Water Worlds

It’s time to plan your outdoor water features. From falls to swimming ponds, there’s a style for every space.

This fountain, designed by Christian Tauber of Old Country Gardens in Wilmington, is a great alternative to a backyard pond.As Barbara Corbett enjoys a quick break from working in the garden of her Newark home, she takes a moment to contemplate the most rewarding aspect of her backyard pond.

“The animals that it attracts are my favorite part,” Corbett says. “Ducks and birds like to play in the waterfall. I’m sitting here looking at two mallards. They come back every year.”

Corbett’s pond is a typical style. Surrounded by rocks and livened by a waterfall, it is home to several koi and goldfish. It has become a place for her to take a moment to rest and relax, though she prefers staying active in order to keep her garden beautiful.

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Whether interested in this classic type of backyard pond or a more unique water feature for the home, there are new trends in the water gardening world that work in any type of outdoor area and fit every desire—and now is the time to plan for spring.


Pondless Features

The water gardening world is going pondless. Pondless waterfalls are the recent rage, and for good reason—they supply the benefits of backyard ponds without the hassle.

“You can enjoy the sights and sounds of water landscaping without the maintenance of a pond,” says Jonny Nichols, owner of Jonny Nichols Landscape Maintenance Inc. in Dover.

Instead of having a waterfall flow into a larger pond, this feature simply re-circulates the water from the top of the stone structure to a small basin—similar to a fountain. It’s a great alternative to a backyard pond when space is limited or there are safety concerns.

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“If you have a child or are nervous about your pet falling in, then it’s a great feature,” says Mike McDonald, owner of Hockessin-based McDonald Lawn & Landscape Contractors.

The cost of pondless waterfalls average $4,000, but prices vary depending on their size and structure. Installation is easy. It takes only a day or two.


Container Water Gardens

Even without ideal space, water gardening is possible with containers.

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Container water gardens can be made from just about anything—from ceramic pots to old whiskey barrels—and can be placed anywhere there is enough room. Filled with plants and fish, the container becomes a miniature habitat, an upside to pondless waterfalls.

“Most people want a true living garden, even if it’s on a small scale,” says Peg Castorani, co-owner of Gateway Garden Center in Hockessin.

One of the most popular trends in water gardening, container gardening is a sign of the times, Castorani says. “Ponds are rather expensive. In this economy, people are interested in enjoying the benefits of water gardens without the economic leap.”

The price of container water gardens starts around $100, but according to Castorani, the sky is the limit.

Christian Tauber, manager of landscape design at Old Country Gardens in Wilmington, says container water gardens can transform patios, especially those of city residents. “By introducing water noise,” Tauber says, “you can cancel out some of the background city noise.”

In that way, a container water garden not only provides a beautiful touch to an outdoor area, but a chance to feel the effects of nature even in the heart of a city.

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Traditional Ponds

When it comes to water gardening, ponds are still the most popular choice. While installing a pond may seem like the mundane choice, there are a variety of ways to jazz one up.

John Passwaters, owner of Passwaters Landscaping in Bridgeville, says the design of a pond can be manipulated through landscaping, plantings and the lighting. The possibilities are endless, so a designer may be of help. “Usually ideas are up to us as the professionals,” Passwaters says.

If the usual design choices aren’t enough, the pond can be made unique with everything from fountains and statues to fog machines and fire features.

Such elements can be pricey, but a stunning look can still be made through a more economical route, such as floating candles or battery-operated floating lights. Transforming a plain pond into a backyard paradise requires only imagination.

“There are some different basic shapes,” Passwaters says. “But what makes them unique is what you do around them.”

As fun and exciting as the special features are, those are only the final touches. Ponds come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Nichols suggests establishing a budget to start.

Prices depend on size, but ponds usually average between $4,000 and $5,000. Rick Cordrey, owner of East Coast Garden Center in Millsboro, has created ponds that cost $16,000.

Though ponds can be an expensive choice for a backyard, they offer a complete experience, something the other water features don’t.

“Putting together the visual delight, the fragrance and the sound of the water moving is more fulfilling to all of your senses,” Castorani says.

Backyard ponds are so satisfying that they often change their owner’s daily habits. “Instead of coming home, pouring a glass of wine and watching the daily news, they pour their wine and sit by the pond,” Castorani says.

Ponds don’t require an intense installation. Average time is two or three days. They do require a bit of maintenance, which Tauber says isn’t for everyone. “A pond in the yard is a great thing for someone who likes to spend a little time to make it work.”

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Swimming Ponds

The future of backyard water features is more than just a feature. Natural swimming ponds provide a pond’s natural beauty and ecology and a pool’s fun swimming space.

This style, which has yet to hit the United States, offers a beautiful and functional space for a backyard.

Tauber says Europeans have embraced swimming ponds for years. With the nation’s current obsession with going green, he sees the trend hitting here soon.

“Something like this is really into the environmental movement,” he says. “Europe is a little ahead on environmental laws and awareness, and I am sure that we are getting there, too.”

The pond-pool is environmentally friendly because it creates a miniature ecosystem. It offers a space for plant life to flourish and small creatures to explore, unlike a traditional pool, which drastically alters the natural outdoor area.

The concept of the pond-pool can be a hard one to understand since it is out-of-the-ordinary.

“When you think pool you think tiles and crystal clear, blue water,” says Tauber. The natural swimming pond is quite different, and some might be turned off by the presence of living plants—even fish—in their swimming space.

What a natural swimming pond does offer is a beautiful area to swim, relax and enjoy the outdoors while giving back to the surrounding wildlife.

Having a pond and pool may seem contradictory, but as Tauber says, “Seeing it is believing it.”


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