Cape Cod Home / Spring 2013 / Home, Garden & Design, Nature, People & Businesses
Writer: Cape Cod Life Publications / Photographer: Dan Dewey
How to add pizzazz to your landscape with a fish pond—or a pondless waterfall.
When homeowners think about improving their landscape, they often focus on how to make their lawn look better, or perhaps how to make their home look more appealing with new foundation plantings. We all know how a thick stand of new turf or a well-thought-out perennial garden can really improve the curb appeal of your property.
Adding a new bluestone patio or reclaimed granite walkway are additional ways to develop your landscape while providing both function and form. All of these landscape ideas can add a lot to a property’s aesthetic appeal as well as it is overall value.
However, adding a well-designed and properly constructed water feature can have an even greater impact on your landscape. A fish pond or a pondless waterfall can add an unmatched “wow” factor that provides enjoyment for friends and family for years to come while serving as a signature piece of your landscape.
A water feature such as a fish pond or pondless waterfall can be fantastic additions to your landscape. Of course, as is the case with any project that is undertaken around the house, a little planning goes a long way and can make the difference between being the talk of the neighborhood, or perhaps a time when you wish you had never heard the term “water feature.” Overall, a few considerations will ensure that your new water feature installation is a success.
First, the location of your water feature in your landscape is perhaps the most important step as you are planning your project. This may seem obvious, but it doesn’t matter how wonderful your fish pond looks if it unexpectedly interrupts the flow of water across your property, because suddenly not only do you have a pond in your back yard, you also have one in your basement. So siting your water feature relative to your home or any other structures—and the overall existing landscape conditions on your property—is imperative when determining the location of your feature.
Next up: determining exactly what kind of water feature you would like to incorporate into your landscape. Would you like to have a pond, and if so, do you want to have fish? Another consideration involves determining the layout of the water feature. Will the feature have a waterfall and stream that leads into a pond? Will it simply be a reflection pool with an aerating pump? Or perhaps there could be a waterfall that sends water cascading down a stream into a bed of gravel or stones? These are all important questions when choosing exactly what kind of water feature you would like to have in your landscape.
Your budget and whether or not you would like to have fish will ultimately effect the form and function that your water feature ends up taking. For example, say that more than anything, you have always wanted to open up your bedroom window on a warm summer’s eve to the sound of water gently falling downstream, playfully dancing its way between worn river rocks. Additionally, you have noticed a number of handsome Cooper Hawks that live in the woods behind your house and keep your family cat on his paws at all times. Of course, when your cat is not keeping an eye to the sky, he’s got his nose to the ground and claws at anything that moves—including the fish in your pond. Fish also make a tasty meal for hawks, herons, raccoons, and other predators. On Nantucket, for instance, blue herons have so decimated most fish ponds that homeowners have to cover the ponds at dusk with netting.
Finally, you simply want to be able to enjoy your water feature without having to spend lots of time on the Internet reading up on how to get rid of that monstrous algal bloom that seems to happen just before your Fourth of July neighborhood party. If some or all of this sounds like issues you may have in your yard, then a pondless waterfall may be exactly what you are looking for.
Pondless waterfalls are a great way to bring a water feature onto your property without incurring the potentially higher installation and maintenance costs associated with a fish pond. They are also extremely useful when you are working within a restricted space. In order to install a pondless waterfall, there are a handful of necessary components to ensure that your system functions properly.
The following is a simplified rendition of what can be used to install a water feature. A heavy duty, 45-millimeter EPDM liner should be used to retain the water. A pump is used at the low point of the water feature to circulate the water through piping back up to the high point. These locations are typically where filtration occurs.
Additional considerations include what kind of materials you would like to use for the rocking of the stream and basin as well as what kind of plants you would like to incorporate into your design. Have fun with this part of the process after you have gone over all of the necessary logistical components of building a water feature with your landscape designer. The most satisfying part of the installation can be in the details of exactly what plants go where and how the water will meander down the stream. When you can step back a few months after the project has been completed and say that it looks like a natural part of the landscape, you’ll know you have it right.
Many homeowners long to have a fish pond. Perhaps you have a few grandchildren who will absolutely love feeding the fish, and eventually, you discover that it becomes one of your family’s favorite daytime routines. Fish ponds can provide many of the same benefits as a pondless waterfall. However, they can end up requiring more of an investment to build and maintain. In addition to the items listed above, a greater attention to detail is required to maintain water quality.
Incorporating plants, using beneficial bacteria populations, and even utilizing ultraviolet lights to control pond algae are just a few possibilities that you may entertain to control the quality and clarity of the water in a fish pond. Depending on where you live and how deep the pond is, there may be building codes that require the construction of a fence surrounding the pond. If you understand the potential additional maintenance and expense that comes along with having a fish pond as you are planning your project, then you won’t be unpleasantly surprised down the road should problems arise. In the end, having a fish pond can be a magical attraction that provides loads of enjoyment for people of all ages.
When the time comes to figure out what you want to do next with your landscape, consider installing a water feature. It will provide you with the opportunity to create something that combines numerous aspects of landscape design and construction, all the while building something that can provide excitement one moment and tranquility the next.
Dan Dewey, a resident of West Barnstable, is the owner of Dewey Gardens, an organic landcare company specializing in design and installation services on Cape Cod. For more information, visit deweygardens.com.