Calming Waters

Calming Waters

The addition of a water feature brings a simple tranquility to any outdoor space. “The sound of flowing water and the beauty of flourishing aquatic plants, make ‘getting away from it all’ as simple as stepping outside,” says Larrisa Gleason, marketing manager for Beckett Corporation, manufacturer of water gardening products and garden accents.

Thanks to the growing popularity of outdoor living spaces, it’s easier than ever to find experts and products to help you create your ideal waterscapes. From creating a pond filled with koi fish to a pondless waterfall, there’s a never-ending stream of possibilities.

Look at locations

Photo courtesy of Firestone Specialty Products/Easy Pro Pond Products

Where you choose to place your water feature is key. “Pick a location close to your outdoor living area that doesn’t get runoff water,” says Dave Jones, executive director of the International Professional Pond Contractors Association (IPPCA) and owner of The Pond Professional. “Also, pick a location where the key points of the feature, such as the waterfalls or the main lily pool area, are visible from your main sitting areas in the house as well as outside.”

Begin your search for the perfect waterscape location by looking at the lay of the land—a natural depression near your outdoor living area may be the ideal spot. You also need to consider your water feature’s surroundings. “It’s a good idea to keep it away from large trees,” says Curt Nuenighoff, director of brand development for TetraPond. Invasive root systems can cause damage to the pond structure, and falling blossoms and leaves will litter the surface and decompose, affecting the quality of your water. 

In addition, Nuenighoff suggests a pond receive 5 to 6 hours of sunlight a day to ensure healthy plant growth without encouraging an excess of algae.

Last, but not least, ponder power. “An electricity supply should be available for running pumps, ultra-violet lights and other equipment,” he says.

Picking plants
Whether you choose a pond or a tabletop water garden, plants are key.  “Aquatic plants are beautiful and provide shade, which reduces algae growth,” Nuenighoff says. “They also act as natural filtration, which helps clean the water and keep oxygen at healthy levels.”

While there are many varieties of plants to choose from, it’s important to create a plan with the type of plants you want in mind. For example, oxygenating plants generally float on the surface and provide essential oxygen. “One bundle of oxygenators is recommended for every square foot of the pond’s surface area,” Nuenighoff says. 

Marginal plants grow best in shallow water around the edge of the pond and should be submerged to a depth of 10 inches, “to incorporate ‘shelves’ at different depths when planning and constructing,” he adds.

Water lilies have beautiful blossoms and large, floating leaves that provide cover for fish and protection from the sun. Nuenighoff suggests lilies be submerged at a depth of 18 inches.

To keep aquatic plants looking their best, regularly remove dead blossoms, leaves and stems, and keep the pond itself free of other debris. Last but not least, “never over populate a water garden with too many plants,” Gleason says.

Budget breakdown

Photo courtesy of Firestone Specialty Products/Easy Pro Pond Products

Building a budget comes down to the type of water feature you choose—you can spend under a $100 for a table fountain or thousands for a full-blown pond with all of the bells and whistles. When planning your project, it’s important to look at what you want, the materials required, installation cost and maintenance.

“To some people, their pond is priceless in therapeutic value to relieve stress and tension,” Jones says. “Monetarily, a well-designed and integrated water feature in a landscape will add 70 to 90 percent of the purchase price to an appraisal.”

When reselling a home, your ultimate return is dependent upon the buyer and their preference. “If a future buyer is into ponds as much as the current owner, chances are the initial investment will pay off,” says Nicholas Tamble, president of Lawn and Landscape Gardens Ltd. “However, some may look past the beauty and only dwell on the maintenance.”

The Pros Know
While there are many waterscapes you can create yourself, it’s important to evaluate your skill level, the amount of time versus what your time is worth, and what knowledge and tools will be required. 

If it’s a large project, requires a great deal of man power or expertise, or if it could cost you more to do it yourself rather than calling in an expert, it may be wise to call local pond contractors for both expert advice and project estimates.

“Ask your contractor lots of questions before you go forward,” Tamble suggests. It’s also important to be aware of basic facts before you start. “Know what your city ordinances are for the depth of such a pond and if you need to fence the structure.”

Oasis of Options

Selecting a water feature comes down to the amount of space you have, your budget, the maintenance you’re willing to do and the desired effect. Here are a few popular features to consider:

Water garden
Most pond experts say the difference between a pond and water garden is the focal point and aquatic life—water gardens typically focus on plants and can include accents such as waterfalls or fountains. Water gardens can be any size.

This water feature typically contains fish and requires more care than a water garden. You can choose any size, though many experts suggest it be at least 18 to 22 inches deep.

Pondless waterfall
Increasingly popular, pondless waterfalls can be created to fit any area but generally take up less space because the pond is actually underground.

Container water gardens
A great option for small areas, this feature can be created with a large container, pond liner, equipment and plants. Koi and goldfish are optional, but experts recommend inquiring about space and filtration needs.

From English to Grecian, tabletop to wall, you can find a fountain to fit your needs, including “green” solar-powered options.

Water Wisdom: Pond vs. Water Garden

“Water gardens contain plants and water flowers, fountains and sometimes a modest pump to keep the water clear. Ponds require a specific pump and filtration system to create a healthy, balanced ecosystem, depending on the type and amount of fish and size of the pond.”
—Curt Nuenighoff, TetraPond

Aquatic Advice

Grow aquatic plants in suitably sized fabric or plastic containers, which allow them to be easily moved during pond cleaning and makes rearranging the waterscape effortless.
—Curt Nuenighoff, TetraPond

Making Waterscapes Green

With so many conserving precious resources, such as water and electricity, is it possible to create a “green” water feature? “Of course,” says James Bologeorges, CEO of Smart Solar Inc. One way is to harness the power of the sun with solar-powered pumps, lighting, oxygenators and fountains.

“Our solutions are 100 percent wireless and power grid free, and all are powered by nature’s free resource—the sun!” Bologeorges says.
Jones says a green water feature is all about knowing your resources. “Manufacturers are starting to develop more energy-efficient pumps and filtration systems that don’t require an excessive amount of electricity or water to flush and clean them,” he says.

His organization, the IPPCA, is actively leading this trend with the implementation of its Resource Smart Contractor Program initiated last year. To find qualified contractors near you, visit or call the Pond Hobbyists Hotline at (866) 484-7722 7 days a week, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. ET.

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