By Jennifer Foden
I recently interviewed three industry experts regarding trends, challenges and opportunities for ponds and water features.
Drew Snodgrass, vice president and designer, Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping
Rose Seeger, owner and president, Green City Resources
Richard Bellemo, owner and designer, RB Landscapes
Q: What are some trends for ponds and water features in 2016 and beyond?
Drew: Sound — to counter street or traffic noise — has been more frequently requested. You can utilize echo chambers to amplify sound. Also, these days, homes are closer together, with smaller lots, so space is at a premium. So small water features are a trend. Rock columns and boulders with water spilling into a rock bed, rather than a body of water, is often preferred for lower maintenance. Where water surface is preferred, skimmers with bio filters are recommended to collect surface debris before settling, while biologically controlling algae.
Rose: I think that the average person has such a busy life these days; they are looking for something that is low maintenance. They want the enjoyment of running water or water sounds when they are relaxing in their downtime, and this is where I think a “pondless” water feature fits right into their needs. They get the best of both worlds, the respite of water running, but no pond to clean.
Richard: Trends for ponds and water features moving into the future are for natural ponds and water features that are chemical-free and imitate nature. With technology saturating our lives, it is becoming more vital for people to be drawn outside and away from the buzz of the technical world. By creating wonderful outdoor spaces that allow for fun, relaxation and entertaining, as well as creating a haven for wildlife such as birds and frogs, it will be hard for people to want to go back inside.
Q: What challenges are associated to designing and constructing ponds and water features?
Drew: The first challenge is exciting the client with possible creative solutions, especially with water features. Solutions often must also satisfy neighbor concerns for noise created, or the homeowner’s association review for approval. Site topography will frequently determine the style of feature suggested, though site grades can be altered to allow more natural waterfalls, rather than freestanding solutions. The balance between overwhelming unwanted noise and allowing quiet conversation nearby requires careful consideration of where and how noise can be diminished and enhanced. Boulder placement, spillway orientation plus flow control of water volume are ways to remedy volume concerns.
Rose: There can be many challenges in any type of landscape, large or small: slope, narrow lots, tree canopy. Your client may want a water feature or a pond, but you cant seem to squeeze it into their space or have it make sense in their design. That’s why I think it is sometimes easier to fit in a pondless water feature, you only need a small area and your basin area is straight down. Also, it can seem like a less permanent landscape amenity if the client decides they don’t like it years down the road.
Richard: Challenges faced with designing ponds and water features include access issues and cost to the client. However if the water feature is designed properly, in conjunction with the client, you can work within any budget and on any scale. A water feature can be small and cost effective.
Q: Have you worked on any unique pond or water feature projects recently?
Drew: Each project I have worked on presented unique challenges to catch the client’s imagination. One of our projects — the Smith project’s — exterior water feature begins two feet inside the property line and flows directly toward the home. Low-voltage lighting reflects to the interior home rear wall while beautifully illuminating the falls. All drainage needs of grade flow toward the home were addressed. All spillway and water flow were oriented to a future remodel, now completed, with an interior water feature appearing to continue the waterfall into the home. Automatic refilling and protection from overflow are included.
Rose: Our latest water feature was on the roof of Macy’s corporate headquarters in downtown Cincinnati. The employee patio sits outside of the cafeteria on the eighth floor rooftop. It is a registered Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Waystation; and we also incorporated a garden for the employees and chef to grow their own vegetables and herbs. We needed a water source to go along with our wildlife habitat, so the pondless worked perfect — it has a self-contained basin with three bubbling boulders. It’s something the employees have really enjoyed.
Richard: I have been lucky enough to be able to design and construct many unique ponds and water features. These have all been designed to create a sense of calm and quiet, as well as be a feature in the garden for entertainment and fun. With the rise of pollution and habitat destruction, it is vital that gardens created work with nature and not against it. You can do this by using sustainable and reclaimed materials. Create an ecosystem that cleans the air and attracts native wildlife <dash> frogs, invertebrate, insects and small mammals back into our backyards. This can be done by creating chemical-free wetlands, ponds and water features; with plants as their filtration system.
One of our projects — the Dandenong Ranges project — created a series of ponds containing an integrated purification system, manifesting as a green wall and wetland. The water from the ponds cycles through the system, and is aerated by a series of waterfalls, which provide a fantastic visual and experiential spectacle. The waterfalls and ponds, in conjunction with the indigenous vegetation, create a haven for wildlife.
Q: What opportunities do you see for landscape professionals for ponds and water features?
Drew: Opportunity is immense, with many people wanting the aesthetic beauty of a water feature. Also, there are sites where a designer can see the value of a water feature, where a client may not, and you can sell from there. Many people have had bad experiences with maintaining older water features. So knowing the best, easy-maintenance way to install water features will remedy that. Plus, provide clear water without a need to empty the pond or muck it out. Knowledge is key, and knowing that installing water features correctly will be an introduction to much larger project possibilities, and very happy clients.
Rose: I see water features to be something easy to incorporate and sell to clients, as more people want to have a little oasis for their downtime. If you have been maintaining their property for a while, they will trust that you will help them keep it running properly. You also can use it as repeat business, turning it up in the spring or winterizing if needed. It fits into commercial or residential applications indoors and outdoors. And one of the best things, you can usually find training for free at your local irrigation supply companies, as they want you to sell their products. So getting them to help you is usually easy.
Richard: There are endless benefits to all with landscape ponds and water features. It can bring back biodiversity and wildlife to once-barren lands whether in a school or private garden. There are also the health benefits for adults and children who these days are often forced outside to get off their tablets and phones.
Jennifer Foden is a writer and editor based in Vancouver. www.jdfoden.wordpress.com
Above photo: Project by Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping. Photo by John Curtis.