WRITER | MATT DAVIDSON
The relaxing sound of moving water is undeniable; a bubbling creek or the sound of waves crashing against the shoreline brings instant calm for many of us. In today’s world of landscaping, consumers can bring those sounds home by installing a water feature in their yard.
According to Len Allgaier of Peninsula Pavers in Traverse City, the soothing feeling you get watching and listening to water is one of the primary factors that lead customers to install a water feature in their yard. “But beyond that sense of peace,” he says, “a water feature will become the main attraction of your property. They are crowd pleasers that people can’t help but gravitate toward.”
Water features come in many varieties, so it’s possible to find exactly the right type to suit your needs as well as your budget. Nick Strzynski, of Strzynski Lawn Care in Saginaw, notes, “One of the most common types that I install for people are bubbling rocks. A bubbling rock system includes a rock with the center drilled out, a pump, and a water catch basin artfully hidden beneath.” He went on to clarify, “It’s a closed system that recycles the water; you just have to refill it occasionally due to evaporation.”
Allgaier spoke enthusiastically of a few of the more extravagant water features he’s installed. “One home near Crystal Mountain had a steep hillside in the backyard. The water feature started out as a single stream that split into two streams, one of which ended with a 14-foot cascading waterfall. This was a large, high-volume setup with 20,000 gallons of water flowing through it per hour. There is quite a bit more evaporation to deal with because of the turbulence and the volume of water, so it was tied directly into the irrigation system to maintain the water level. The homeowner was able to look out her kitchen window and stare at her own ecosystem in what used to be just a bare hillside.” He added, “That’s another cool thing about water features: They bring in so many different kinds of wildlife. You’ll get frogs making it their home, birds, and waterfowl stopping by for a refresher, even fox and deer like to come for a drink.”
Cascading waterfalls consist of a series of step-like drops leading down to a skillfully hidden water reservoir, where the water is then recirculated back to the top in an endless cycle. They’re a good option if you have kids, as there’s no pond at the bottom.
Formal falls, or retaining wall waterfalls as they’re also known, operate similarly to a cascading fall system except the water flows out of a slit in a retaining wall, with the feeding system hidden inside. The moving water can either fall into a fountain-like pool or a small basin.
Strzynski said there’s another benefit beyond the beauty and serenity that water features bring. “They are excellent for masking the sounds of traffic, noisy neighbors, and a lot of the minor annoyances that come with living in a city. Would you rather listen to the neighbor’s dog barking or the sound of water flowing while you’re having a barbecue?”
Both Allgaier and Strzynski spoke highly of koi ponds as another interesting waterscape option. Koi ponds come in many shapes and sizes, and the fish are fun to watch. However, you may need to bring the fish inside during the winter, as the cold can kill them. Installing a bubbler in your pond will keep it from freezing, but it’s recommended that fish be kept in a tank inside a garage or basement. Allgaier said, “Koi ponds are beautiful, and it’s so relaxing to watch these gorgeous fish lazily swim around. The brilliant colors and the movement can suck you in and steal your attention for long periods of time.”
A well-designed water feature will immediately become the focal point of your yard, whether it’s as simple and tranquil as a bubbling rock or as intense and exhilarating as a waterfall.