Reimagine Your Yard with Water Features

by Alicia Underlee Nelson

Adding a water feature to your outdoor living space can transform any yard into a soothing oasis. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are six

ways to update your outdoor space using the latest trends in water feature design.

Add interest to a small yard with a pondless waterfall

“A pondless waterfall would be perfect for a small yard because there’s no pond,” says Troy Hallan, landscape designer at Natures Garden World in Fergus Falls. “The majority of the pond is buried underground and you don’t see it. The waterfall falls into rock and that’s all you see.”

Choose a soothing outdoor spot to maximize relaxation and add ambiance to your everyday routine. “You could do a bubbling rock or a bubbling vase, maybe at your entry point or at a spot where you like to drink coffee,” suggests Wes Pare, the owner of Lakes Area Landscaping in Pelican Rapids. Using a water feature to honor and elevate ordinary moments can improve your peace of mind as well as adding beauty to your yard.

Divide a larger yard into zones

A larger yard can incorporate a pondless waterfall and additional design features. Designate one zone for the waterfall, one for an outdoor entertaining area and one for play. Then create cohesion among the zones by placing plants and flowers in beds, planters and on the surface of the water.

Don’t be afraid to repurpose familiar landscape design elements by adding water. Pare recommends reimagining retaining walls as water features. The retaining wall will echo the rest of your landscaping, but adds the soothing sight, sound and smell of water to your outdoor experience.

Go modern

“The trends I see right now are real modern designs — very straight, almost rectangle-style ponds and fountains made of metal,” says Hallan. “They don’t all have to look natural.” Fountains made of metal and geometric shapes offer a striking counterpoint to the organic shapes and materials in landscape design and appeal to those with a pared down sensibility. Water features with clean lines compliment contemporary architecture and the glint of metal adds a sculptural feeling to a fountain that really appeals to modern art lovers.

For those wanting to accent a contemporary home with a modern water feature that’s made of a natural material, Pare recommends basalt, a dark and dramatic volcanic rock. His company has made columns into a water feature for a striking effect.

Create a mini habitat

If you have the space, it can be fun to think big. “You see a lot of ponds with koi fish, little streams, creeks and waterfalls,” says Pare. “But you really need some acreage.”

The eye-catching koi fish can even weather a tough Midwestern winter outdoors with the help of a small tank heater and a hole in the ice to aid water recirculation. “They kind of go dormant once the water is 50 degrees,” explains Hallan, who has a koi pond at his home. They start swimming again once the weather warms.

If fish aren’t your thing, consider making your pond a habitat for humans. The addition of a few water plants to shade and cool the water will minimize algae and mimic the natural ecosystem, creating a swimming hole that kids and teens (and kids at heart) will love.

And don’t let the maintenance worry you. “Most people want it small, because they think the maintenance will be an issue,” Hallan says. “They think something small will be easier to maintain. But the pH of the water changes really quickly in something small. Even a sunny day can make the water temperature get warm and the water can get slimy. In something larger, the water will neutralize itself.”

Try repurposed rustic

If stark and sleek design isn’t for you, that’s not a problem. The rustic look never goes out of style. It just gets reimagined and reinterpreted.

Upcycling – reusing and repurposing existing (and often vintage) materials — remains a trend, says Hallan. He’s seen everything from “upcycling an old whiskey barrel or washtub into a little water feature that sits on your patio” to converting barrels and watering cans into self-contained fountains.

Save money with a self-contained fountain

If you’re on a budget, you can save big and score major relaxation points with a small, self-contained fountain. These elements are portable and work equally well on porches, patios and in the yard. They may be smaller fountains, but they still generate a serene, soothing presence.

“Just the sound of trickling water will really drown out the sound of vehicles or neighbors,” says Hallan. “It doesn’t have to be big to get that sound of running water.” The simple addition of one small water feature can help the stress of daily life fade into the background, offering a new way to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

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