WaterShapes

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

The Driving Force

4-23 triplett video artBy Eric Triplett

Installing a pond pump is a fairly simple process – and, as you’ll see in the video linked below, represents one of my last big chances to sound off on the importance of basic pipe-connection skills.

Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a perfectionist and maybe a bit compulsive about making my pipe connections look right in addition to fitting right.  In the operation covered here, however, there’s good reason for care:  If you’re sloppy with glue application while installing a check valve, there’s always the possibility that

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A Stream Comes to Life

The true artistry of stream building is found in the closing phase of construction, says landscape designer Rick Anderson.  Here, in the final installment of his series on streamcrafting, he walks us through the concluding steps he takes to transform a raw installation into a finished watershape that dazzles the eye with its natural look and delights the ear with its gentle sound.
The true artistry of stream building is found in the closing phase of construction, says landscape designer Rick Anderson. Here, in the final installment of his series on streamcrafting, he walks us through the concluding steps he takes to transform a raw installation into a finished watershape that dazzles the eye with its natural look and delights the ear with its gentle sound.
By Rick Anderson

Now comes the fun part.

The final stage of building a stream is where all of the planning and close attention to the stream’s earthen substructure, transitions in elevation, liner alignment and hydraulics come into play as you move to build in details that effectively mimic nature.

In the first two installments of this series (click here for part 1, here for part 2), I discussed in detail how you excavate and grade the site, place the major transition stones, lay in the liner and install

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Natural Intuitions

The thing that makes a painting great isn’t the pigment mixed on the palette or the brush used to apply it.  Those are merely tools, observes landscaper Jim Lampl, who finds art and beauty in the way the strokes are laid on the canvas.  The same holds true for watershapes, he says:  The art and beauty aren’t in the stones or plantings, but in the way all of the components and materials are composed on site.
The thing that makes a painting great isn’t the pigment mixed on the palette or the brush used to apply it. Those are merely tools, observes landscaper Jim Lampl, who finds art and beauty in the way the strokes are laid on the canvas. The same holds true for watershapes, he says: The art and beauty aren’t in the stones or plantings, but in the way all of the components and materials are composed on site.
By Jim Lampl

I believe that what we strive for in our watershapes is evident in the paintings and sculpture of the great masters.  The harmony, the beauty, the drama, the excitement of the senses, the total captivation of the viewer create an experience we call great art.  The more we can reflect on this work and use it as a lofty benchmark, the more effective our watershapes become.

I’ve always believed that the best way to work at the highest level is to follow the tenets of

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Wild for Tigers

From building a 21-foot, cantilevered waterfall to mimicking the muddy banks of a jungle stream, this sprawling installation at the Palm Beach Zoo presented a series of unusual challenges for watershaper Steve Lucas – not the least of which was thinking like a tiger.  By the  time Lucas was finished, however, two of the zoo’s most popular     residents enjoyed a lush jungle   paradise tailored to meet all their environmental and aquatic needs.
From building a 21-foot, cantilevered waterfall to mimicking the muddy banks of a jungle stream, this sprawling installation at the Palm Beach Zoo presented a series of unusual challenges for watershaper Steve Lucas – not the least of which was thinking like a tiger. By the time Lucas was finished, however, two of the zoo’s most popular residents enjoyed a lush jungle paradise tailored to meet all their environmental and aquatic needs.
By Steve Lucas

Believe it or not, I became involved with this project because my nine-year-old daughter, Savannah, plays tackle football.  I was watching one of her games when I overheard a teammate’s father talking about a renovation at the Palm Beach Zoo.  

Joining the conversation, I learned that he owned a general contracting company that builds large commercial projects and that he’d been hired to renovate the zoo’s parking lot and utility infrastructure and build an exhibit facility for two Bengal tigers.  It was, he told me, the first phase of a long-term plan to upgrade the zoo at Dreher Park, a complex that also includes a planetarium and a museum.

The work at the zoo, he said, was one phase of an effort by the city to create a quality facility that ultimately could serve as a low-cost alternative to Orlando’s theme parks.  As part of the project, my new friend’s firm also was acting as general contractor in the construction of a new tiger pen, the first of a series of new display areas planned for the modest zoo.

When he talked about the watershapes involved, I jumped:  The design

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Stream-Lined Effects

For all of the aesthetic considerations that come with crafting a stream, the fact is that man-made waterways must function properly.  Here, in the second installment of a series on the art of stream construction, landscape designer Rick Anderson addresses this practical/technical part of the picture, guiding us through liner placement, plumbing and equipment installation – all with an eye toward ensuring an end product that meanders steadily, cleanly and beautifully.
For all of the aesthetic considerations that come with crafting a stream, the fact is that man-made waterways must function properly. Here, in the second installment of a series on the art of stream construction, landscape designer Rick Anderson addresses this practical/technical part of the picture, guiding us through liner placement, plumbing and equipment installation – all with an eye toward ensuring an end product that meanders steadily, cleanly and beautifully.
By Rick Anderson

As is the case with a stream’s aesthetics, the functionality of any multi-level, gravity-driven waterway must be considered from the outset of any project.  After all, no matter how natural and beguiling a stream may be in appearance, if it doesn’t hold water, work properly in terms of hydraulics and filtration or provide ecological balance, the whole thing can and will become a nightmare.

