Respecting Life Through Waterscapes

Revealing the genius loci

cash_french_1 French’s Waterscapes is a boutique water
garden company, creating water features
designed to transform any landscape into
a magical gathering place or a Zen retreat. With
25-plus years of experience and a passion for creating
paradise, we custom-design every waterfall,
stream and pond to capture the inner hearts of our
clients — blowing away the highest of expectations.
The intent of our water gardens is to create
balance and flow, putting together the yin and yang
of the movement of water and the stability of rock.
By assembling pieces of nature, we create escapes —
not traditional fountains.

The Project

Bob Squeri wanted to update the existing water
feature that I installed over 10 years ago. His primary goal was
to make the pond visible from the house. I sketched out an idea
and created a quote that was less than inspiring for both of us.
We spoke some more, and then I asked about his story.
Squeri’s property in San Francisco includes a retaining
wall built by his father. Bob wanted to transform his property
in a way that would bring peace and inspiration for generations
to come.

And that is when I created “The Vision.”
At the top, I saw the past generations of Squeris represented
by the headwaters. A waterfall over the wall his dad built would
symbolize the constant flow of advice and inspiration his dad
provided. The water would then flow into a stream of current
generations and gather in the pond at the deck. Finally, the
overflow of this pond would honor future generations.
Once I shared my vision, Bob was fully onboard with
the project.

To be more inclusive of his extended family, Bob decided
to name the stream Irish Spring after his son-in-law, “The
Irishman.” He also dubbed the pond “The Gulf of Squeen”
as a nod to a joke between him and his daughter.

You never know what you'll find around the corner of one of French’s Waterscapes’ creations.
You never know what you’ll find around the corner of one of French’s Waterscapes’ creations.

The Construction

The first step of construction turned out to be completely
removing all the rocks from the original pond and filling it
with the soil removed for the new one. After bringing in all
new rocks, through very limited access, we built the water
garden in reverse — starting at the headwaters and working
back toward the house, creating the new pond last.

Expanding on the Squeri property’s existing water feature
is an ideal example of why I do what I do (and how I do it). I
love connecting with nature. I love working with people who
also enjoy that connection. I really love capturing people’s
thoughts and interests, translating them through my creative
intuition into a vision and living story representing what’s
important to them. I love that my clients gain a living,
flowing, fluid art piece that provides a personal, and deeply
meaningful, watery sanctuary.

The French’s Waterscapes Difference

With more than 25 years working in landscaping and
water features, my goal is to create water gardens that offer
both the “WOW!” effect when looking at the whole and the
little details that provide extra depth to the project.

For example, at the base of the waterfall at the Squeri site,
I placed a small stone statue Bob had of an ancient Chinese
warrior. Standing just nine inches tall, this statue gives the
waterfall a sense of size — as well as acting as guardian.
After growing up on a sailboat, I love travel and believe that
stepping into your backyard can be as much of an adventure as
stepping into a foreign country. With the Squeri property, we
travel through time. Others want to walk through a rainforest
or desert oasis. Some want a glimpse of Bali, some the sound
of the babbling brook near their childhood home. Without
doing too much, or too little, I push the artistic limits to construct features people can escape to and
interact with. Bob Squeri becomes a part of
his waterscape whenever he sits at the edge
of his deck and dangles his feet in the pond.

Features created by French’s
Waterscapes feel as if they came first and
their surroundings second. I avoid the
manufactured look by pulling my designs
from nature; I very consciously include
the Golden Ratio in all my plans to help
achieve just the right look. Additionally,
I design to integrate with and respect the
existing surroundings.

I chose to work with water because,
of all of the aspects of landscape architecture,
only water — with its varying
sounds — has personality that speaks to
me. I especially enjoy the day and night
differences that exist within a single waterscape.
During the day, the Squeri property
has a playful feel to it. The statuary is more
prominent, displaying the humor of the
scene. However, as the sun sets and the
underwater lights come on, the environment
becomes more romantic. The flowers
begin to take center stage and the water
becomes deeper.

Although I have done projects across the
country and around the world, I predominantly
work in the San Francisco Bay Area,
where drought is a serious concern. With
the proper use of pumps, subtlety and illusion,
I am able to create “large” features
that actually demand very few resources.
As an example, by having the deck slightly
overlap “The Gulf of Squeen,” I created the
illusion that the pond is twice the size.
In addition to creating drought-friendly
water features, I also construct rainwater
harvesting systems to help clients reduce
their environmental footprint.

The wisdom of the ages inspires the current generation. Without the relationship I built with Bob Squeri, I could not have envisioned this water garden and Bob would still have a pond he could not see from inside his house.
The wisdom of the ages inspires the current generation. Without the relationship I built with Bob Squeri, I could not have envisioned this water garden and Bob would still have a pond he could not see from inside his house.

The Design Process

After an initial phone call that allows
both parties to decide if we might be a good
fit, I like to meet with potential clients in
person. During that meeting, I learn all I can
about the person (or people): their interests,
their dreams, their story. After that, I leave
to create my vision. My goal is to present a
great story — and I do that in whatever way
works best for the situation. Once we have a
signed contract, construction generally takes
between one and three weeks.

Construction time really depends on
the individual project. Size, obviously,
significantly influences the duration. With
projects ranging from two square feet to
80 by 120 feet (with a 25-foot island in
the middle), I can complete, from start to
finish, five features in a week or take two
months to complete one.

Regardless of size, there are nine layers
to every new project:

  • Grading
  • Padding & Liner
  • Underwater Lights
  • Tubing & Connections
  • Rocks & Gravel
  • Edge Treatments
  • Water
  • Water Plants
  • Balancing Treatment
  • Building a waterscape is
    similar to building a relationship;
    every step is critical. By
    using the highest quality materials
    and building those layers
    in the proper order, I create
    solid waterscapes — and solid
    relationships.

    Roughly 80 percent of
    my work is repairing poorly
    built or improperly maintained
    features. Because not
    all waterscapes are created
    equal, every one of my designs
    includes twice-yearly maintenance.
    Each service visit
    includes saving fish, power-washing
    rocks, dividing plants
    to prevent them from getting
    root-bound, adjusting lighting,
    cleaning the mechanical
    and biological filtration
    systems and saving their existing
    water whenever applicable.

    In the End

    We all know that a properly
    built and maintained
    water feature adds value to a
    property and provides peace
    to individuals. However,
    my passion for my creations
    begins with the relationships I
    build with my clients, grows as
    I translate their dreams, buds
    with the construction of living
    art and explodes when I reveal
    the finished product. I strive to
    create genius loci — spirit of
    place — for every home, property
    and community I work
    in.

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