WaterShapes

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

Setting the Skimmer

11-6 triplett video artBy Eric Triplett

The task highlighted in the video linked below – that is, the process of setting and leveling the skimmer – is right up there at the top of the list when it comes to determining the success or failure of a pond-installation project.  In fact, it may be the most important of all with respect to aesthetics, because it’s what sets the pond’s water level and has a huge amount to do with how things will look to people who approach the water’s edge.

We don’t do the digging for this part of the installation until

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All Lined Up

10-23 triplett video artBy Eric Triplett

With the excavation of the main pond area complete – that is, with all shelves cut and compacted and niches prepared for caves and hiding places – it’s time to insert the underlayment and place the liner.

The underlayment is something of an unsung hero in pondcrafting:  It keeps sharp stones from gouging the liner as it’s being set in the hole and, longer term, deflects roots that might try to penetrate the liner to get easy access to a huge source of water.  Our goal is to prevent any such problems, so we

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Integrated View

A spectacular site is often the foundation for extraordinary watershapes and landscapes, observes Melanie Mackenzie – and that certainly proved to be the case with this project.  As seen here, she built upon elements suggested by the site and its surroundings to develop a fully integrated approach that ties the front and rear yards together in ways that delight the eye, cheer the spirit and encourage the contemplation of distant horizons.
A spectacular site is often the foundation for extraordinary watershapes and landscapes, observes Melanie Mackenzie – and that certainly proved to be the case with this project. As seen here, she built upon elements suggested by the site and its surroundings to develop a fully integrated approach that ties the front and rear yards together in ways that delight the eye, cheer the spirit and encourage the contemplation of distant horizons.
By Melanie Mackenzie

From my first visit, I knew I’d be spending a lot of time here developing the watershapes and landscapes on this amazing site.  

Set on a bluff in Del Mar, Calif., the whole property slopes down from the street level to the back edge of the property.  Beyond was an open space offering uninterrupted views of a river estuary, native coastal scrub studded with rare, indigenous, protected Torrey Pines and the Del Mar shoreline’s pounding surf.  There were also the spectacularly patterned cliffs at Torrey Pines State Park – a vista and set of colors that ultimately determined material choices for this project.  

It helped that I was completely at ease with

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Eastern Influences

For the past 30 years, landscape artist/architect Jim Robinson has pursued his projects with a distinct focus on creating subtle and complex beauty.  Based on traditions of Japanese gardens, the resulting sites range from the monumental to the decidedly intimate – but in all cases, his approach to the placement of plants, stone and water is directed to establishing spaces that speak to visitors with a timeless, sublime tranquility.
For the past 30 years, landscape artist/architect Jim Robinson has pursued his projects with a distinct focus on creating subtle and complex beauty. Based on traditions of Japanese gardens, the resulting sites range from the monumental to the decidedly intimate – but in all cases, his approach to the placement of plants, stone and water is directed to establishing spaces that speak to visitors with a timeless, sublime tranquility.
By Jim Robinson

My love of nature started with a rock collection I had as a child:  My fascination with the simple beauty of those small pieces of stone hit me early in life and never left.

Several years later, my outlook was dramatically expanded when a wealthy uncle of mine paid to have a formal Japanese garden built for his home in Boulder, Colo.  Ever since, I’ve had a profound appreciation of archetypal Japanese gardens and the way they celebrate nature through landforms, rocks, plants and water.  

By the time I was in high school, I had already decided that my career was going to involve working outdoors, and from that time forward, my prime interest was in bringing the techniques and disciplines of Japanese gardens into the greater American landscape both where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.  

For 30 years now, I’ve worked as a landscape artist in that region – for 15 years in Portland and for the last 15 in Eugene, Ore.  Although many of my designs are not what you could describe as “Japanese gardens” per se, everything I do is informed and influenced by those traditions.  I bear no grudge of any sort against the beauty of gardens in the Western European tradition, but to my mind, there’s nothing in landscape design that harmonizes more seamlessly with nature than

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Facing the Future

Mastering the fine points of stream, pond and waterfall design and construction generally takes years of patient practice, but 22-year-old Tim Krzeminski seems bent on condensing the process:  Already, his work has a sophistication and visual appeal that delight those who see it; as important, he has a growing list of clients who are more than willing to let him exceed their expectations and make the most of the spaces they offer him.
Mastering the fine points of stream, pond and waterfall design and construction generally takes years of patient practice, but 22-year-old Tim Krzeminski seems bent on condensing the process: Already, his work has a sophistication and visual appeal that delight those who see it; as important, he has a growing list of clients who are more than willing to let him exceed their expectations and make the most of the spaces they offer him.
By Tim Krzeminski

To me, designing and building ponds and streams is the best job in the world:  It offers the professional rare opportunities to shape beautiful compositions that mimic nature and bring joy to those who spend time near the water’s edge.  It’s hard work both physically and mentally, but ultimately, it’s profoundly satisfying.  

