Helen and Derek inherited a beautiful 150-foot-long, formal-style rill and pool complex with their home in Somerset, England, which overlooks their formal terraced garden and out to the rolling hills beyond. With a belvedere to the side of this lower terrace overlooking the rill and view, they wanted to bring this water feature back to life as a safe haven for animals while retaining some of the formal styling appropriate to the architecture of their home.
A Natural Twist
With DU Waterscapes on site, I soon came up with an exciting idea of how they could bring a natural twist to this formal feature as well as add a natural filtration system aided with some products that would help combat the issues with blanket weed, all with minimal maintenance. By practically applying sciences from my master’s degree in freshwater habitat enhancement and restoration along with the technologies developed by Aquascape Inc. for their ecosystem ponds, we began to transform the defunct system into a uniquely formal and naturally managed system.
On a hot week in June 2020, our team at DU Waterscapes started work to bring this project to life. An oversized constructed wetland was created at the head of the rill to act as the kidneys of the system, cleaning and oxygenizing the water to keep the quality and clarity at their desired level — pristine! The water rises through the different layers of filtrations, each with a high surface area so that beneficial bacteria can thrive on the organic waste.
This oxygenated water keeps anaerobic bacteria, such as those that create blanket weed, to a minimum. Plants with high nitrogen-absorbing roots were planted to further enhance the clarity of the water while also creating perfect homes for bees and dragonflies. Large stones were used to channel the water through the wetland and down into the rill, which was newly lined with slabs each cut to size. We laid them the full length of the feature to hide any unsightly black liner.
The now crystal-clear water flows down the 50-foot rill channel and is pushed along by circulation jets so that the water stays aerated and clear through to the central pool, which is known as the Lily Pool. With specially made planting pockets, small waterlilies cover the surface in summer and create dappled shade below. This provides shelter for animals such as frogs, a resting place for damson flies and a heavenly scent as you journey over the central stepping stone to cross the garden.
The water continues its journey through the second stone-lined rill before entering the final pool. This once formal end has now become a wildlife haven with its rocky base and sloping sides creating the perfect habitat for frogs and newts. There are lots of nooks and crannies for animals to hide, rocks for birds to perch and drink and plantings for bugs to feed on.
Maintenance is easy, as there is a skimmer where all the water with any floating debris is pushed, making an easily accessible place to remove dead leaves and other organic matter before it sinks and rots. With the large debris removed, the water is pumped back up the length of the rill to the wetland, where it can return to be cleaned multiple times a day. Helen and Derek wanted this rill to be as low maintenance as possible, so they chose to also have an auto-doser and Ion-gen system installed. These two systems automatically add beneficial bacteria and copper ions to the water throughout the seasons to help keep any remaining blanket weed at bay and keep maintenance to a minimum throughout the year.
To bed this rill into the surrounding gardens, accent boulders were placed throughout the length of the water feature, increasing in number toward the ecosystem pond as it blends from formal to natural. DU Waterscapes also added a higher density of aquatic planting to enhance the visual aesthetic of the feature while adding further biodiversity to the side. We worked alongside the original scaled terrestrial planting plan, which had Dutch Iris grading in color from ice-white by the wetland to white-mauve before becoming solid purple and ending at the ecosystem pond with an almost black flower. Dan added a specimen white flowering Zantedeschia Aethiopica in the wetland to contrast with the new superb Iris louisiana ‘Black Gamecock’ in the ecosystem pond, with pinks and purples continuing down the length between.
Helen and Derek finally had the wildlife haven they wanted in this formal setting, which they can enjoy from both the house and the belvedere with minimal maintenance. They have joined DU Waterscapes’ Very Important Pond (VIP) Maintenance package, which ensures the filters and dosers are working at their best and gives it a deep drain down and clean every other year to help keep the water at the highest clarity possible.
The customer said it best. “Dan and his team came and completely refurbished a large rill and pond project in our garden. They were professional and knowledgeable throughout, and we have ended up with the most beautiful natural stream and pond system that we and our garden wildlife are just loving! Thank you, Dan and Matt, for all your hard work, advice and attention.”