Services - Water Features
Always make sure you have a Certified Aquascapes Contractor and Aquascapes System to provide you with the correct installation and a crystal clean pond with healthy plants and fish.
A natural pond promotes peaceful place to play
By Jackie Kennedy for ON Magazine
Homeowners install a variety of water features these days, from fanciful fountains to elaborate waterfalls featuring European influences. But for the landscape artists at Longhorn Landscape Creations, a favorite water feature is one that melds into the landscape, hiding the fact it's an addition at all: the natural pond or pondless waterfall.
"We present these to people who want to get involved in outdoor water gardening or just want the sound of a water feature. It can be hobby, or therapy, or both rolled into one."
Therapy outdoors, we're all familiar with-the peaceful sounds of water trickling over rocks in a stream, the hum of nighttime crickets, the wispy sound of trees when wind causes them to rub their branches, the soothing half-light, half-dark lull of twilight. It's no wonder more and more homeowners are moving outside, creating outdoor living spaces, entertainment areas and, yes, water features to enhance the experience.
Water features as a hobby? The pastime is a steadily growing trend, with more and more pond enthusiasts creating backyard wonderlands, and meeting with fellow nature-aficionados to share ideas and show off their creations.
The Koi and Water Gardening Club of North Texas invites fans of water gardening, Koi and goldfish keeping throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Their mission is to share knowledge of these hobbies and help hobbyists make the most of their efforts. They are affiliated with both the Associated Koi Clubs of America and the Texas Association of Pond Societies.
For practical solutions on installing and caring for a backyard pond, McKinney-based Longhorn Landscape Creations is well versed in creating natural ponds, whether you're seeking a 10x10-foot pond to accent an outdoor living area, or an acre-sized pond as the focal attraction.
"The key is to make it look as natural as possible, so that when people walk in your backyard, it looks like you built your house next to a water feature, rather than dug a hole, filled it with water and surrounded it with a pile of rocks," says Winters, adding that, large or small, natural ponds call for less maintenance than managing a similar size area covered in turf grass.
And that's just the first plus. Figure in the beauty of nature, the peaceful sounds and the precious pond creatures you'll care for, and you might find "ponding" to be your next hobby.
Longhorn proposes an all-natural approach to water gardening.
"You could have all sorts of technical apparatus hooked up to keep it clear, but there's a natural way," says Winters. "Mother Nature has given us a blue print on how to do it-the trick is to ensure that your pond is in biological balance. That means promoting the growth of natural (good) bacteria, which provides a biological cycle that breaks down leaves, fish waste or other organic matter to promote an ecological balance that produces a healthy clean pond. Nurture the growth of good bacteria by providing a suitable media for them to grow on, have an adequate supply of oxygenated water flowing over the media and let the water plants utilize the by product nutrients created by the bacteria-and you create the equilibrium needed. Also, remember to keep the correct number of fish or pond occupants for the size of your pond."
In creating your water wonder, Longhorn Landscape advises keeping the scale in perspective to assure a natural look and consider the depth and shape you desire. The last thing you want is a bowl-shaped, round pond with flat stones around the edges.
"Fit it in a space with the correct aesthetics, or make the aesthetics work better with the proper landscaping" says Winters.
While some pond plants require only shallow water to grow, others must be submerged in deeper waters; therefore, Longhorn creates ponds with planting ledges, providing a stair-step effect down to the pond floor with various levels of planting area.
"Some plants need to grow on the margins, where water and soil would transition," explains Winters. These are called marginal plants or bog plants. "Then you drop down to the next level where you'd plant something like cattails or lotus a foot or so below the water surface, then on to the next level, and so on."
River rock stones and pebbles are utilized in building the ponds, and pond liners used by Longhorn are guaranteed for 20 years; insure the liner is not exposed to UV radiation, (the sun) and it will last a very long time. Utilized in the same manner as swimming pool skimmers, pond skimmers assure clean waters by removing floating debris; water will catch anything that blows in the wind, and without a skimmer this debris end up on the bottom of the pond. The skimmer should be virtually invisible in a well designed and landscaped system.
"Next," says Winters, "you need water movement. Like in nature with churning waters, aerobic bacteria need oxygen and water movement to thrive and grow."
To enhance filtration, a bio-falls (a filter that also acts as water falls) channels water through the filter media, eventually spilling from a spout that provides a natural waterfall affect.
"It not only looks nice and gives you the relaxing sound of a waterfall, but it also introduces oxygen into the system," says Winters. "With water continually moving through a bio-falls filter that's hidden and disguised by rocks and water plants, you're adding again to the biological filtration of the pond. It all provides a cleaner, more pure, back-to-nature environment as we attempt to recreate what Mother Nature has done."
As for pond inhabitants, goldfish, and especially Koi, are favorites.
Koi have been bred in Asia over the centuries for living in ponds, according to Winters. These fish are intended to be viewed from the top and bred to show off their best markings and colors from that perspective. While they typically live 25-30 years, they can live up to 200 years and, in Japan, are often handed down through the generations as family inheritances. Koi sport many bold and flashy colors of red, yellow, gold, orange, black and white. The best part, for North Texans, means not having to restock the pond each spring. In the winter, Koi and goldfish hibernate, settling to the bottom of the pond mostly inactive until the water warms in the spring. In warm weather, they can become pets; some are even hand-fed, says Winters.
Equally important to pond life are the plants you'll use. Water lilies are favorites and can be spectacular with exotic colors and intoxicating scents. Some are day bloomers and others bloom only at night for your evening viewing pleasure. (Night lighting of a water feature looks really nice, lighting in and around the pond can create some fantastic effects and add to your enjoyment) Other interesting water plants are added for contrast of color, shape and texture as well as the role they play in the biological cycle of the pond. Many water plants have interesting names such as horsetail rush, cattail, parrot's feather and lizard's tail. Some of these are marginal plants which grow at the water's edge, and others are free floating or, in the case of lilies, deeper water plants.
"Water gardening is a combination of raising Koi, growing exotic plants that provide color and scent, and babbling water giving soothing relaxing sounds," says Winters, who believes backyard ponding can be an invaluable stress reliever.
"We have a pair of cardinals that regularly visit our display pond in downtown McKinney to bathe in the shallow stream," he says. "When I first observed them, I watched them splash and preen and, after a few minutes, noticed the tension and stress I'd been caught up in just seemed to melt away. Now, I look forward to these brief moments of serenity."
Longhorn Landscape Creations guides their clients in making pond, plant and fish choices while providing turnkey solutions.
"When we walk away, you'll have everything you need-the Koi, plants, landscaping-the entire solution," says Winters. "It looks great and will be a lot of fun for many years to come." A pond lends itself to other hobbies as well, I saw a dragon fly that was simply fascinating, three inches long with an iridescent light blue body, red eyes and could maneuver like a helicopter, made me want to fetch my camera and at the same time learn a bit more about dragon flies.
So much fun, in fact, that many pond societies host pond tours, similar to house tours, where they show their ponds, typically in summer months. These organized tours offer shared information and the chance to meet others interested in the growing hobbies of natural ponds, water gardening and Koi keeping.
For more on creating natural ponds, water gardening or Koi keeping, contact Longhorn Landscape Creations in McKinney at 972.562.8873, or visit the Web for information on the Texas Association of Pond Societies at http://www.texaps.org or the Associated Koi Clubs of America at http://www.akca.org.