I backed into this business while doing lawn and landscape maintenance work during high school.  What I observed on that end of the market was a level of competition so intense that I soon recognized I’d need a specialty if I were to have any chance of pursuing a good career at it.  

In surveying the market, I noted that a number of landscaping firms were getting into naturalistic waterfeatures – and that the outcomes frequently looked terrible, even from my novice’s perspective.  To get in and out quickly, too many of these operators created systems that bore no resemblance to nature at all:  From the rockwork to the way streams cut through spaces, what I saw just didn’t square with what I’d seen in the real world.

These shortcomings spelled opportunity, of course, but I also knew that to stand apart from the rest, I’d need to develop my own skills and deliver work that reached a much higher level than just about

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Microbes Rule!

For as long as liquid water has supported life on our planet, a range of factors have played dynamic roles in sustaining balanced, untreated, wholly natural lakes and ponds, observes inventor and researcher Bruce Kania.  By breaking things down and understanding the relationships between microbes and nutrients in water, he adds, watershapers are better able to mimic nature and create watershapes that will stay clean and clear without artificial treatment.
For as long as liquid water has supported life on our planet, a range of factors have played dynamic roles in sustaining balanced, untreated, wholly natural lakes and ponds, observes inventor and researcher Bruce Kania. By breaking things down and understanding the relationships between microbes and nutrients in water, he adds, watershapers are better able to mimic nature and create watershapes that will stay clean and clear without artificial treatment.
By Bruce Kania

For a long time, I’ve studied a small lake that formed long ago in a natural bowl in Northern Wisconsin.  It has about 20 acres of surface area and is now surrounded by a cow pasture and a cornfield.  

Holsteins graze right up to the water’s edge and at times step into the lake to drink.  Sometimes, cows being cows, their waste ends up in the water as well.  On the opposite shore, the cornfield has an unusual configuration, with its furrows running straight down the slope and into the lake.  When it rains or the fields are irrigated, some fertilizer inevitably washes into the lake.  

The stage is set for aquatic misery:  Viscous, pea-soup mats of green algae and foul odors are the common results of this sort of nutrient loading.  Indeed, few life forms other than algae survive in

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Grand Cascades

When Bill Goddard decided to change careers and move into watershaping and landscaping as a full-time pursuit, he dove right into the thick of things with a first project of immense scale and extraordinary visual drama.  He discusses his bold introduction to the business here, profiling a project that encompasses a pair of huge waterfalls, extensive landscaping and lighting, hundreds of tons of stone and even a miniature town.
When Bill Goddard decided to change careers and move into watershaping and landscaping as a full-time pursuit, he dove right into the thick of things with a first project of immense scale and extraordinary visual drama. He discusses his bold introduction to the business here, profiling a project that encompasses a pair of huge waterfalls, extensive landscaping and lighting, hundreds of tons of stone and even a miniature town.
By Bill Goddard

I’ve always believed that if you’re going to do something, you should do it so well that the results are beyond compare.

That basic philosophy has guided our company, GCS of Woodbridge, Calif., from the very start.  It has led us to apply the highest standards to every one of our projects, all of which have been executed on large estates for ambitious, affluent, selective clients who invariably want something no one else has.

We’ve been selective from the start as well, seeking clients who are in the process of creating the homes of their dreams and who want to have fun with (and in) their exterior spaces.  In most cases, what they want are true oases – resort-like settings that give them a taste of

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Graceful Reflections

The potency of water’s reflective nature is a component of watershaping that is all too often ignored or left to chance, says renowned environmental artist Anthony Archer Wills.  When considered from the outset of a project, however, the brilliance and subtlety of a reflection is something he uses to completely transform the experience of viewing water in ways that become ongoing sources of delight and fascination for his clients.
The potency of water’s reflective nature is a component of watershaping that is all too often ignored or left to chance, says renowned environmental artist Anthony Archer Wills. When considered from the outset of a project, however, the brilliance and subtlety of a reflection is something he uses to completely transform the experience of viewing water in ways that become ongoing sources of delight and fascination for his clients.
By Anthony Archer Wills

In all my many years of working with water, I’ve never grown tired of its remarkable beauty and complexity – or of the variations it encompasses, the ways it changes and the endless fascination it offers to those who come into its presence.

