Water Gardens add tranquility.Backyard BurbleWater Gardens Add Tranquility To Suburban Settings

By Erica Bailey

Sitting at home on your couch, you probably have seen at least one of those home improvement shows on TV. They tackle many different areas of the house, including the backyard. And one of the common elements to these backyard makeovers is the introduction of a water feature. Ranging from a simple fountain to a full-scale water garden, these aquatic elements can add a unique touch to your backyard.


A water garden offers something for everybody. For the nature lover, it can become an interesting mix of plant and wildlife that will enhance the view from your home. For the overworked and overscheduled, it provides a cool, inviting place where you can put up your feet and relax without having to leave home. The sound of trickling water also is very relaxing, said Jeanne Ireland, wife of Buz Ireland, who owns the local water-garden business Aquafeatures.

There are several different ways you can approach water gardening once you’ve decided to take the plunge. One option is to call in the professionals.

One of the biggest advantages to having a professionally installed water feature is time. After picking the location and accumulating all the material, the setup is quick.

“With an experienced crew, the type (of pond) we build we build in a day, a day and a half,” Buz Ireland said.

You can be sitting next to your pond in a blink of an eye – but there is a catch. Depending on the size and how many rocks you use, it can get expensive. With the increasing popularity in rock landscaping, prices are starting to get more reasonable – but even so, Ireland’s least expensive pond is about $3,000.

The Irelands said they sold their boat to build a water feature in their yard, and they feel it was worth it.

“I’ve gotten so much more enjoyment out of this pond,” Buz Ireland said, “and it’s cost me so much less money than that boat did. If your pond is in a location where you can see it out of your house, even (on) rainy, cold, windy, nasty days, you still have this beautiful thing out there functioning, and it just gives you a lot of enjoyment. At night, we can hear it through the bedroom window.”

Another advantage to going the professional route is that reputable contractors will stand by their work. If a problem develops because of a leak in a stream area or a waterfall; if the ground settles because of new dirt; or if, three or four months later, you start losing water, a professional can come back and make the tweaks and fixes. Some companies provide maintenance to regularly service the water feature.

A professional also will have resources for the right materials. Ireland orders his top-of-the-line pond kits online through Aquascape, one of the largest dealers in America.

“I actually buy mine in a kit form,” he said, “and it’s very beneficial because you get everything – all the plumbing hook-ups you need, pumps, the correct filters, the liner for the size pond you’re willing to put in, the underlayment, the underwater lights.”

And then there is the do-it-yourself approach. This tends to be more time-con-suming, since you have to do the legwork and spadework yourself, but there is an immense satisfaction for those who take the time to learn and build their own water feature.

Ireland started out as a do-it-yourselfer.

“I would build a pond,” he said, “and it would work for a little while, and then it would malfunction or I would have the wrong type of liner … I would learn from that and then I would go back to it again. It’s a lot of fun working around water, and if you love rocks too, it’s just a great benefit.”

Here’s Ireland’s advice to those intrepid do-it-yourselfers:

Do research.

“The water garden business in America is not real old,” Ireland said, “and there are a lot of books that were written that make me wonder how those things even work. I’ve seen them not work in the past, so if you find a reputable company, then you get your advice from them.”

Contact a professional to consult with.

A professional can help you select the proper location for your pond, the correct filtration system to use, and make sure you are getting the right equipment.

When looking for a place to put a pond in your yard, be aware of what is around it.

If it’s under a tree, you are going to have problems keeping the leaves out during certain times of the year. But in the summer, when it’s really hot, if it’s under a tree you have less of an algae issue because there isn’t as much sunshine to grow in. Semi-shade is the best mix because the water lilies still can bloom and you still will have enough shade to keep the water cool – something that keeps fish happy. If you have a pond in the full sun, you need to have enough plants to cover the surface of the water to give it some shade.

There are three types of liners.

The first are preformed tubs, which come in different shapes and usually are the cheapest option. However, they don’t have a very long life expectancy and tend to get brittle after four or five years. The second option is a flexible liner, which is easier to camouflage and can be shaped any way you want. The thicker the lining, the more durable it is and the less likely to puncture. The third option is a concrete liner, which is extremely tough, durable and long-lasting. This option is the most expensive and usually is used in more formal settings.

The right type of filtration system is important.

It’s very important to have lots of plants in the water, because they do a tremendous job filtering the water. If you don’t have the plants, the water will turn pea-green within a day or two. If your water does turn green with floating algae, resist the temptation to drain and refill it, because you are just putting in more nutrient-rich water. With a little effort, the plants and bacteria will work together and the pond will balance itself out.

Birds and other pest animals will be an issue.

The Irelands use a heron decoy that has been very beneficial – because herons don’t like company. Some people put a net over the top; even though it’s unattractive, it can save your fish, especially when a bird has honed in on your pond. Put it over there for a month or so and the bird will go away. “There are motion-activated water sprinklers where, if a bird does land or a animal comes over there, the water sprinkler will go on and scare them,” Ireland said. “But it can also get you if you forget to turn it off. There are some noisemakers that are activated with motion. I think that you need to use inexpensive fish so if something does get them, it’s part of nature’s ecosystem. If you have very expensive koi, then you would take every precaution possible.”

Remember: A pond is low maintenance, not no maintenance.

“Our skimmer has a net in it that collects floating debris, and this time of year (the spring), the oak tree is dumping a lot of pollen stuff. So every other day I empty that net, but it does a great job of catching the majority of it,” Ireland said. “As soon as that stops falling, once a week I can check the net and then dump it. Once every two weeks I add a little tablespoon of dry bacteria, and that takes care of that. Only once a year do I clean out the filter pads, because they actually grow bacteria also, (and) we do a major cleanout of the pond. But as a monthly thing, it doesn’t require a tremendous amount of upkeep.”

In addition to this advice, there are Web sites that offer assistance.

Aquascape, at aquascapedesigns.com , provides a 20-step, start-to-finish program. Its technical department will answer any questions, or if there is something faulty, it will immediately ship a replacement. The kits come with a DVD that shows people how to build a pond step-by-step.

“If you are going to do it yourself,” Jeanne Ireland said, “you’re really better getting the right stuff the first time, and then maintenance is lower and you will enjoy it a whole lot more.”

Once you have added you own water feature, the benefits are tremendous.

“So much of nature (and) habitats have been destroyed due to construction and new neighborhoods,” Buz Ireland said, “when you do put in a pond, you are creating a new ecosystem for the frogs and the birds and the butterflies. They need water and they’re attracted to it. You make your yard into a room for nature.”

And the end result is amazing. You can’t help but enjoy the sounds of cascading water while watching the fish lazily swim around. It’s your own personal ecosystem to enjoy for years to come.

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