Pools and ponds sparkle in serene garden settings


March 17, 1996|By Beth Smith

Swimming pools, ponds, water gardens and fountains bring something intrinsic to the human psyche. Just looking at water seems to soothe the weary soul and spark within one a kinship with nature. For centuries, landscapers have been aware of this phenomena and have responded to it by creating gardens with water features.

"I think there are a lot of different reasons for adding water to a garden," says landscape architect Carol Macht. "On the practical level, water brings color, light, movement and sound to a garden. But on the next higher level, water is the basis for life and we respond to it whether it's in a lovely, large swimming pool or half a barrel filled with a few goldfish and waterlilies."

Following are several examples of the ways water can be integrated into landscapes both large and small.

Waterfall/pond: Robert Nelson Farmer, Gristmill Landscaping, landscape design

"Sitting down near a water garden makes you feel the same way as sitting down in front of a roaring fire in a fireplace," says landscape designer Robert Nelson Farmer. "You get this very peaceful, tranquil, calm feeling."

A proponent of a naturalistic approach to water garden design, Mr. Farmer used 11 tons of fieldstone to create a waterfall-pond for a client in Bel Air. He even included a 1-ton "sitting" stone so visitors can sit and enjoy the view and the sound of the water.

In carving out this niche in a back yard studded with mature trees, he personally dry-stacked the stone and provided 13 outlets for water to drop 5 feet into an 8-by-10-foot pond. This movement of water provides a symphony of sounds easily heard on the nearby deck.

To make the pond as maintenance free as possible, the owners opted not to have fish or exotic plants, but the water naturally draws animals and birds, including frogs who have established what Mr. Farmer calls "squatters rights."

To help make the waterfall and pond blend in with their woodsy surroundings, Mr. Farmer did include some plants in his design. Among them are autumn ferns, mosses, lichens and carex -- a variegated Japanese grass. "Building this pond and waterfall was like creating a tapestry of nature," he says.

Swimming pool: Carol Macht, American Society for Landscape Architects, Anshen & Allen, landscape design; Pleasure Pools, pool construction

"When my client and I started talking about her pool I knew she would be using it not only for recreation, lap swimming and entertaining, but also as a place to sit and just enjoy the outside," says Carol Macht.

The trick was to add the pool to a suburban lot without losing too much lawn space, and creating visual excitement in a flat yard that went into a 7-foot slope. Ms. Macht's solution was to build a serpentine fieldstone wall against the base of the hill to give a focus to the back yard in both summer and winter. She then planted a perennial garden on the slope, using flowers such as sage, black-eyed Susans and Japanese anemones -- plants that would span the swimming season.

To enhance the curvilinear lines of the wall, Ms. Macht wrapped the far side of the pool against the fieldstone. The house side runs a straight 43 feet from end to end and provides a place for laps.

To give the water a rich blue color rather than the standard aqua often associated with swimming pools, Pleasure Pools mixed black with plaster to create a gray marbelite finish. Bluestone coping surrounds three sides of the pool and creates a terrace for lounge furniture at one end.

The appeal of the pool and surrounding landscape is well appreciated by Ms. Macht's client, who often invites guests for a swim. "I really think swimming pools take you away from real life for a while," says Ms. Macht. "They really do give their owners a little bit of a vacation."

Ponds: Christy and William Krebs, owners

"We actually bought this property because of the ponds and the natural way the grounds were landscaped," says Christy Krebs. "We love the ponds. Looking at them is much nicer than looking at land."

The Krebses also like to listen to the water. There are two ponds on the property and a fountain sits in the middle of the upper one, which is closest to the house. "You hear the fountain before you see it," Mrs. Krebs says. "Sometimes it is very soothing, but sometimes it sounds like Niagara Falls."

Both ponds are man-made, receiving water from the many natural springs on the property. The lower pond is about an acre in size and sits near the road in one of Baltimore County's rural valleys. It is more than 50 years old and a natural magnet for deer and other wildlife. With its pier, the pond is also a favorite retreat of the Krebses' children, who fish and sometimes swim there.

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