At the heart of water’s ability to inspire us and rivet our attention is its capacity to reflect.  There’s something truly magical about the way water mirrors the sky, a surrounding landscape, nearby architecture or a well-placed work of art.  It’s a gift of sorts, a timeless bounty that has captured imaginations ever since Narcissus fell in love with

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A Human Touch

A well-made pond can be a perfect replication of nature, says watergarden artist Anthony Archer Wills – or it can take an architectural form and reveal the role of a designer for everyone to see.  Here, he takes a look at the latter sort of pond, discussing situations in which taking a formal approach makes perfect sense and reviewing some of the shapes, materials and strategies for creating settings that will be marked by a distinctly human touch.
A well-made pond can be a perfect replication of nature, says watergarden artist Anthony Archer Wills – or it can take an architectural form and reveal the role of a designer for everyone to see. Here, he takes a look at the latter sort of pond, discussing situations in which taking a formal approach makes perfect sense and reviewing some of the shapes, materials and strategies for creating settings that will be marked by a distinctly human touch.
By Anthony Archer Wills

As a rule, those of us who build watershapes meant for purposes other than swimming or hydrotherapy tend to pursue one path or another:  Either we make our ponds, streams and waterfalls look as natural as we can manage, or we establish them to reveal the hand of man either partly or completely.  In that either/or context, successful design depends at least in part on being perfectly clear with ourselves about what we are trying to achieve.

In assessing ponds of these opposing forms, it’s my personal practice to look at both natural ponds and formal ponds (or, more accurately, architectural ponds) as being right on par with one another with respect to their potential for beauty.  Indeed, architectural ponds can be incredibly appealing when done up in such a way that

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Safe and Secure

By Eric Triplett

One of the requirements of pond owner10-9 triplett video artship is a willingness to see to the safety of the pond’s inhabitants – especially the fish, which can represent a substantial investment in any pond, no matter its size.

That’s why, in every project we install, we include an appropriately sized fish cave (or two or three):  These give the pond’s residents places to hide in the event a predator appears at the water’s edge or lands on the water’s surface.  It doesn’t take much to provide one:  just a big piece of drainage pipe will do the trick.

They key is thinking about these features from the planning stage forward:  There are few miseries with pond installation that are as gruesome as

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The Trouble with Liners

10-year logoBy Douglas M. Roth

‘As modern building materials have been developed,’ wrote Japanese garden specialist Douglas M. Roth in October 2003, ‘we humans have been remarkably proficient at applying them in ways that go well beyond the vision of their inventors.  Such is the case with roofing membranes, which now are widely used as liners for backyard streams and ponds.  

‘It’s understandable that landscape designers and contractors have taken to these rubber liners.  After all, they make pond and stream construction inexpensive and easy.  But from the perspective of the Japanese gardener or quality watershaper, convenience and affordability alone do not

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Pastoral Frenzy

Landscape artist Colleen Holmes is known for wonderfully thoughtful and entirely distinctive projects.  In the one she describes here, she was asked to do her usual in designing and executing an intricate job complete with a pond and waterfall, extensive plantings, retaining walls, pathways, lighting, a teahouse and more – and to make it all happen in a frantic 60 days that saw her and her crews working around the clock, seven days a week.
Landscape artist Colleen Holmes is known for wonderfully thoughtful and entirely distinctive projects. In the one she describes here, she was asked to do her usual in designing and executing an intricate job complete with a pond and waterfall, extensive plantings, retaining walls, pathways, lighting, a teahouse and more – and to make it all happen in a frantic 60 days that saw her and her crews working around the clock, seven days a week.
By Colleen Holmes

My first experience with these clients had to do with their backyard pool:  They let me know they weren’t quite satisfied with what they had and wanted me to come in and set things straight.  The result of this collaboration was a tropical, Hawaiian-style paradise they truly love.

The next time they called, it was about their large front yard.  I initially assumed, of course, that they would want me to carry themes established in the backyard out to the street, but I was mistaken:  What they desired instead was a Japanese garden-style woodland complete with a pond/waterfall system, a teahouse and more.  Admittedly, it’s somewhat unusual for a property to have so pronounced a split personality, but in this case, it was not only what the clients desired, but it also made perfect sense because

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Magic to Do

Every year since 2003, Ed Beaulieu has led a cadre of Aquascape’s pond installers in building temporary watergarden exhibits for Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with the park’s annual International Flower & Garden Show.  The program, he says, represents not only a great opportunity to expose millions of visitors to the joys and beauties of watergardening, but is also something of a celebration for the installers.
Every year since 2003, Ed Beaulieu has led a cadre of Aquascape’s pond installers in building temporary watergarden exhibits for Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with the park’s annual International Flower & Garden Show. The program, he says, represents not only a great opportunity to expose millions of visitors to the joys and beauties of watergardening, but is also something of a celebration for the installers.
By Ed Beaulieu

One person’s error is often another’s opportunity – and that’s exactly how my relationship with Disney’s Epcot Center began.  

The famous Florida theme park has held its International Flower & Garden Show in the spring for many years now, and one of the festival’s more popular highlights has long been the program’s “Water Garden Wonders” exhibit.  

A local Floridian pond contractor had always taken care of the waterfeatures for the show, but after a series of problems, officials at Disney decided to make a change and I was contacted to see if our company, Aquascape of St. Charles, Ill., would be interested in taking over the pond-construction duties.  

I was immediately on board with the idea.  After all, how do you say no to

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