Water features add life to the garden

Staff photo by Raquel Hendrickson

THIS home water garden owned by Jim Baney and Dr. Whitney David was created by the Joshua Tree a couple of years ago.

Unless you live by the Verde River or one of its tributaries, it's probably not something you are privileged to hear every day. In an era of drought and water conservation, the thought of installing your own water feature even carries a certain feeling of guilt.

That's not quite deserved.

"A water feature really puts life into the garden," said Joshua Lovall, of the Joshua Tree and Landscaping Company in Camp Verde. "A patio is just a patio after a while. I get more feedback about how they fall in love with the water feature."

Water features, circulating water on a property, include running streams, fountains, container gardens, waterfalls, ponds and pondless waterfalls. Some ponds may be full of aquatic plants; some may have fish.

What should you keep in mind when planning to add water to your landscape?

Chris Bosman, of Green Magic Landscaping and Aquafeatures in Sedona, says location, affordability and equipment are big considerations. You don't have to approach a contractor with detailed drawings of what you want, but you should have a budget range.

"The majority of people don't know exactly what they want," Bosman said.

Selecting a contractor and a design must be done carefully. This is not a matter of calling up a number in the yellow pages. Interview at least two contractors for the job and get references. A bad decision with a water feature can be costly to correct.

For the do-it-yourselfer, this can be a big project. Do your research. Get good advice. When you think you are finished, it's a good idea to bring an expert in to inspect your work.

Do not be pressured into accepting a design that you believe could be completed more economically and with fewer water demands. And remember that quality is as key as affordability.

"Price is important," Bosman said, "but more important than price is the opportunity to see work that they've done - not just a photograph - from at least a year ago."

That is a good indication of durability. His company, which carries mostly a Sedona clientele, takes potential customers to view previous work not only to share ideas for a design but also to offer proof of satisfaction for the long haul.

Location

There are both practical and aesthetic reasons for the location of your water feature. If you already have a patio, keep in mind what time of day you use it most and where the sun hits your property at that time. How the sun touches running water is a big part of its impact.

Also part of the aesthetics is how the feature looks from inside the house and in context with the surroundings.

On a practical vein, know where all underground lines are. What might visually be the ideal location might be exactly where you should not dig.

It's not a good idea to have a pond under a large tree, especially a deciduous tree, according to Bosman. All sorts of things, not just leaves, can be dropped in the water. You might also be thinking of using plants that do not do well in prolonged, direct sun. That, too, contributes to the decision on location.

Design

A water feature can be created with a straight-line formal look or with a natural appearance. The majority of homeowners go for the natural look, which seems more conducive to relaxation. It also allows for free-form design.

Know what demands your approved design will have on your property and on your wallet.

"I usually blow their minds when I tell them what needs to happen," Lovall said. "I tell them, 'We have to move this or take out this tree.'"

Whether creating your own design or checking your contractor's idea, be sure it meets your desires for visual and aural impression. If the design has running water far from the back windows of the house, you probably won't be able to hear it.

"People are always keen to have a lot of sound," Bosman said.

Homeowner Jim Baney said he was concerned his waterfall might actually be too loud, but he said there have been no complaints from the neighbors. If there had been a problem, the sound could be softened by lowering the angle of the feature.

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