Pond, Waterfall and ‘Floating Tea House’ Offer Window to the Pond World

Published on April 28, 2017

patio pond
Water disappears into a 4,000-gal. RainXchange, making this feature more self-sustaining.

We had a consultation with a family just outside Washington, D.C. Although they had lived in their beautiful home for more than eight years with no landscaping in their backyard, the time had finally come. They were ready to create a paradise by transforming their backyard into a beautiful, pond world. 

Why not a Pond?

The owner initially wanted a pondless waterfall; however, after talking with him during our preliminary meeting and noticing the large aquarium in his basement, I quickly realized that he had a love for fish. So naturally, I said, “Why not a pond?” Fast-forward to today, and they now have a beautiful, working ecosystem in their backyard that stretches approximately 50 feet long by 33 feet wide, including a 45-foot waterfall and stream as its centerpiece.

Aqua UV
 When we arrived on the job site, the first order of business was to coordinate with the hardscape contractor to construct a nearly 12-foot-tall boulder wall on the rear of the property to somewhat level the backyard. Then, we began the excavation of the large pond with a stream and waterfall. There was already a large slope for the waterfall area, so the majority of the excavated soil was used to backfill the retaining wall. A false bottom — an area at the finished depth of a pond for a Centipede to stretch toward the center — was installed to aid in filtration and cleaning.

The snorkel attached to the Centipede is at the edge of the pond, with a pump creating a downflow that amazingly facilitates the filtration of this water feature. Instead of a pond skimmer, we chose to install an infinity, or vanishing edge, which falls into a 4,000-gallon RainXchange system we added to capture rainwater falling from the roof. About 50 percent of the rain that falls on this roof is collected in this basin. This makes the system more self-sustaining and provides amazing filtration. A land bridge was built to allow access over the pond.

pond excavation bulldozer
Because of limited access, we had to start construction and the excavation of the 50-by-33 pond at the waterfall, installing boulders and gravel as we backed ourselves out of a corner.

We used all Aquascape components for this job: two Biofalls Filter 6000s, one spillway to provide the illusion of a spring appearing out of the ground, and one wetland bog filter to aid in filtration. A snorkel and Centipede provide the housing for one 9-PL pump and one 10,000-gph pump, and the false-bottom snorkel is the housing for an AquaSurge 4000 pump.

The Floating Tea House

The homeowner wanted to be able to entertain not just at the pond’s edge, but literally over the water. So, we worked closely with another contractor to prep the area for the installation of a tea house with a glass window in the floor. We took the responsibility of placing concrete pylons on top of the pond liner with layers of rock pad, so the liner would remain unharmed. This would allow the contractor of the tea house to place its floor approximately 1 inch above the surface of the water. The concrete pylons were camouflaged by boulders, driftwood and aquatic plants to maintain the natural look in the pond.

The tea house was designed so that as the koi swim underneath it, they can be viewed and enjoyed from above. It is a beautiful place to unwind, relax, entertain and have community.

A Few Challenges

Our biggest challenge involved working and coordinating with the subcontractors. We are used to being the only company on-site, but we were not just installing a pond in this backyard. We had a completely blank canvas that would soon be the home of a thriving ecosystem, patios, a hot tub, a “floating tea house” and a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials. So it goes without saying that it was extremely difficult to coordinate among the mason company, carpenter, electrician, irrigator and the landscaper, while also constantly communicating with the homeowner to keep them abreast of the details and all the progress.

pond waterfall lights
Lights are a must in every water feature. It’s like having two ponds in one — a daytime and a nighttime feature.

Other challenges that go along with large projects include estimating materials and labor hours and trying to coordinate around weather. You can very easily underestimate tons of boulders, gravel and time if you aren’t careful. Always check and double-check all your calculations. I also suggest finding someone you trust in your network of trusted pond contractors and consult with them. They will be happy to help.

Overall, the project went smoothly. It is a true oasis and a project that Virginia Water Gardens was proud to be a part of.

Pond is Life

I truly believe that what we do changes lives and lifestyles. Children from ages 3 to 83 can get lost in gazing at fish swimming or frogs sunning on a boulder 100 times their size. How about watching a dragonfly lay eggs on a lily pad or discovering that while you were away, an endless stream of frog eggs appeared in your pond? I could go on and on about the beauty of a water feature and how it touches your senses. But what about all those conversations that take place by the pond in an Adirondack chair or on a boulder, dangling your feet in the water? Where did those conversations happen before the pond… or did they even happen at all?

With the addition of a pond, a husband and wife can now have a cup of coffee or glass of wine pondside with a side of conversation, instead of sitting in front of the TV. Maybe the family can spend more time outside feeding the fish. Maybe exploring by the pond and learning more about nature could become their new favorite pastime. My daughter could have taught a class on the ecosystem in the fourth grade! Ponds change the way you live life in your home.

pond tea house backyard
We transformed a barren backyard into a beautiful oasis. Even the neighbors have a better view now!

Sure, we’re in the pond business; however, after serving in the Marine Corps and running a landscape maintenance business, I have realized that what we do every day is more than digging holes and strapping rocks. Yes, we are artists, and we love what we do. We are passionate about our craft. However, we can build a beautiful pond and waterfall that may soon serve as a safe place for children to have a conversation with their parents, a sanctuary for a husband and wife to reconnect, or just a great place to hang out with friends. #Charge

Japanese Koi Kodama

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