Shawn de la Foret, landscape designer at Nature’s Way in Stevensville, is a full believer in the power of ponds. From just sitting back and relaxing to taking the kids or grandkids fishing, he says, a pond turns the backyard into a destination.
“On a summer night, what’s better than rowing out with a glass of wine to see the stars?” he asks. “A pond creates activities that can be enjoyed all year long.”
One customer who is an avid waterfowl enthusiast loves watching the ducks that come to his pond every fall — he’s probably viewed over 20 species of duck alone, de la Foret noted. Other homeowners he knows enjoy their custom waterscape in winter as a skating platform. In another backyard, a silver maple once surrounded by an expanse of grass inspired the creation of an island. Accessed by rowboat or a little bridge, it’s a fun fantasy getaway in every season.
Those who craft such custom residential ponds agree the secret to success is to not just make them scenic, but engaging.
Peggy Kutchey, landscape design manager for Berns Landscape in Warren, notes koi and other fish can be trained to come at feeding time. “They become like pets to pond owners,” she says, and are fun entertainment for kids.
Designer Bob Dews of XStream Ponds in North Carolina, who often works in Michigan with Waterscapes Unlimited in Lake Ann, recently created an “extreme” swimming pond for a family, complete with caves to explore and rocks from which to jump. “Owning a pond should be a multi-sensory experience,” he says.
Beyond Cattails and Lily Pads
Paths to stroll and inviting places to sit including “floating patios” turn backyard ponds into outdoor living spaces. Other special features that enhance enjoyment range from waterfalls with varying levels of cascades for a harmonic mix of sounds to dramatic colored lights that create eye-catching views season to season from inside the home, too.
Statues, sculptures and fountains can also add artfulness and elegance as focal points or fun touches of whimsy tucked in unexpected places.
“I’d love to do an underwater observatory,” shares de la Foret, when asked if there’s anything in he hasn’t done in all his years of pond design.
As for size, “the bigger the better,” the landscape artisan says. “While it should always fit the scale of the overall property, a bigger, deeper pond equals a healthy pond.” He adds, “I tell people if you’ve got the space and are even thinking about having a pond, do it. It will add huge value to your house, and to your enjoyment.”
One customer de la Foret worked with wanted to build a tennis court on his eight acres. “But he was in a very low-lying area, with no drainage so we convinced him to go with a large pond. It’s now his favorite spot, the place where they spend most of their time.”
Ponds can have practical purposes, too, Kutchey adds. Berns Landscape constructed one pond close to one customer’s home to mask the sounds of traffic from a nearby highway. It worked.
Her best advice to anyone considering this addition is to enlist a competent contractor: “This isn’t something where price should be your deciding factor.”