Bring home soothing sounds of water

Ponds, falls and fountains form backyard oasis

September 03, 2006|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,[Sun Reporter ]

The sight and sound of moving water can be such a balm to the human spirit that it is a wonder, in these troubled times, that we all do not move beside the nearest stream.

It is a testament to human ingenuity that homeowners have found ways to bring that moving water to them.

Manmade ponds, streams, waterfalls and fountains have become as common as birdbaths.

There are container water gardens with a handful of papyrus and a couple of goldfish that are perfect for a condominium balcony.

And there are long, elaborate streams with multiple waterfalls that end in a deep-water pond that is home to giant koi and teeming with wildlife and might cost $100,000 to build.

"This is our favorite place," said Edgewater homeowner Don Dilks of a koi pond with a waterfall in a corner of his yard, which overlooks a tributary on the South River. "My wife and I have our coffee here every morning."

It is the second water feature he's installed on his property, and he is thinking about a third.

"We are looking for peaceful places," said Dilks.

Steve McHale, of McHale Landscape Design, created the water features for Dilks, and he says it has been a strong trend in landscape design for a decade and shows no signs of letting up.

It was the advent of sturdy and flexible pond liners two decades ago that moved pond construction out of the realm of concrete mixers and into the hands of the do-it-yourself crowd.

Water features, McHale said, have become a standard element in broader landscape designs.

"Some of our customers are active in the garden and they want to create a habitat for wildlife," he said, including everything from dragonflies and butterflies to deer and raccoons. "Others are on the formal side and they want pools, reflecting ponds -- water features that are more of an audio and visual element than something they work at."

McHale warns customers that they can't just turn on the pumps and the fiber optic lights and let it go. Large water features require regular maintenance, especially in spring and before winter or if a leak develops. Homeowners should negotiate follow-up care with any contractor.

"It will either become your hobby or your worst nightmare," McHale said. "The water doesn't have to move, but you need a balanced eco-system. There is no such thing as 'Dig a hole and give me a pond.'"

A modest pond with one waterfall might cost $8,000 to $15,000 to construct, unless you do all the work yourself -- which is possible. There are plenty of books, magazine articles and Web sites to guide you.

Most contractors tell homeowners to build the biggest water feature they can afford because they will only want to upgrade in a couple of years.

But, McHale said, "You can have water trickling into a little basin and it can be successful."

Paula Biles agrees. The Bradenton, Fla., resident is executive director of the International Water Lily and Water Gardening Society, and she teaches classes on how to put together a modest, but delightful, container garden without pumps or electricity.

Gardeners can construct something as simple as a pile of rocks that appear to be "sweating" to a tiny fountain in a window box.

"Water gardens have become extremely popular, and with a very good reason," said Biles.

"What's not to love?"



For more information on water features for your garden, consult:

The Water Garden Encyclopedia, by Philip Swindells (Firefly Books Ltd., $29.95)

Small Space Gardens by David Stevens (Collins Design, $19.95)

For instructions for building your own water feature:

Miracle-Gro Basics -- Water Gardens, by Megan McConnell Hughes (Meredith, $9.95)

Water in the Garden, a do-it-yourself booklet, can be ordered at or by calling 888-beckett.

Visit HGTV at / hgtv / gl_design_water_features

For help finding a contractor in your area, contact International Professional Pond Contractors Association,, 866-484-7722.

Catalogs and Web sites offering garden water features and supplies include:

Smith & Hawken, smithand, 800-940-1170

Charley's Greenhouse & Garden,, 800-322-4707

Visual Water,, 866-676-9110

Frontgate,, 888-263-9850

Gardener's Supply Co.,, 888-833-1412, 866-766-3548

Local resources include:

McHale Landscape Design, Upper Marlboro, 301-599-8300, and Annapolis, 410-990-0894

Wicklein's Water Gardens, 1820 Cromwell Bridge Road, Baltimore, 410-823-1335

Lilypons Water Gardens, Adamstown,, 800-999-5459

Webb's Water Garden, 1021 Old Fallston Road, Fallston, 410-879-3900,

Tropic Bay Water Gardens, 600 W. Central Ave., Davidsonville, 410-798-1800

Living Waters Ornamental Ponds and Streams, Finksburg, 410-833-2010

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