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Friday, September 16, 2016

Making Water Fall

How to hide a set of pool steps for a mere $500.
(The handrail anchors are still visible on the far left.)
The pool steps, ca. 1984.
During the summer of 1983 we had installed in our backyard an in-ground swimming pool. The old definition of a swimming pool being "a hole in the ground you pour money into" is cate-gorically true. The original cost of the pool was about $10,000. Some twenty years later, we had the pool removedl having poured at least another ten-thousand into maintenance and upkeep over that peri-od. That's not to say we didn't get our money's worth over that time. We did, and then some. Our year-old son grew into a man during that time. We both enjoyed the pool immensely. However, after twenty years, we were facing a refurbishing that would have run three to four thousand dollars for a pool, which only I used, and which was becoming more and more of a maintenance burden. So, we decided to have it removed and the area landscaped. Ironically it cost about as much to remove the pool infrastructure as to have had it refurbished.
Sort of what I had in mind originally for our pool.
My backyard waterfall plus a
little artistic license.
In designing the pool myself, I had envisioned a good-sized waterfall at one end (above). We even had some lava boulders and the plumbing installed. However, that's as far as the idea ever got. The pool came and went leaving an attractive kidney-shaped garden spot surrounded by a concrete patio and walkway, which we had landscaped. The last vestige of the pool was the opening in the patio where the fiberglass steps down into the water had been. That unsightly feature became the spot for my long-delayed waterfall. We pur-chased a set of heavy-duty plastic shells (one large, two smaller) and a pump. I dug a hole, piled the dirt in the area where the pool had been which resulted in about a three-foot elevation upon which I position the two smaller shells with the largest one in the newly dug hole. I filled the lower pool with water, hooked up the pump, plugged it into an extension cord, and presto--I had a really ugly waterfall.

The construction of a somewhat more ambitious backyard
waterfall than mine, but you get the idea.
I won't say building the waterfall was the easy part, but it certainly didn't end there. I could have gone to some local stream and carted off in the back of our van a few tons of relatively flat rocks. Instead, I went to a local nursery and bought some choice chunks of sedimentary stones (roughly $100 worth) plus what I deemed to be sufficient flowers to decorate amongst the outcropping. Actually, we ended up repeating this trek two more times before my wife decided "enough was enough." Taken together, I had plowed around five-hundred bucks into my little DIY project. The results (top) were quite satisfying...until autumn leaves began to fall.

A "dry pond" waterfall. The pump is below the small stones
at the bottom--another solution to the autumn leaves problem.
Actually, there's no need to
buy a waterfall "kit" as I did.
A pump and some plastic
sheathing will do the trick.
I won't even try to describe the yuckiness of scooping out rotting leaves from the bottom of the "pond." The following year, I got wise, installing a few square feet of plastic fencing over the whole thing plus some small-mesh netting to catch the autumn leaves and make them easier to dispose of the following spring. Another problem I hadn't anticipated was that such an aqueous work of art would constitute what some call an "attractive nuisance." Living in a wooded area, we found that the sound of the falling water attracted the neighborhood deer population to sip the contents and, nibble at the flowers, having drunk their fill. The second year, we put a stop to that by planting only silk flowers. Boy, were those deer sur-prised. There was also the added bonus that, unlike live plants, the silk imitations could eas-ily be uprooted and replanted the following year. If you're a horticultural purist, or an avid gardener and don't mind keeping an eye out for dining deer, disregard the final suggestion.

Besides the informal or "natural" waterfalls seen earlier, many prefer a
more formal style. Unless you're building from "scratch" on an empty lot, whichever style you like, keep in mind the waterfall should fit with the existing topography or architectural features of the site.
A formal waterfall with an informal stream, along with its
artist creator. I could do without the string of lights at
the top.

Who knows? Maybe this creative
genius has the right idea.


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