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Water Garden Dreams

So, spring is here and you have recently found yourself out in the backyard dreaming of possible landscape improvement projects.  Maybe this year you should do a little rejuvenational landscaping?  Or, maybe you just moved in and don’t even have a yard yet?  Either way, if you are like a lot of people, spring is the time of the year when your thoughts turn to improving your backyard living space.  There are many options open to a homeowner with landscape needs, but before you decide to invest in shrubs, flowers and brickwork, why don’t you take time to consider the ever-growing natural water garden industry?

Before you get too far into planning your yard project, go out into the backyard with a cool drink in your hand, sit back, relax, close your eyes and let me take you on a journey of the senses through your new backyard getaway.  Now that you are relaxed with your eyes closed, tell me, what do you hear in your yard right now?  Maybe you hear traffic, maybe you hear birds, or maybe you hear children playing and the neighbor cutting his lawn.  Let’s assume for a moment that you took the plunge and had a water garden installed in your backyard.  Maybe you did it yourself or maybe you had it professionally installed, it doesn’t really matter, lets just assume you have one, and that you are seated next to it in your favorite lawn chair with that cool refreshing drink.    Now consider for a moment what this yard may sound like with your new water garden.  You could still hear the children laughing and playing and you could still hear the birds chirping.  As a matter of fact, you would probably hear more birds as the new water garden will attract many wonderful birds to your backyard.  The varying high and low babbling and gurgling sounds of the water twisting, turning and crashing between and into the rocks creates a steady, soothing sound that has now drowned out the sound of the traffic going by.  As a matter of fact, you can barely hear the neighbor and his lawnmower.  It’s not that the sounds of your stream and waterfalls are so loud, but that the sounds are so pleasing and soothing that you just naturally focus on all of these new pleasant sounds and you don’t even notice the other more disturbing or disruptive sounds. Wait, was that the sound of a frog jumping into the pond or was that one of your beautiful Koi coming to the surface to grab a bite to eat?  O.K., keep listening to the waterfall and we will continue on our journey.  Take a deep breath, what do you smell?  I’m sure that you can smell the blooms of the marsh marigold, the water iris and the water-lily mixed with the cool moist smells of the water itself as it humidifies the air around your pond.  Now, kick off your shoes and lower your feet down into the water to see how that feels.  Wow, who would have guessed that soaking your feet in the cool clear running water would be so refreshing?  You can probably picture yourself out here soaking your feet every night after work.  What a stress reliever!  Now, imagine looking out over your water garden, what do you see?  Can you picture the smooth flowing lines of your water garden twisting and turning between the natural granite boulders?  Notice how some of the plants gently hang down onto the surface of the water.  Look over to the other side of your pond and notice how beautiful it is where the water cascades over that final rock of the stream and down into the pond with a gentle sparkle and splash.  Notice how soft and gentle the whole water garden is and how gracefully it fits into your yard and blends itself into your existing plants.  Wow, does the water sparkle and shine in the sunlight.  Some areas are calm and clear and you can see your fish casually swimming between the water-lily stems.  Other areas are rippling with life where a frog just left his perch on that sunny rock or maybe where the waterfall drops down into the pond.  Wait, look deeper, down near the bottom, you can see that newest fish that you just released into the pond.  He’s still not too sure about his new home, so he’ll hang out down by the entrance to your fish cave until he figures out how safe and peaceful this place is, soon he’ll be nibbling algae off of the rocks like the rest of his fishy friends.  Look up into the stream; did you happen to notice that birds are lined up waiting to splash and play in your stream?  They sure enjoy the cool running water a lot more than that stagnant old bird bath.  If we had more time we could explore the entire pond and find the many different water bugs and frogs that are living in this beautiful natural ecosystem.  But for now we’ll leave those explorations to the ever curious children that will surely be knocking on your door to ask if they can play in or near your kid safe, two foot deep pond.  What an interesting and captivating science experiment this could be.  The summer will be filled with new discoveries and explorations.  Let’s see, what have we left out?  Ah yes, the sense of taste.  Well, I’m not going to tell you to taste your pond, so may I suggest a sip of that cool drink that you brought out here when we started this dream.  Sweet summer ponderings, I hope you get everything that you have dreamed of.

