Creating Therapeutic Water Gardens

August 30, 2016 | Doug Oster comments
Water Garden Image

Water garden at Rizzo’s Malabar Inn. Created by Aquatic Edge Pond and Landscapes of Greensburg, PA. PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

A love of stone and water is necessary if you want a water garden as creative as a work of art. Tim Wood, owner of Aquatic Edge Pond and Landscapes in Greensburg possesses that appreciation. He kneels pulling a few small weeds, perfecting the waterfall and pond at Rizzo’s Malabar Inn.

There’s just something about being around water that’s therapeutic, Wood says. “They have actually done studies. The splashing and crashing of water creates negative ions in the air, which affect our brains in a certain way that helps us calm and de-stress and makes us feel better.

Professional Advice For DIY Homeowners

Aesthetic is key with water gardens. “It’s harder to make it look natural, like it’s been there forever,” he says. “That’s what we strive for in most of our applications.”

What’s the biggest mistake homeowners make? He says it’s “underestimating the amount of work that’s involved, trying to piece together a feature using less-than-adequate materials.”

Many people also worry that water gardens are going to turn green and look unappealing. That doesn’t have to be the case. When setup properly they look great.

“You can have a koi pond and it will be crystal clear all the time,” he says. “Every pond is going to get some algae; you just need to know how to deal with it efficiently.” That skill is something that comes with time.

“Until you have some real-life experience,” Wood says, “there’s a steep learning curve.”

Tips From the Professionals:
1) Add moss to some of the logs and stones that are placed throughout the water feature.
2) In water gardens size matters. A common mistake homeowners make is starting too small.

“The larger a pond is, as long as it’s filtered properly, the easier it is to keep it nice,” he says. A small DYI kit from a box store is hard to keep nice, because ponds with less water are more adversely affected by small changes in the environment.

Plants will soften the edges between all the hardscape, but also help the pond in other ways.

“Plants are a very important part of the ecosystem,” Wood says. “Whenever we build a pond for somebody, I automatically include plants.”

Uncertain of which plants to add? One of Wood’s favorites is the water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides). It’s not really a forget-me-not, but the pretty blue flowers are reminiscent of its namesake and it’s easy to grow. He plants parrotfeather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), water lilies, lotus and other plants. Wood warns though, that these plants are invasive and are not for use in farm ponds without liners.

Wood stands proudly looking at the detailed features created at the inn. For Wood, the real payoff comes from his client’s reaction to the finished product.

“I get so much joy out of it. It’s hard work, but it’s a cumulative thing,” he says with a smile. “Once that process is done and they come out and see it, you can just see the joy in their face and how happy they are. I really, really love creating features, small and large.”