2019 Water Artisans of the Year Results

Published on February 20, 2020

The secret is out — we love this time of year! Not only do we as a community start shaking off the frost and gearing up for the upcoming pond and water-gardening season, but we also get the privilege of bestowing accolades on the most noteworthy builds from the past year.

As you turn the following pages, the massively talented winners of the 2019 Water Artisans of the Year contest will wow you with their creativity and craftsmanship, and they could even inspire your next project. This year, four of the five winners join an elite club of two-time contest champs, with the fifth victor coming all the way from Denver — the westernmost project we’ve ever awarded.

Per the usual drill, we collected distinct project submissions in five categories and presented them to this year’s independent judging panel with no brand names or contractors’ identities revealed. This year’s Supreme Stream Court brought together decades of experience from diverse backgrounds, so each submission received consideration from multiple different perspectives (Meet the judges on pg. 21!).

Aqua UV
This year’s returning categories were most naturalistic, best pondless, best project under $15,000 and best hardscape combo. New this year, the “ponds revisited” category was dedicated to waterscapes from yesteryear that — like a fine wine — have aged beautifully over time.

We required a $25 fee with every submission, with all proceeds donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, an award-winning charity that provides cutting-edge treatment to children without requiring payment.


Winner — Bobby Kenyon | Best Pondless

Bobby Kenyon of C.E. Pontz Sons in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, won in the best under $15,000 category in 2018. C.E. Pontz Sons has some of the most creative and well trained employees in the landscape and outdoor living industries. When it comes to water features and outdoor living spaces, they pride themselves on being different, not your everyday, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter landscaper.

Can we get a witness?
Because we’ve never seen anything quite like this enormous, disappearing waterfall that now anchors this Pennsylvania home’s backyard. When you realize that this cascading scene was previously a drab flowerbed full of weeds, this waterscape appears all the more impressive.

The natural-looking, man-made arrangement of mossy boulders has truly transformed both the terrain of the property and advanced its sustainability. The intuitive design of the feature allows it to harvest rainwater from the low spots of the property that are hidden under the iconic driftwood found along the edge.

“No need to pull out the hose to fill it up,” Kenyon boasts, highlighting one of the many maintenance-friendly features of his custom creation.

Winner — Ely Ayala 
and Edwin 
Scott-Fortuna | Under 15k

Brothers Edwin and Ely of August Moon Designs have been building water features on Long Island since they were tall enough to reach the controls on a skid-steer. Together with their father, Demi Fortuna, they won the best renovation award in our inaugural 2017 contest.

This category serves as annual proof that it’s not required to haul in massive boulders or perform high-end, intricate landscaping in order for a water feature to be considered noteworthy.
This year’s shining example is this small but sleek moss rock waterfall that spills into a bird’s feeding and bathing paradise, handcrafted by the brothers at August Moon Designs.

Edwin and Ely started by lowering the existing grade to elevate the feature and make it fully visible from the homeowner’s window. A flattened stone to the left of the main falls receives its own separate flow to constantly refresh the shallow bathing area reserved for its many feathered visitors.

Lysimachia, iris and small grasses were planted around the perimeter, with a Lion’s Head Maple and Hinoki Cypress chosen for the backdrop — not too shabby for a water feature on a budget.

Winner — Shane Hemphill | Hardscapes Combo

Shane Hemphill is with Colorado-based Art of the Yard LLC, the 2018 Atlantic Professional Contractor of the Year. With over 50 years of combined experience serving metro Denver and beyond, Art of the Yard strives to provide customers with the best in quality and service. This is Art of the Yard’s first win in this contest.

When a customer presents very specific design criteria, the craftsman’s artistic license is often suppressed. But in rare cases when there is synergy between customer’s expectations and the contractor’s creative freedom, the results can be absolutely spectacular.

Such is the case here: a dedicated koi pond with clean lines and multiple levels, providing an ambiance of stately elegance in a formal setting. Shane Hemphill of Art of the Yard, the curator behind this blend between hardscape and waterscape, also designed an advanced filtration system that keeps this feature pristine on a perpetual basis. The surrounding hardscape motif is inspired by Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum, giving a nod to the late artist’s trademark abstract expressionism.
Water-wise with meaningfully placed flora, this masterpiece embodies western simplicity with a flair for the unconventional.

Winner — Tom Dieck | Ponds Revisted

Tom Dieck won in the best pondless category in 2018. He has more than 33 years of professional experience and serves as the owner and chief designer of TRD Designs and Aquascapes East. His background includes a degree in landscape development from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cobleskill. Active in the green industry field since 1980, Tom is a Master Certified Aquascape Contractor and a two-time lead designer for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”

Aqua UV
Historically, the focus of this contest has been to showcase new waterscape construction projects. This year, we decided to mix it up a little with a new category dedicated to ponds of old that have aged beautifully over time.

The inaugural winner in this category is this dynamic, integrated, hillside pondless waterfall system that was made over in 2005 by Tom Dieck of TRD Designs in New York. The history of this waterscape actually dates back to the 1980s when it was a concrete waterfall spilling into a simple pond.

Today, this bustling work of art integrates the rock that has existed in this landscape for centuries with an updated, handpicked vegetation selection to evoke an overwhelming aura of timelessness in this otherwise serene backyard.

“Knowing that the plantings around the water feature will ultimately determine how it blends into the hillside is something we take great pride in,” Dieck said.

Winner — Weston Zimmerman | Most Naturalistic

This is Weston Zimmerman’s second award in the Water Artisans of the Year contest. He and his team have been building water features for many years. Living in a rural area has allowed them the opportunity to grow up close to the outdoor world, and they still are drawn outside into nature for that inspiration. “There’s something fulfilling about doing your best to recreate what inspires you in nature.”

Sometimes the best projects materialize in the background while the spotlight is shining on something else.
Such was the case with this mystical pondless feature, which Tussey Landscaping’s Weston Zimmerman originally upsold while on a consult for a patio project. Today, the patio is almost an afterthought, as the homeowner says he can no longer imagine this space without this trickling trophy of a water feature.

The 10-foot stream is outfitted with perfectly selected driftwood and mossy boulders and flows at about 7,000 gallons per hour. The feature comes alive at night with calming accent lighting — so calming, in fact, that the homeowner often falls asleep while relaxing beside it and listening to the water.

“It has completely transformed the space way beyond any way he could have imagined,” Zimmerman said.

Japanese Koi Kodama

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