6 Sensational Waterscapes

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Refreshing landscape ideas to calm, cool and inspire you.

Story by Rachael Hedgcoth

Of all the earth elements, water is certainly the most tranquil. The feel of it, the sight of it, the sound of it has the ability to magically transport our minds to another place.

So it’s no surprise that Kansas City-area homeowners are turning to creative water features to add beauty, life and motion to their backyards.

From shallow streams and koi ponds to cascading fountains, there is no limit to how Mother Nature’s most fluid element can be displayed.

We talked to some of Kansas City’s finest creative architects to learn what goes into designing these tranquil works of water art.

A common misperception is that ponds and other waterscapes are high-maintenance, but these landscaping specialists illustrate that this notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, many waterscapes can be successfully maintained through frosty months and are especially exquisite as semi-frozen winterscapes.

Read on to see how six Kansas City homeowners have transformed ordinary backyards with stunning aquatic aesthetics!




Lush Retreat

When this Leawood, Kan., homeowner decided to transform his backyard, the mission was to create a relaxing environment in which to decompress from the daily grind.

Matt Alberts, owner of Leawood-based Land Art, Inc., molded the gently sloping grassy yard into an intimate, lush retreat. Complete with a meandering 15-foot bed of Mexican beach pebbles feeding into a pond just off the patio, the setting is rich in textures and color.

Appearing to begin at the contemplation bench at the back of the yard, the stream trickles past an array of blue spruce, azaleas, Annabelle hydrangeas and other ornamental plants.

Two waterfalls provide distinct sounds as the top waterfall drops straight into water while the lower one splashes onto Arctic Blue glacier boulders.

A sweetbay magnolia tree, elegant paint the town roses and moonbeam are among the plants that fringe this 2-and-a-half-foot deep pond filled with shubunkin goldfish and an occasional great blue heron.




Rock Music

Wanting to emulate the soothing sounds of a waterfall without actually using a waterfall, these Overland Park, Kan., homeowners enlisted the talents of Olathe, Kan.,-based MW Lawn & Landscape, Inc., to design the perfect solution.

With young children at home, a maintenance-free, pondless feature was ideal, translating into a safe and stylish element.

MW Lawn’s Matt Winter overhauled the backyard, building a spacious Belgard paver patio and fire pit that borders landscaping dressed in blue Atlas cedars and various perennials.

But the main attraction is a mossy character boulder that’s roughly 2 feet tall and 2-and-a-half feet wide that is situated over a concealed basin and pump system.

The homeowners selected the boulder from a local rock supply company and MW Lawn drilled through the center to transform it into a bubbling focal point.

A rush of currents cascade over the boulder onto rainbow river rock and larger Colorado cobbles, creating a truly sensory experience that can be enjoyed from the home’s lower patio or upper deck.




Spring Reflections

After taking a few area water garden tours, these homeowners opted to add a water feature to their backyard.

Created in just under three days by Dan Stanza of Kansas City’s Good Earth Outdoor, this Kansas City, Mo., pond is as picturesque as it is functional.

With proper filtration, a mechanical skimmer and the appropriate fish, backyard ponds should ideally evolve into a balanced ecosystem, making natural ponds a relatively low-maintenance landscaping option.

With a 15-foot stream that trickles into an expansive 18-by-22-foot pond, this waterscape features an upper waterfall which cascades three feet down a hill and a lower waterfall that spills over a flagstone slab.

Lily pads, ornamental maiden grasses, water hyacinth and irises grant seasonal fragrance and color while also attracting small frogs and other wildlife.

In-pond lighting adds dramatic effects at night to this inviting backyard escape.




Basalt Bubblers

While ponds are frequently used in waterscapes, fountains can prove equally effective as unique aquatic elements.

This Kansas City, Mo., homeowner turned to Dan Stanza of Good Earth Outdoor for a simple but striking aesthetic waterscape solution for her yard that backs up to the Tiffany Greens golf course.

Above a 150-gallon basin and motor tucked under a blanket of decorative river gravel, three basalt pillars of varying heights create a commanding focal point.

The igneous stone fountains showcase a rugged appeal complemented by bubbling water and LED spotlighting. The enduring natural beauty and exotic composition of the basalt contribute to the fountains’ allure.

Day or night, these amber columns emit an intriguing glow and soothing sounds – the perfect accompaniment to the nearby fire pit and patio seating.

Just as the homeowners had envisioned, the unique feature serves as an interactive conversation piece for their children and grandchildren.




Tropical Escape

This Lawrence, Kan., homeowner had seasonal flexibility in mind when she recruited Strahm Lawns to create a two-tiered water feature behind her home.

Over a couple of weeks, Lawrence, Kan.,-based Strahm Lawns, a full service landscape company, transformed the yard’s natural turf area and raised berm into a tropical oasis.

A smaller upper pond acts as a natural bog filter for the lower pond which is 5-and-half-feet deep and nearly 15 feet wide.

A 36-inch waterfall rushes down over large character boulders but creates minimal water disturbance for the pond’s koi population.

The water is filled with tropical annuals rather than perennial plants, giving the homeowner flexibility for seasonal changes based on tropical plant availability.

Submersible heating elements allow this waterscape to thrive throughout every season, giving the feature year-round appeal.

Illuminated with Kichler lighting and set among Aspen cobblestones, a mix of weeping spruce, wintergreen boxwood, lilies and lotus flowers ensure evergreen versatility.




Cascading Currents

Wanting to trade busy street noise for a more peaceful soundtrack, these Olathe, Kan., homeowners opted for an eye-catching project that would serve as a sound barrier as well as an element of luxury.

Giving fresh life to the flat, sodded backyard, Matt Winter of Olathe, Kan.,-based MW Lawn & Landscape, Inc., created a 6-foot-tall waterfall brimming with multiple falls.

Situated in the corner of the backyard, the waterscape spans roughly 15 feet by 15 feet and is tucked among rose bushes, boxwoods, spruce trees, daylilies and magnolia bushes.

The current tumbles down multiple layers of stone in various slopes and locations resulting in a tranquil blend of measured rushes and splashes.

Strategically placed mossy boulders and flagstone slabs feed the water into a 2-foot-deep pond.

When the sun sets, blue in-water lighting and clear lighting on land add a mysterious, shadowed dimension to the graceful aquascape.

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