Steal This (part 2) 2012 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

…water features are a lifestyle choice.


In the design process of the 2012 Northwest Flower and Garden show display garden, one of the concepts that was immediately given to me was a very natural water feature of tumbling rock, after all, I was working with “Mark the Pond Guy.” The rest of the garden was formal and elegant, piano, harp, baroque patterns- so to meld all the ideas together I felt it was vital that the water feature blended back into the “living” spaces, not just set to the side as a visual. There really needed to be a connection between the bold, dramatic tumble of rock and the elegance of the harp, piano and living areas. The water disappears under the decking to invite interaction. You can dip your toes in the water or lie on the deck and drift your hands for koi kisses.

"floating"stone steps between decks

The stone floating water steps gave passage between the two spaces. It was a way to make the rough, natural rock connect to the man-made decking and the formality of the garden style. Mark also wanted  koi in the pond, but it needed to be an up close and personal thing. He didn’t want show visitors to see the fish from a distance, but to actual be able to feed them and reach out and touch them, so we placed a large sitting rock right at the edge of the pond. Throughout the show some of the most joyful moments were to watch the kids (adults too!) climb on the rock and watch the fish. In the back of the pond where the drama was, the water needed to emerge from somewhere. This is where a touch of theater came in, the large ruins wall, as if a symphony hall was crumbling down by the rush of water from somewhere beyond.

It just would not have been the same if the water had just emerged from a grove of trees (that would have been too easy…so my gratefulness for not taking the easy way out goes to the hard working team headed by Joan Bogan  www.joansnestingplace.com who stressed and worked so hard to get that ruins wall done! ) Thanks also to Mark Harp and his hard working staff that created the water feature. It is not easy to build such a grand feature in three days on the fourth floor of the convention center in downtown Seattle. Watching Mark individually choose and stack tons of rock (yes it was real and individually dry stacked!) was like watching an artist paint a picture. With the heavy-handed help of Marenako’s and their heavy equipment, I just watched in awe. The pond was beautifully made and finished right up to the last tumble of gravel along the edges.

the fine art of finishing a pond edge

In garden design, many clients I work with have a wish list for their garden and a most often listed item is a water feature. The reasons are numerous: the relaxation of the sound, drown out unpleasant noises, the Zen of flowing water, collect rainwater and /or a place for the hobby of keeping fish. The investment of a water feature really should be more about the thoughtful process of integrating it into a lifestyle rather than just the thought that you need a water feature. Decide if you want to just “look” at it or “live” with it. Will it be a scenic view or artistic feature imbedded into the landscape? Water features just for visual need to be positioned correctly to create a scene from the home or an outdoor living space.If the water is just for the relaxing sound, consider where it is best positioned? Placement should be where the sound is pleasant and gently echoed through the garden. Adapt the size and type of water feature to the size of the garden. A common mistake is to have the rushing or bubbling sound of water and finding it just makes you have the urge to go the bathroom more than it relaxes (you really don’t want to know how often I have heard that!) The other side of this planning process is “living” with the feature. Will it have fish and need good accessibility with pathways, bridges, or decking to create a more intimate experience?  If the pond is to keep fish then it needs to be a certain size and the environment need to be addressed; such as the inevitable interaction with wildlife (those sneaky raccoons and looming herons.)  Another key to a beautiful water feature is how it integrates into the surroundings. Stylize the feature:  an elegant and formal garden might include a European style fountain. A natural relaxed garden style is tumble of rock that appears to come from natural area or a contemporary garden design could play with shape and color of water bubbling from glazed pottery. Logistics…logistics…logistics- those details steal the romance out of planning a water feature, but it is a vital part of the success. Need more water feature dreams? Check out the Moonlight Pond tour by Mark Harp from the Pond Store. www.markthepondguy.com


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