Hawaii at Home

By Dave Burns

Published on March 1, 2015

We met our customers a few years ago at one of our pond tours. They were regular visitors to our retail location and were considering putting a koi pond in their backyard. They decided to attend our tour to see some of our past pond installs. It was two years, many more visits and three pond tours later before they decided to have us work on their project.

A Glimpse of Hawaii

Waterfall on natural pond.
Waterfall on natural pond. (Click to expand)

The customers live in a rural area and wanted to recreate a bit of the tropical look that they fell in love with on their honeymoon in Hawaii, but also keep the rural feel of their property. The property had plenty of pine and palm trees and a one-half-acre pond in front of the house, but not much else as far as landscaping goes.

They originally talked about installing a pond or water garden behind their house, but what they didn’t see was the potential to create something beautiful in their front yard with the existing natural pond. We suggested that, instead of adding a new pond, we install a waterfall on the natural pond that they could view and enjoy from their front porch. The pond and yard were a blank slate and they were very open to suggestions.

A Waterfall…and Much More

The idea grew into something much larger, with the installation of a waterfall that is roughly 5 feet high by 10 feet wide and a pond-free waterfall and stream with decorative spitters attached to the side of the larger waterfall facing their gazebo. In addition, we added two 1-horsepower lake fountains with lights. This phase of the project took about three weeks to complete.

Over the next several months we returned to add landscaping, a mortared flagstone pathway, a fire pit, a Trex deck/dock, dock lights, landscape lighting and a raised, stacked flagstone and liner basin for a 7-foot-tall brass bird fountain they had in storage.

Start with a Scrub

The pond itself was in need of a good cleanup, so we started there. We cleaned out the overgrown grasses and weeds and created a retaining wall around the inside perimeter of the pond to help hold back the soil. Natural ponds in our area fluctuate between being low during the dry season and overflowing during the rainy summer months. We used weed barrier and 65 tons of gravel and Ozark moss boulders about 3 feet high along the inside of the sloped edge of the pond and 15 tons of crimson rock around the outer edge, about 4 feet wide, as ground cover. Once the pond was cleaned up we installed two 1-horsepower lake fountains with colored lights to help circulate the pond.

Pond-free fountain overlooking the lake.
Pond-free fountain overlooking the lake. (Click to expand)

For the waterfall, the homeowners wanted something large but didn’t want to use large boulders or man-made rock, so they chose the Ozark moss fieldstone. If you are not familiar with Ozark moss rock, it actually has moss growing on it. When used for a water feature, the moisture helps the moss spread.

The tricky part was making sure that the pump intake would be deep enough and out far enough so that during the dry season, when the pond is low, the pump intake would still be underwater. We ran two EasyPro 30-inch intake filters, set up on cement blocks, out about 25 to 30 feet into the pond using 3-inch PVC pipe for the pump intakes. There were two external inline Sequence pumps installed on the waterfall—one 6,600 gph and one 7,800 gph. We decided that, due to the size, we would not use waterfall weirs. Instead, we ran PVC “T” runs with four outlets and valves on each outlet. The waterfall itself has several steps, with the main falls facing the front porch of the house and a smaller falls facing toward the future firepit area. Between the two falls is a planter for a small palm tree.

Contractor Corner WinnersAt the side of the waterfall we created a pond-free falls and stream, approximately 18 feet long. The stream faces a gazebo and the future deck area. The idea was that no matter where they sat—on the porch, in the gazebo, on the deck or by the firepit—they would see water movement. In the basin area of the pond-free feature we used Atlantic Water Gardens’ Ecoblox and a pump vault along with a Savio 31-inch waterfall weir at the top of the stream. The pump, an AWG 4,800 gph submersible pump, was T’d to the waterfall and a spitter in the basin area. There are several brass bird spitters in the waterfall and stream. These spitters have their own pump as well: an AWG 1,900 gph submersible pump that is placed in a pump vault in the natural pond. Several larger boulders were placed near and around the stream and waterfall to be used as seating.

We have not yet installed the original koi pond behind the customers’ house, but it is on their to-do list. This particular project is an example of how a backyard pond installer can incorporate natural pond work into his business.

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Design/Installation:Dave Burns, owner of Backyard Getaway

Contact Info:dave@backyardgetaway.net, 941/752-7663

Project Location: Myakka City, FL

Size: Waterfall on natural one-half-acre pond & Pond-Free Water Feature

Waterfall size: Approximately 5 feet high by 10 feet wide

Pond-Free Feature size: Approximately 2-3 feet wide by 18 feet long

Additional project details: Ozark moss boulders and gravel retaining wall and crimson stone ground cover around 1-acre pond; two 1-horsepower lake fountains with lights


  • Liner
  • 7,800 gph sequence pump
  • 6,600 gph sequence pump
  • Atlantic Water Gardens 4,800 gph pump
  • Atlantic Water Gardens 1,900 gph pump
  • Atlantic Water Gardens Ecoblox
  • 31-inch Savio waterfall weir
  • Two pump vaults
  • Two EasyPro intake filters
  • 3-inch PVC pipes and fittings for pond
  • 2-inch PVC pipes and fittings for pond-free water feature
  • IlluminFX fiber optic lighting (16 outlet)
  • Two 1-horsepower EasyPro lake fountains with light kits
  • Weed cloth
  • 65 tons of granite
  • 15 tons of crimson stone
  • 27,000 lbs. of Ozark moss rock
  • 2,400 lbs. of muddy creek river stone
  • 6,100 lbs. of large accent boulders (one-man and two-man size)

Completion time: Total completion was almost three weeks.

Crew size: Three

Project cost: $48,579



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