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Streaming tranquility
Water gardens promote connection with nature

By TERRY FOLKEDAHL

June 2007

Water is a sight to behold and music to the ears of the happy homeowners who have discovered the simple pleasures of pond gardens. While the popularity of gardening continues unabated, the water landscape business is adding new depths of creativity and fun to backyard beautification.

"The installation of a water garden will enhance your yard like no other landscape improvement that money can buy," says Doug Hurth, owner of Hurth Waterscapes in Saukville.

Owners of ponds see them as their personal sites for recreation, reflection, relaxation. Some like the added opportunities they provide for outdoor puttering. Hurth calls the pond experience the "water garden lifestyle," as it often draws people outside more during the warm-weather months to enjoy their yards as gracious living spaces.

The Wisconsin Water Gardeners Club is a group that celebrates this lifestyle and shares its love of water landscaping and the many outlets for great design that it provides. The club will host a Parade of Ponds tour June 23 and 24, featuring waterscape projects throughout the greater Milwaukee area. Here is a sample of some of the unique features of these land-and-pond settings, shared by water-garden enthusiasts.

Double the bubble

Twin waterfalls enhance the beauty of Donna and John Pattersonís Mequon setting. "Our pond took us from a nothing backyard into something we think is so pretty," John Patterson says in describing the 18-by-22-foot waterscape.

A small stream runs from an exposed deck, he says, then spills over each of the falls before winding down its course near a footbridge. Flower gardens and a gazebo complete the setting where the Pattersons can enjoy some sunlight out on the deck while taking in their beautiful creation.

Patterson says he loves "the sound of moving water. I think itís a very tranquil setting."

The gardens, situated on either side of the deck, consist of limestone terraces from which the stream flows to the waterfalls. Native Wisconsin flowers and shade-loving plants, including hostas, fill the beds, and a large maple tree shelters part of the pond. The pond supports water lilies and other aquatic plant life, and a variety of fish.

Some unwanted guests would like to dine on the fish. "We have to keep the herons away," Patterson says.

The Pattersons make the most of the waterscape, powering up the water movement in mid-March and letting it run through the end of October. A heating device allows the fish to winter in the pond.

Patterson says the maintenance is minimal. "If you enjoy being outdoors, the additional maintenance isnít that much as you would tend to think."

The waterfalls are his favorite feature, but he also is pleased when the water lilies begin to bloom. "The color that you get, plus the overall ambience, is nice."

Down in front

Not all ponds have to be in the backyard. The layout of the front yard of Sharon Matusinecís Brown Deer home made it a natural for a pond environment. "Itís serene. Iím a person who rush, rush, rushes through life. I come out here and I just sit. Thereís something nice about that," Matusinec says.

A friendís waterscape inspired Matusinec to have a pond installed. Situated between the Matusinecsí home and a large berm area, the water element is secluded despite its front-yard placement. Passers-by "donít really know itís there," she says.

On either side, the berm gives way to two fieldstone areas from which a shallow stream, about 12 feet long, feeds into the 8-by-11-foot pond. "Itís a mix of fieldstone, some granite, some red, dark, tan, sparkly. I like rocks, so itís ideal," Matusinec says. "There is one big, nice rock, the sitting rock, where you can sit and dangle your feet in the water."

The water forms a bit of a minirapids before dropping about 3 feet into the pond, Matusinec says. The pond is home to water lilies, tall aquatic grasses and miniature cattails. A patio area situated between the house and the pond is blanketed by purple crocuses in the spring, with Ladyís Mantle, variegated dwarf shrubbery and grasses softening the landscape in the summer months.

The resident goldfish, and some "invader" species that showed up, add a lot of fun to the scene, Matusinec says, describing how her young grandson attempted "fishing" with a worm and some dental floss. "There are lights in the pond and itís nice after dark to come and watch the fish," she says.

Matusinec says she is not always adept at visualizing yard projects, but that she is very pleased with the waterscape. "It just came together beautifully."

Before you dive in

If the "water garden lifestyle" sounds appealing, itís a good idea to talk to the pros to get an understanding of the steps involved and the maintenance. Doug Hurth of Hurth Waterscapes in Saukville offers these tips to get what he calls the "wow" factor:

ē Take into consideration the views from inside your home as well as out when positioning the pond so you can enjoy the scene from your breakfast nook or other favorite indoor spot.

ē Position the water element close to outdoor seating areas, such as patios and decks.

ē Install the proper electrical system; a pond will require an electrical outlet within 10 feet of a skimmer box to plug in a pump.

ē Avoid placing a pond in the lowest part of a yard; additional runoff water can be detrimental to the water quality.

ē Size the pond and waterfall to fit the yard. Too big is overwhelming, too small trivializes the project.

ē Keep scale in mind when designing landscape features; do a layout using colored rope to visualize proportions.

ē Use accessories to accent your pond, such as lighting, plants and shrubbery, fish caves, rocks, bridges, gazebos, trellises.