WaterShapes

The web site for all professionals and consumers who've made or want to make water a part of their lives

Keeping Clean

For the past 35 years, Patrick Simmsgeiger has maintained scores of ponds and lakes throughout southern California and says that every single one of them seems to have a mind of its own.  As a result, he advises those who design and build these watershapes to learn the general approaches to making the water manageable and trouble-free – but also to pay even closer attention to each vessel’s specific character and situation.
For the past 35 years, Patrick Simmsgeiger has maintained scores of ponds and lakes throughout southern California and says that every single one of them seems to have a mind of its own. As a result, he advises those who design and build these watershapes to learn the general approaches to making the water manageable and trouble-free – but also to pay even closer attention to each vessel’s specific character and situation.
By Patrick Simmsgeiger

If there’s one thing all ponds and lakes have in common (beyond the obvious fact that they all contain water), it’s that they’re as different as snowflakes – highly idiosyncratic, often challenging and sometimes almost willful in the way they resist being manipulated.

For the past 35 years, we at Diversified Waterscapes (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) have just about seen it all as specialists in maintaining man-made ponds and lakes and in remediating those that have fallen on hard times and suffer with severe problems.  We’ve found that every situation is different and that figuring out what’s going on involves the evaluation of countless variables – some obvious and easy to read, others less so.

For all that, our experience tells us that the serviceability and sustainability of ponds and lakes is for the most part determined long before we come on the scene – even before they are filled with water.  When they’ve been designed and installed with a few key principles in mind, we find them to be cooperative and affordably manageable.  If a few of the more common mistakes are made, however, it’s a completely different and far nastier

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A Window Into Nature

By Jon Mitovich

11-7 mitovich essentialTake the world’s most prolific consumer technology company on one hand and, on the other, its desire to augment its corporate headquarters with a natural exterior environment intended to capture geological processes that span millions of years: It’s a collision of

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Softening Edges

By Steve Sandalis

10-24 Sandalis essential artWe recently completed a project that truly thrilled a pair of well-traveled, highly educated clients: It was a large, complex waterfall-and-pond composition in the sloping backyard of an upscale home in an affluent southern California neighborhood.

There were a number of reasons why the project worked so well, but if I had to break it down to one thing more than any other, it had to do with the range of edge treatments we used within the available space.

On the side nearest the house, we established a clean lawn-meets-water detail – very disciplined in appearance and obviously man-made. Directly across the pond was a set of rugged waterfalls – much wilder and basically untamed. Bracketing those features, we filled shallow areas with [more]

The Calming Magic of Waterfalls

WaterfallGalleryVideos: To watch videos of four of the world’s most famous, most beautiful waterfalls — with all the stunning images accompanied by music — click on the links

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Earthbound Endeavors

Devising watershapes that appear as though nature made them, says Anthony Archer Wills, requires both careful planning and expert execution – especially when the project is on a grand scale, as is the case with the one covered here.  In this, his second article on a huge pond/stream/waterfall complex, he details the painstaking process he pursued in building a system that is nearly 800 feet long and includes caves and other intricate custom details.
Devising watershapes that appear as though nature made them, says Anthony Archer Wills, requires both careful planning and expert execution – especially when the project is on a grand scale, as is the case with the one covered here. In this, his second article on a huge pond/stream/waterfall complex, he details the painstaking process he pursued in building a system that is nearly 800 feet long and includes caves and other intricate custom details.
By Anthony Archer Wills

Devising watershapes that appear as though nature made them, says Anthony Archer Wills, requires both careful planning and expert execution – especially when the project is on a grand scale, as is the case with the one covered here.  In this, his second article on a huge pond/stream/waterfall complex, he details the painstaking process he pursued in building a system that is nearly 800 feet long and includes caves and other intricate custom details.  

Last month, we began our discussion of a large pond, stream and waterfall system for a historic upper Midwest estate found on the forested shore of a scenic lake.  As related there, the project was to include three major ponds and a series of complex waterfall structures connected by streams rising close to the top of the

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Historic Perspectives

When watershaper and landscape artist Anthony Archer Wills was asked to develop a pond/stream system for this historic Wisconsin estate, he saw an opportunity to redefine the scene to befit the grand and glorious setting.  Here, in the first of three features on this project, he describes the early stages of his work and a design meant to bring beautiful views and wonderful sounds to spaces dedicated both to children at play and adult delight.
When watershaper and landscape artist Anthony Archer Wills was asked to develop a pond/stream system for this historic Wisconsin estate, he saw an opportunity to redefine the scene to befit the grand and glorious setting. Here, in the first of three features on this project, he describes the early stages of his work and a design meant to bring beautiful views and wonderful sounds to spaces dedicated both to children at play and adult delight.
By Anthony Archer Wills

There’s something truly wonderful about working on properties that are in one way or another historic:  In a very real sense, they give you a rare opportunity to participate in the past while at the same time you are conceiving and forming a place for the future.

This project is a case in point:  My endeavors here gave me the chance to beautify a truly splendid 1905 private home in southern Wisconsin and complement its amazing Palladian/Greek Revival-style bone structure with a contemporary composition in rock, plant material and water.

