Water Features for a Cool Look and Feel
For the past few months I have been featuring a series of topics on designing your dream landscape. The month of June provides information on keeping cool with ponds and water features.
Landscape Water Features: Water features can have one of the greatest impacts on your landscape. They emit a very pleasing sound that offers timeless enjoyment. New technology makes it much easier to care for water features making them more popular than ever. Of course, in our desert, where we spend so much time out of doors, they add to the relaxing atmosphere of the landscape. Water usage is only through evaporation due to the recirculating pumps and the variety of types and styles are almost unlimited.
Good water features should be designed by creative designers and built by skillful craftsmen, otherwise they can look like a pile of rocks, not function properly and be costly to maintain. The size of the pump and the clarifier/sterilizer is extremely important. A few gallons more or less water makes a big difference in sound and functionality. It is always worth the money to have a knowledgeable designer that will result in long-lasting pleasure.
Pondless: The latest trend is pondless water features. They require less maintenance and have fewer problems with algae and insects. However, with new sterilizers, clarifiers and biological control there should not be algae or mosquito problems with any water feature. Pondless water features can be a waterfall running into a river rock area where the water disappears into a vault below ground and recirculates. When the pond is turned off, you will not see standing water. It is much safer with children but you still have the sound of running water when you want it. Another variety of pondless water feature is rock spires with water flowing out of the top. Yet another is created from a colorful ceramic pot with the water flowing over the top and into the vault below. You can also use garden art where water comes out of the feature and drops into the vault. Vaults are usually made of high-density rigid plastic with a dead space of 12 to 18 inches where the water sits. The vault is usually covered with a grate made of high-density plastic followed by a covering of geotextile fabric to keep the rock over the top from falling into the vault. River rock, decorative or colored rock is usually the final layer so it looks like water disappears into an underground river.
Water plants can be planted in a special basket so the roots hang in the water and foliage is above the grate in the river rock. Some water plants have beautiful blooms and make a pleasing addition.
Water Walls: Water walls can be designed as a water feature with or without a pond. Water is circulated up to the top of the wall and has a trough system where the water flows down a rock wall or a metate stone trough so water falls freely onto the river rock below. Water walls can be custom designed with natural stone, colorful tiles, stack stones or a variety of other concepts to accentuate your landscape.
Water Falls: Some of the most popular water features for years have been waterfalls of various sizes and designs. They usually start at a higher level so water cascades over boulders down to a pond at the bottom. They can have plants incorporated into the feature for a very natural look. Boulders could be a variety of colors or with a turquoise chrysocolla look. Even flagstone can be used for a variety of levels in the water. You can even create a walkway through or a seating area in the middle of the water feature.
Requirements: All water features need to have a pump, a skimmer or some type of filter, sterilizers or clarifiers and automatic water fill. All free-form ponds have a liner under them. Don’t ever use an inexpensive liner as it will not last. The liner should always be installed over a geotextile fabric to protect it from stones or rocks puncturing. Extras that can make them even more pleasing are water night lighting if it is a regular pond or out-of-water night lighting if it is pondless. All low-voltage lights need to be sealed when used around water. Also, an automatic timer or remote on/off switch to control the pump can be an added convenience feature. A pond water feature with fish needs to be a minimum depth of two feet, preferably deeper so the water doesn’t overheat and kill the fish. Fish also need cantilevered rocks to hide underneath to escape predators such as birds, cats and children.
Maintenance: Once a water feature is installed it is recommended to use a biological algaecide and microbes in the water to adjust the waste and complete the biological cycle.
Ready Made Fountains: If a custom fountain is out of the budget range there are many high-quality concrete and molded fountains to choose from for long-term pleasure. Some assembly may be required and they need access to a power and water source unless they will be hand filled. They do not have a clarifier and sterilizer and that can’t be added, as there is no place to house the apparatus. Most people add chlorine tablets to the water feature and clean periodically. Vinegar and water help to rid the salt deposits. Prefabricated water features can be put on a remote system or a timer so there is not long-standing, stagnant water. They come in various styles, textures, colors and various sounds of water. Listen to the water trickle to find one you enjoy the most.