Now that we are done dreaming, let’s get back to reality.  Water gardens are quickly becoming the most “bang for your buck” landscape enhancement nationwide.  There is no other landscape project that will make as much of an impact on your yard as a water garden.  Adding a water garden is like grabbing your very own little piece of Mother Nature’s abundant ecosystem and installing it in your own backyard.  In 2002, USA Today reported that water features/ponds were tied with decks as the landscape enhancement that homeowners most desired.  The beauty and nature of the water garden excites all of our senses, and apparently also excites many home appraisers.  I have had clients tell me about considerable increases in home value after their water garden installations were complete.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like flower beds, shrubs, trees, patios and grass as much as the next guy, but none of them compare to the life and beauty of a water garden.  Your new water garden will bring a bit of paradise into your life.  All of those other landscape improvements are fine, as long as they are installed surrounding a thriving water garden.

Today’s water gardens are nothing like the ponds of the old days, these new water gardens are fully functioning natural ecosystems that require very little maintenance and no chemicals.  There are several key elements that must be incorporated into every water garden, large or small, if you want clear water and low maintenance.  These elements are water circulation, aeration, plants, fish, gravel and some type of filtration.  Typically the circulation, aeration and filtration will all be taken care of through the use of a skimmer and biofalls.  The skimmer helps to keep the pond clean by skimming debris off of the surface and it also filters and houses the pump.  The pump will pump the water through the biofalls which will further filter the water and will also provide an area for helpful, water clarifying bacteria and enzymes to collect.  Usually the biofalls is the starting point for a stream and waterfall.  The water will be naturally aerated as it flows over the waterfall.  It is important to have small diameter gravel on the bottom of the pond, as this will provide plenty of surface area for more bacteria and enzymes to collect, which will help breakdown any debris that makes it to the bottom of your pond.  Plants are also an important part of any water garden.  The plants not only beautify the garden, but they also compete with the algae for the available nutrients and help to shade parts of the water, both of which help to control algae growth.  Last but certainly not least are the fish.  Most water garden owners will put Koi or goldfish into their ponds.  These fish are well suited for water gardens.  They are very brightly colored so that you can see and enjoy them and they will help keep the pond clean by feeding on the algae that will grow on the rocks.  The fish need very little attention, they will stay over winter in a two foot deep pond that is aerated and they really don’t need to be fed.  Hungry fish make for a clean pond.

When you have finally made up your mind that you can’t go another summer without a water garden, you have two choices.  You can do it yourself, or you can hire a professional to install your pond.  If you are the do-it yourself type of person, there are many different kits available for you to create your own paradise.  Be sure to do your homework and find a complete kit that includes a skimmer, biofalls, fish safe rubber, a pump and all the other parts that are needed.  You don’t want to be making it up as you go along using many different parts from many different suppliers.  Choose a company that provides everything that you need and that will stand behind their products with a good warranty.  Next you’ll want to invite a few of your strongest friends and relatives over to help with the digging process.  Digging the hole for your water garden will be the hardest, most backbreaking part of the job.  If you decide to hire a professional, don’t be afraid to ask for references and certifications.  The top quality water garden manufacturers certify their best installers.  A certified installer will be well-trained and educated in the water garden industry and will be able to specify and install the perfect low maintenance system for your backyard.  These are the people you want installing your water garden.  When you are interviewing your potential pond installer, don’t be afraid to ask to see their pond and some of the water gardens that they have installed for clients.  If they do a nice job and have happy clients, they will have a long list of ponds that they can take you to see.  Again, ask about warranty and maintenance services.  The time and energy that you invest now to make educated decisions and to choose the right system installed by an experienced, customer oriented pond installer will more than pay for itself in the future with the hassle free beauty and simplicity of your new water garden.  Believe me, once you have lived a summer with your new water garden, you will wonder how you went so many years without one.  Enjoy life, live every day to its fullest and keep on smiling.

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