pond construction, check out our Best Practices section!  

To finalize the space, grasses, shrubs, perennials and trees were carefully located to soften the rock work and beautify the surrounding water feature. LED lights were also installed to illuminate the spills, rock work and streams so that the feature could be enjoyed in the evenings as well. 

This project not only blends the natural elements of the environment with the formal entrance of the home, but it also blends the exterior with the interior, as the homeowner can enjoy the experience of this water feature throughout their home.

More Than Just Water

Whether formal, natural or a blend of both, these projects encapsulate how we at Fitz’s Fish Ponds are able to use hardscaping and landscaping to enhance our water features. Our teams work together to customize functional and beautiful backyard landscapes based on each client’s desires. We are proud to work on large-scale water features and hardscaping projects throughout the United States.

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