Fortunately, making streams work isn’t all that difficult – as long as you keep your eye on a critical set of fundamentals.  

Last time, we laid out the stream course, created

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A Graveling Experience

4-9 triplett video artBy Eric Triplett

As was mentioned a few episodes back, in designing this particular pond we settled on a filtration system that made the most sense for the setting and the situation – and now it’s time to show you how we install its permanent gravel bed.

As the video shows, it’s a straightforward process of rinsing the material to get rid of as much dust as possible and doing what I can to cull any smaller-than-desired chunks of gravel that might

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Cutting a Channel

From start to finish, observes Rick Anderson, the process of stream building isn’t that complex or exotic.  But in addition to good planning, he says, these projects require thoughtful spontaneity and a subtlety in the work itself that defines success or failure in creating streams that look ‘natural.’  Here, in the first of a series on stream construction, Anderson starts at the beginning – with the land and the layout and excavation phases.
From start to finish, observes Rick Anderson, the process of stream building isn’t that complex or exotic. But in addition to good planning, he says, these projects require thoughtful spontaneity and a subtlety in the work itself that defines success or failure in creating streams that look ‘natural.’ Here, in the first of a series on stream construction, Anderson starts at the beginning – with the land and the layout and excavation phases.
By Rick Anderson

Building a stream that looks as though it was actually completed by Mother Nature is no small challenge.  To make the illusion work, the watershaper quite literally “shapes” the basic elements of the stream – its path, width, depth, outcroppings, falls, transitions and plantings – all with an eye toward mimicking natural designs.  

To a large degree, the process is different from that of designing and building a pond, pool or fountain.  In those cases, the watershape generally goes in the ground almost exactly where and how it’s been drawn.  With streams, however, the differences between

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Practicing Nature's Balance

Nature has it’s own set of rules, observes horticulturalist and zoologist Jeff Rugg of Pond Supplies of America.  If you work in harmony with those rules, you stand a good chance of being successful in creating systems that support plant and animal life.  Work against them, he says, and nature will soon show you the error of your ways.  Here’s a look at what it takes to make the balancing act work, from pond sizing to basic equipment and materials.
Nature has it’s own set of rules, observes horticulturalist and zoologist Jeff Rugg of Pond Supplies of America. If you work in harmony with those rules, you stand a good chance of being successful in creating systems that support plant and animal life. Work against them, he says, and nature will soon show you the error of your ways. Here’s a look at what it takes to make the balancing act work, from pond sizing to basic equipment and materials.
By Jeff Rugg

It all begins with the water.

The first thing anyone approaching the world of ponds needs to understand is that life-supporting water is quite unlike the sterile water found in swimming pools or spas or many other watershapes.  A second and related point is that clear water is not necessarily healthy water when it comes to the needs of the inhabitants of the pond.  

For a pond to be healthy, its water must meet the chemical requirements of plants and fish by having an abundance of some things (such as nutrients) and a near-total lack of other things (such as pollutants).  Sanitized water may be beautifully clear, but the fact that sterile systems are designed to knock out nutrients and work chemically because they are “polluted” with chlorine and algaecides makes them completely unsuitable as life-supporting ecosystems.

The goal with ponds is to work with nature in balancing the life-sustaining features of the water – and to set things up in such a way that maintaining that balance will be something your clients can do long after you’ve moved along to another project.  

To do so, you need to embrace the water-quality basics outlined in the last issue of

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Nature's Balance

Beauty and tranquility are words on the lips of more and more consumers these days, and they’re discovering with greater and greater frequency that ponds are just what they’re after.  Critical to meeting this rising demand, says zoologist and horticulturalist Jeff Rugg, is knowing what goes into creating healthy, clean water in the presence of plants and animals – and into setting these mini-ecosystems up for the long haul.
Beauty and tranquility are words on the lips of more and more consumers these days, and they’re discovering with greater and greater frequency that ponds are just what they’re after. Critical to meeting this rising demand, says zoologist and horticulturalist Jeff Rugg, is knowing what goes into creating healthy, clean water in the presence of plants and animals – and into setting these mini-ecosystems up for the long haul.
By Jeff Rugg

It’s a tale of two professions:  Pool and spa people are taught to keep things dead; pond people are taught to keep things alive.  Pool people sell chlorine; pond people sell de-chlorinator.  Pool people sterilize; pond people fertilize.  This contrast in approaches to basic water maintenance is perhaps the most significant difference between two trades that are coming into closer and closer contact with one another every day.

