This year’s submissions were presented blindly to a panel of seven industry experts to determine winners and runners-up in five categories (Best Pondless, Most Naturalistic, Best Under $15k, Ponds by Night, and Fountains & Formal Features).
In order to be considered eligible, projects must have been completed between Nov. 1, 2019 and Nov. 1, 2020. We were happy to accept multiple entries from the same contractor; however, each project could only be submitted in one category for consideration.Last year’s winners in the Best Hardscapes Combo (Shane Hemphill) and Most Naturalistic (Weston Zimmerman) categories agreed to forgo participating this year as contestants and instead gaveled up to lend their expertise alongside five other well-known builders, designers and business professionals from across the industry.
Shane Hemphill is co-owner of Art of the Yard based in Littleton, Colorado. He wowed last year’s judges with the iconic, artistic elements that blended together in his formal hardscape and waterscape feature. Hemphill has been building one-of-a-kind works of art for more than 20 years and was the recipient of the 2018 Atlantic Professional Contractor of the Year award.
Weston Zimmerman of Tussey Landscaping upsold a mystical pondless feature as an add-on to an existing project, and it ended up putting him over the top in last year’s contest. He has a passion for the creative aspect of building water features and credits living in rural Pennsylvania for his talent in naturalistic design.
Paul Holdeman is co-owner of the Pond Gnome, whose mission is to help replace natural oases that once played a huge role in providing healthy water for wildlife in the pre-urbanized Arizona desert. Holdeman and his wife, Barbi, were recipients of the 2019 Aquascape Conservationist of the Year award.
Frayne McAtee is the director of sales for distribution and commercial at OASE North America. He has more than 27 years of experience in the water feature and fountain industry with extensive knowledge in both operating small businesses and working within international corporations. McAtee is based in Seattle, Washington.
Gerard Touhey, owner of Waterfeatures by Gerard in Wilson, Pennsylvania, came to the United States from Ireland in 1998 with $400 in his pocket and started his first pond business. He became a Certified Aquascape Contractor in 2004 and has since built hundreds of ponds, becoming a household name in the pond industry.
Carolyn Weise of Ecological Laboratories in Cape Coral, Florida, is the author of ABC’s of Ponds, A Pond Primer and a frequent contributor to water gardening publications. She has held prominent roles in many industry organizations, including the Mid-Atlantic Koi Club, the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and the Southwest Florida Sportsman’s Association.