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.
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.
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 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:
■ Padding & Liner
■ Underwater Lights
■ Tubing & Connections
■ Rocks & Gravel
■ Edge Treatments
■ 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.