The owner, who has a passion for architecture and historic preservation, had already completed a total restoration of the buildings.  The grounds, however, still left much to be desired.  The property manager had worked with me on a previous project, and he suggested that I should be brought in to revitalize the space – the centerpiece of which would turn out to be

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Softening Edges

Among all of the elements defining superior naturalistic watershapes, accomplished pond/stream specialists know that edge treatments are generally what separates great work from the ordinary.  Here, watershaper Steve Sandalis highlights these transitions, sharing techniques he uses to soften edges and create areas where grassy verges, plants, beaches and rocks combine to make impressions in various and seamlessly beautiful ways.
Among all of the elements defining superior naturalistic watershapes, accomplished pond/stream specialists know that edge treatments are generally what separates great work from the ordinary. Here, watershaper Steve Sandalis highlights these transitions, sharing techniques he uses to soften edges and create areas where grassy verges, plants, beaches and rocks combine to make impressions in various and seamlessly beautiful ways.
By Steve Sandalis

We recently completed a project that truly thrilled a pair of well-traveled, highly educated clients:  It was a large, complex waterfall-and-pond composition in the sloping backyard of an upscale home in an affluent southern California neighborhood.

There were a number of reasons why the project worked so well, but if I had to break it down to one thing more than any other, it had to do with the range of edge treatments we used within the available space.

On the side nearest the house, we established a clean lawn-meets-water detail – very disciplined in appearance and obviously man-made.  Directly across the pond was a set of rugged waterfalls – much wilder and basically untamed.  Bracketing those features, we filled shallow areas with emergent plants and hiding places for fish and frogs.  

It was a well thought out plan, certainly right for the space.  But I know for a fact that

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A Green Harvest

In an effort to broaden interest in use of sensible water-management systems, Aquascape’s Ed Beaulieu set out early in 2009 to persuade his hometown to submit to a thorough ‘green makeover.’ Working with homeowners and city officials, he brought in a flock of pond/stream professionals to install – in just one day – a host of rainwater-capturing systems, ponds and streams. In the process, they created what suddenly became a more sustainable community.
In an effort to broaden interest in use of sensible water-management systems, Aquascape’s Ed Beaulieu set out early in 2009 to persuade his hometown to submit to a thorough ‘green makeover.’ Working with homeowners and city officials, he brought in a flock of pond/stream professionals to install – in just one day – a host of rainwater-capturing systems, ponds and streams. In the process, they created what suddenly became a more sustainable community.
By Ed Beaulieu

Oddly enough, this story takes place in a down economy and shows how, despite perceived financial limitations, something surprising and wonderful can happen when people put their minds to it.

For years now, my work at Aquascape (St. Charles, Ill.) has largely focused on developing, designing and installing systems that in one or more ways are environmentally sound and beneficial.  In early 2009, I began working on a plan for a prototype community designed around optimal use of its resources, especially water.

I imagined a town filled with rainwater-capturing systems, permeable surfaces and efficient irrigation.  It included nothing but indigenous plants, was organized with minimal turf areas and set aside space for composting and cooperative organic farming.  As for the homes, all of them boasted various resource- and energy-efficient features.

The overall concept was so

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Down to Size

In recent years, many of his clients have asked southern California pond/stream specialist Steve Sandalis to provide them with watershapes that are relatively modest in size – but that are still long on beauty, value and enjoyment.  He explores this trend here, profiling a showcase-home project that demonstrates the creative potential (as well as the challenges) embodied in systems where a little bit less can add up to a whole lot more.
In recent years, many of his clients have asked southern California pond/stream specialist Steve Sandalis to provide them with watershapes that are relatively modest in size – but that are still long on beauty, value and enjoyment. He explores this trend here, profiling a showcase-home project that demonstrates the creative potential (as well as the challenges) embodied in systems where a little bit less can add up to a whole lot more.
By Steve Sandalis

As the current recession has worked its way through the marketplace, I’ve found that, with increasing consistency, our projects fall neatly into two categories.

On the one hand are the grand-scale projects we do mostly for wealthy people – ambitious designs that see us cover large areas with tons of rock, extensive plantings and complex hydraulic systems.  While these jobs have dropped off somewhat, it’s our observation that people with money can still afford to buy what they want and that this high-end business has never really gone away.  

On the other are more modest designs for people who want some form of water in their lives but are working with limited budgets and, often, with compact available spaces.  In fact, these systems can be minuscule, all very simple, some without any pond component at all and many ensconced in places where

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Simple Transparency

It may be true that clear water is a hallmark of success for most watershapes, but in the world of naturalistic watergardening, there’s often an unstated tolerance for green or murky water.  That’s a shame, says master watergardener Anthony Archer Wills, who argues that crystal-clear water in streams and ponds enables watershapers to add extra dimensions to their projects in the form of complete underwater landscapes.
It may be true that clear water is a hallmark of success for most watershapes, but in the world of naturalistic watergardening, there’s often an unstated tolerance for green or murky water. That’s a shame, says master watergardener Anthony Archer Wills, who argues that crystal-clear water in streams and ponds enables watershapers to add extra dimensions to their projects in the form of complete underwater landscapes.
By Anthony Archer Wills

Think of it: Just below the surface of our ponds and streams is a wonderful potential for beauty, an amazing opportunity to open observers' eyes to an entire submerged "landscape" made possible by virtue of completely clear water. I like to picture it as an "underwater garden," which is why, to me, water clarity is an essential component of my ponds and streams.

Too often, however, I run into settings in which it simply has not been a priority for the designer or installer. I'm further distressed when the subsurface views I treat as key design elements are left partially or wholly unconsidered.

I think back to my family's trips to the seashore, where we would spend hours observing rocky tidal pools. Peering into the water and seeing a world of oceanic plants and animals at close proximity was a profound source of fascination and excitement. It is for me still – and, I believe, for most other people as well.

What I see in tide pools is a perfectly balanced, utterly natural underwater garden filled with beautiful stone colors, textures weathered by the action of the waves and tides and a plethora of pebbles and sand mixed with bits of seashell.

It is here that we may

Read more: Simple Transparency

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