How We Build Streams and Waterfalls
We build streams as water features in landscapes. Sometimes their purpose in your garden ideas is to add beauty, sounds and a wildlife habitat to your garden. We build other streams that convey stormwater and prevent erosion. Often our streams serve both purposes. All of them look natural, as though they were always there.
Streams that convey water use a pump and a reservoir and the water runs through the watercourse at your command.
Other streams remain dry until a heavy storm, when they serve to direct runoff that would otherwise carry away some of the fertile topsoil or valuable plants that are in your landscape. If you have precious water that is leaving your garden before it can soak in and water your plants, a stream and the earth sculpting that goes into the process can stop the runoff and let you keep the precious resource.
Our method of building a stream with flowing water features includes these steps:
We walk the site of the proposed watercourse in order to study the terrain and find a path, such as a draw, where water would naturally flow. We mark the proposed stream bed to show our client the proposed scope of the project. Once the location is decided, elevation changes are measured in order to calculate the locations and sizes of waterfalls and pools.
We locate actual groups of boulders in places where, for instance property development is underway. We search for naturally occurring groups that can be dismantled, transported, and reassembled. In this way we preserve the original lines that make the stones a group, rather than a random collection of individual stones.
We locate actual groups of boulders in accessible places where, for instance property development is underway. We clean, measure, tag and photograph the groups that we will salvage. In some cases, we split larger stones along natural fissures in order to reduce bulk and weight for transport
With accurate elevation measurements and the boulder groups selected, we design the watercourse. Plumbing and drainage mechanicals are designed. Plants are selected. Drawings, illustrations and photographs convey to the client our best representation of the finished product.
With the design in hand, excavation for the waterfalls and stream bed are made. Trash bags stuffed with newspaper stand in for signature boulders. The existing mulch on the forest floor is stockpiled so that it can be used later in the planting phase. Existing plants that will be incorporated later are carefully removed and set aside. Plywood pathways are placed on root zones to protect the tree roots.
Water supply, pump and filter locations, valve boxes and drainage make up the mechanical element of the recirculating water feature.
With the liner in place the boulders are brought to the site. Straps protects the beautiful time-weathered patina of the boulders and prevents chipping. The boulders are set in “shelves” made during the excavation phase. Ultimately, at least half of the boulder will be underground, as it occurred in its original setting.
With a supply of additional boulders and rocks of various sizes, we mimic nature by using photos of sections of actual streams. The waterfalls and “pinches” in the photos direct the placement of the additional stone.
Using levels, we predict how water will flow through the stream bed. We plan locations where we will dam up the water and then direct it to overflow through a pinch of boulders.
We design ways for the client to access the water. Trails are installed. We design and craft creative bridges allow the visitor to cross the stream giving them a chance to hear and see the lively water and to experience the plants as they grow and exhibit their seasonal changes.
Finally, water is added and the system is tested. The edges are backfilled with soil engineered for woodland plants and the original mulch from the stockpiles on site is used to cover exposed soil. Finally, ferns and other native plants tie the stones and watercourse into the surrounding terrain.
As specified by the landscape planting plan, ferns and other native plants tie the stones and watercourse into the surrounding terrain.