I’m ecstatic to be a contributor for POND Trade’s Contractor’s Corner and share some of my experience in the pond industry. Living in Austin, Texas, surrounded by natural springs and waterfalls has my company, Native Waterscapes, tuned in to building natural swimming pools, streams and ponds. The excitement and intensity of every project brings me back to all the fun I had playing in the creeks near my house as a child. This particular project is one of my favorites and largely the reason why I live where I do today. It’s an inspiration for every project we set out to do.
Hill Country Bliss
The Caldwell project started off small. I noticed Jerry and Karen admiring our ponds from my office window one Sunday, and I approached them. They were looking for wall fountains for the home they were building. I introduced our Native Waterscapes custom water feature business to them, even though we were closed. I ended up designing two fountains for their Hill Country home.
As I traveled to their property, crossing streams and low-water crossings in the Texas Hill Country, I felt at home. The initial visit went amazingly. Their Hill Country view was the perfect place for a natural water feature. The new home had plywood for the front door. For an artist, the yard area was a blank canvas. They asked what I thought about the space, and I exploded with ideas of streams, waterfalls, pools, ponds and hardscapes.
As the design grew and progressed into a signed contract, my wife and I were growing a family. Two babies were born on groundbreaking day my daughter Violet and the Caldwell project. With a baby and two little ones in grade school, the commute was difficult. In order to stay on track, we packed up and moved within five miles of the project, trading our city life for the Hill Country. As Violet grew, so did the project. The two wall fountains grew into a koi pond, streams, waterfalls, pool and rain harvest system, surrounded by Texas native landscaping and custom stone work. Jerry and Karen were excited to see the transformation and the endless possibilities that lay ahead.
Crafting Art from Rock
We started the project with a pool and cistern excavation. The entire pool, cistern, streams and ponds were jackhammered out of rock. The pool and cistern were shaped out of 300 yards of concrete, and the pond was done with 45-mil EPDM liner.
The pond was by far my favorite part of this project. The pond features a 60-by-12-foot waterlily section and a 70-by-80-foot section dedicated for koi. The pond is filtered by a large, wetland intake housing a 5-horsepower pump, feeding a 60-by-50-foot upflow vegetation bog. In addition, the pond has seven waterfalls operated by six Helix skimmers. As a custom pond and pool company, we were able to blend all aspects of this project into a seamless waterway.
The property has a flowing, natural stream created by ice-cold, spring-fed water. Jerry, Karen and I spent countless hours exploring the waterway. We watched how it cut the land, wrapped around boulders and meandered through the property. They told me that the waterway was the sole reason they purchased the property, and they wanted to duplicate it around their home. More than 250 tons of boulders harvested from the property were used to make the project come alive, recreating the natural flow of the stream they loved. This also added more sentimental value to the water feature.
The pool started off as a waterfall flowing into a 75-foot, lazy stream to accommodate lap swimming. The sides of the 6-foot-deep stream are overwhelmed by waterfalls and weeping boulders. The stream empties into a 40-by-60-by-7-foot, negative edge pool. Between the pool house and main house is a 150-foot stream that disappears beneath a bridge before the pool, appearing like it’s flowing into the pool. Behind the pool negative edge is the 95,000-gallon ecosystem pond. From the view of the house and patios, it appears that the pool is overflowing into the pond. Beside and beneath the pool house, we nestled in the 110,000-gallon, concrete cistern that captures all the rooftop water from the main house and the pool house. The recycled water is used for watering the landscape as well as replenishing the features.
A Mentor & a Masterpiece Are Born
During the project, the homeowner and I became friends. We spent a sizable amount of time sharing stories and creating an oasis around his home. Jerry has become a mentor in my life with solid advice backed up by years of experience in construction and company operations. He knew what quality was, and he received the best quality from Native Waterscapes. He was not one to give praise very often. I had to rely on my creativity and “they’re going to love this” attitude in order to deliver his ultimate, final product. My creativity was in overdrive.
On my daughter’s first birthday, we fired up the pool, pond and streams. The faces of the homeowners were all the praise I needed. Water was flowing from places they did not expect, and the look all of the interconnected features connected came to life. My crew and I spent the day adjusting falls and admiring our handy work. With the depth of all that we accomplished, this project gave Native Waterscapes the power and courage to build larger and more complex features.