Designing Water In The Landscape

Just because we are heading towards a general water shortage – local exceptional climates notwithstanding – throughout so much of the world, the possible impact of a water garden does not need to be ignored. In fact, once a water feature is up and running, the recirculating nature of them all means that the same water is used over and over again. Yes, depending on the location and the size and nature of the water feature, water can be lost to evaporation and need topping off. But I have lived in some beastly temperatures where I installed many of these and I can readily say the loss from evaporation is not substantial whatsoever.

Believe it or not, I often term these as alternatives to lawns.

Here is a look at a larger water feature we installed in the woods. Most of the pictures taken here were taken the day we finally finished the project. There was no hole to begin with – in fact, we felled large trees to make room for this pond and trucked off the roots. It was the same sort of forest it is now surrounded by when we began – we just claimed the territory for ourselves and the client’s pond. Note the creek of running water spilling inside from the small hill behind. This recirculated water and cleaned and oxygenated it by running over a long series of pebbles and stones in the creek.

(click all images to enlarge)

Here are a couple of different looks at the creek in the above picture. The intense shade of this project made many things possible – a larger body of water which would evaporate far less than one in the Sun allowed us to forget about the potentially nasty effects of algae as well. After all, the Sun is the primary grower of algae. It did imply some extra maintenance dealing with leaves and droppings from the local trees, but that was actually fairly easy. The main thing was how the water cleaned itself in our creek, receiving oxygen in quantities which disallowed too much algae. Honestly, in spire of the size – which was huge – this was a very straightforward project.

A bit closer up, about midway down the 50 foot creek:

Here is the look from back on the deck, looking out from the house towards our creek. The slate-like surface is actually what is called “Bluestone”, a gorgeous and richly-textured stone of more like a granite appearance. The wooden deck is visible from this perspective, and it leads out into the water at the end of this portion of the deck.

This view is from across the pond. Note the deck – it is suspended an inch above the almost always-placid water surface, made to look as close as it actually is. Later, lighting was added below the deck for an unreal but rich lighting experience at night for party-goers and just the enjoyment of the clients. It was hugely effective.

Yes, that is an island in the middle of our lake. That was easily the toughest part of the entire construction and on which caused me a sleepless night or two. Don’t do this at home! 😉

The bridge is the link between the home and the woods across the pond. The water on this side of the bridge was very shallow and represented an effort at creating a sort of swampland/wetlands area. We planted a few wetlands plants – sedges, a bamboo – inside later which grew at a fairly astronomical rate. Little did we know we had created the perfect wetlands. We had to return and thins it by about 80%!


Below may be my favorite perspective of all at this project. It takes advantage of the water’s placidity to offer some really fine reflections. I absolutely adored the mirror-like quality of the water.

Once again, we got very lucky in the finishing touches. The woods around us were rife with all sort of great things to put at the water’s edge, making this place look as if it had been there forever.

14 thoughts on “Designing Water In The Landscape

  1. I don’t know which post to comment on as I enjoyed them both so very much. The island in this pond is too funny. Now I have to ask, did you dig the entire hole then create the island by backfilling? Or did you dig around this island? I noticed the cute little trees in it. Why was it so hard to build?

    On the post below, that was a fun project for you! In 100 degree no less. It sure looks beautiful. I like all the rock but a bummer on trying to plant.

  2. Cris, I relocated from Reno to Portland, Oregon 2 years ago. I had lived in Portland prior, so the move was comfortable with lots of local contacts.

    By the way, your business looks very similar to the ones I have run. Lots of pavers.

  3. LOL, Tina. Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed them. We had always left the island pretty much where it was, but we found we had to add more material when the water rose. That – and that was plain dumb – was what I referred to, more than anything else. Really, once you lay out the liner, it’s easy to just cut the stuff to fit into the island. Yes, planting was bizarre………… needed a designated guy to “get wet” to finish it off. 😉

  4. One of my big water-saving discoveries was, in fact, the use of water plants. My water plants are on a much tinier scale, but I’ve found that I barely water them at all. Even in 100-degree-F summers, I might top them up every few weeks or so. Or even less often than that.

    This post adds whole new possibilities of scale. I love the idea of a water feature as a lawn substitute, that should be an easy sell to clients! and it was interesting to hear how you worked it out for algae and oxygenation and so forth. As for the island: isn’t there some law that says on every large project there will be something you do a little dumb and keep tripping over? I think it’s in a code book somewhere.

  5. Ms, Belvedere, water plants also oxygenate the water and reduce algae like nobody’s business. They are #2 on the clean water production scale – plus they look absolutely amazing.

    Nice to see you again! I am back in a sort of circulation after a hugely busy Summer. You can expect to see me bugging you more often at your incredibly informative site – which I love. I’m still ready for our Oregon grape collaboration sometime.

    Oh, and yes on the dumb events on projects. Then again, I have an inside track on dumbitutde at times, I am positive! 😉

  6. Hello there Steve : )
    Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving comments !
    I am in awe of this pond/creek project .. it is beautiful .. the reflective quality you pointed out is a wonderful feature for photgraphers to pick up on.
    When I win the lottery .. will you come and design this type of set up for me please ? 😉
    Truly gorgeous !

  7. *gasp* i love these photos. Especially the last one. Oh yes, and the one above that , and then the creek and … 😉
    Great project!

  8. Thank you for dropping by, too, Joy. Events have made browsing other blogs hard to come by for me, although it is a favorite pastime. I think I might be just a bit more freed up now to see what you guys are doing. I loved your blog and the “cottage style” designs you favor. If you dig a bit in this blog, you will see I am on that same page. I just tend to do it for other people.

    When you win the lottery, you will be delighted to know that I work for beer! 😉

  9. Sunita, one visit to your blog made me fall in love with Mumbai. Thanks for your visit – I’m glad you liked it. From you, that is high praise!

  10. Hey Steve,
    Your water gardens are so beautiful and serene. A great improvement over lawns! Once had a water feature in Lexington KY. Ordered tadpoles from Texas, FedEx ($40 shipping) and when they became frogs, they all went “courtin'” next door at a big lake. Oh well,
    You seem to know what you are doing. Keep it up! We’ve decided to stay in Zone 9, FL for awhile. I’m fighting with an armadillo right now for my flowers.
    Van Winkle

  11. Darn those armadillo’s, Linda! That’s funny. You realize I had to battle critters from the regions of Heck in Reno over precious flowers. Living in a desert and sprouting good eats like flowers and succulent herbs can make a jack rabbit love life. Of course, then he brings all the entourage – coyotes, deer, rabbit kin – the works!

    Linda is an artist who I grew up with, long ago. Check out her site. She and I know about frogs, lol. We shared a biology desk once. 😉

  12. Be sure to let me know when you win the lottery. I suspect beer may be much cheaper than a landscaper’s fees:)

  13. Tina, I am disappointed in your view of my beer consumption. I also have a large crew – and not in numbers, if you get my drift.

    You may have a point, though. I haven’t researched it that thoroughly just yet. This may require homework!

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