At issue between the two groups is whether to work against nature in a sterile system, or work with it to create an ecosystem.  Each discipline has a foundation in the science of water chemistry and both have a place in the world – but beyond that (and as the table below demonstrates), things really couldn’t be much different.

As more and more pool/spa professionals move into water gardening and more and more landscape designers and architects get into pools and spas, there’s an increasing need for all of us to understand these water-treatment distinctions and the basics of each approach.  I come from the pond side, so I’ll cover things from that perspective in a pair of articles – a science-oriented overview this time before we

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An Illuminating Exercise

3-19 triplett video artBy Eric Triplett

Of all the messages I’ve tried to convey in this video series and its introductory texts, one of the crucial ones is my observation that the people who buy and own ponds will spend lots of time enjoying their watershapes after it gets dark.  The only way to make that happen, of course, is to include an effective in-pond lighting system to make the watershape’s best features

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A Garden Surprise

Watershapers who tackle projects in older communities often face the necessity of fitting their new designs in with historic architecture and long-established landscape tastes and styles.  It can be a challenge, says landscape designer Bruce Zaretsky, but if you’re sensitive to tradition and work carefully with your surroundings, it’s possible to add beautiful and even surprising features to classic homes.
Watershapers who tackle projects in older communities often face the necessity of fitting their new designs in with historic architecture and long-established landscape tastes and styles. It can be a challenge, says landscape designer Bruce Zaretsky, but if you’re sensitive to tradition and work carefully with your surroundings, it’s possible to add beautiful and even surprising features to classic homes.
By Bruce Zaretsky

LeRoy, N.Y., is an historic village that’s most famous (or most notorious?) for being the birthplace of Jell-O.  

Far more significant to me, however, is the fact that the town is filled with beautiful 19th-century homes that run the architectural gamut from Colonial to Italianate to Victorian in style.  It’s a beautiful place, and the site of one of my firm’s most unusual projects in recent memory.

The home featured in this article is a Second Empire Italianate estimated to be about 140 years old.  It’s a prime example of 19th-century craftsmanship, from the Mansard roof with its scrolled cornices to the drive-through porte-cochere and the wraparound porch with its beefy wood railings.  

It’s definitely an architectural treasure, filled with the kinds of details that have been lost as far as today’s custom-built homes are concerned.  Mindful of those special touches, we set about designing a similar level of detail into the landscaping in creating gardens and watershapes that brought real tranquility to

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Gallery Views

When watershapes and sculpture are both to be included in a garden, the designer faces the challenge of making each component look as though it truly belongs in the setting.  Here, Chicago-based landscape designer Rosalind Reed explores what is involved in pulling off this balancing act for a small urban space.  The result is a careful interweaving of artistic and aquatic forms that blend serenely in the heart of a bustling city.
When watershapes and sculpture are both to be included in a garden, the designer faces the challenge of making each component look as though it truly belongs in the setting. Here, Chicago-based landscape designer Rosalind Reed explores what is involved in pulling off this balancing act for a small urban space. The result is a careful interweaving of artistic and aquatic forms that blend serenely in the heart of a bustling city.
By Rosalind Reed

Looking for inspiration in an urban environment can leave a designer with precious few useful references.  Take downtown Chicago, for example, where our indigenous waterfeature is Lake Michigan and our public art is too often plopped in the middle of concrete plazas.  

Be that as it may, I do my part by trying to introduce both water and art into my projects.  So I was thrilled to be retained by Mary O’Shaughnessy, owner of the Wood Street Gallery in Chicago, to design a sculpture garden.  I knew it would give me the chance to create a balanced, beautiful space – even though I also knew the job wouldn’t be easy.  

What she wanted was a garden environment in which she could display and sell contemporary American sculpture – a place that would help clients visualize the way the art might look in their own gardens.  

As we dug deeper, we uncovered additional goals:  It needed to be a space that would accommodate a changing variety and number of pieces; it had to be functional for large parties; and it had to incorporate and acknowledge the garden’s urban neighborhood while still providing a sense of enclosure for gallery visitors (and, of course,

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Finding the Garden Path

200104BVB0By Brian Van Bower

This past January, I had the pleasure of traveling to Tucson, Ariz., to attend the annual conference of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.  The focus of this year’s conference was the use of water in landscape design, and the program appropriately featured an interesting mix of experts on swimming pools, fountains and water gardening.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I signed on.  I’d only been to one landscape event before, and much of that trade and the people in it have been mostly unfamiliar to me.  As it turned out, however, this conference was

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