Backyard Water Features: How I Turn Hills Into Fountains

Ecologically designed backyard water features transform issues into elegant features.Slope Allows Sophisticated Backyard Water Features

If you’ve ever looked at rural property advertisements, you’ve probably noticed that flat is desirable.  It seems like everyone wants a level piece of land, and for good reason, because it’s easier to put a house there.  But what if I told you that a property with some slope is highly valuable?  I have transformed many formerly unusable outdoor spaces by creating innovative backyard water features you wouldn’t expect.

Ecologically designed backyard water features transform issues into elegant features.

From my point of view, some amount of topography on any parcel is a gold mine when you consider water.

In a recent grey water workshop I attended at a private residence in Southern Oregon, residents had pre-dug an irrigation ditch for catchment of laundry water.  This backyard water feature was intended to utilize laundry wastewater for irrigating two scraggly fruit trees.  These poor trees sat down slope of the house on the property border, and the idea was that the house laundry could be used to make more apples and pears.  The only issue was that the pit was dug up-slope of just the pear; what was the apple supposed to do in the Summer heat waves?

Smart Equals Effective Backyard Water Features

In contrast, smart use of slope allows us to make water from rain and other sources stay on-site where we can use it.  The key these excited workshop hosts had missed was that water always flows downhill.  Using grey water is a great way to lower water bills and reduce waste while helping plants thrive in hot climates (provided you use non-toxic, biodegradable laundry soap).  But there was no way that poor apple was going to coax that water against gravity toward its roots!

Ecological Design Steps for High-Performing Backyard Water Features

IntegEcologically designed backyard water features transform issues into elegant features.rating all elements of a landscape is key when making improvements.  That is why I look at the entire picture of what is happening on a site.  From rain puddling up to make soggy spots in a lawn to an uphill neighbors’ broken sprinklers (this happens more than you might think), water is a force to be partnered with.  Intelligent, ecologically-focused design treats these issues as potential backyard water features that transform a major problem into an elegant solution.

Every master plan I deliver to my clients includes step-by-step instructions for project success.  Here are the three steps I lead my clients through when there are water issues affecting their property:

  1. Observe your property.  Notice where there may be areas that don’t dry out quickly.  Check the curb in front of your home.  If there is water when it’s not raining, you may be affected by your neighbors’ water problems.
  2. Notice where any extra moisture is entering your property.  In one case, a client of mine had a patch of water-loving plants spring up voluntarily at the corner of their lot.  This was one clue as to where the drainage issue was coming from.
  3. Re-grade the area and install higher water needs plants to capture the excess water and create backyard water features (or front yard!) that solve the problem.

I specialize in turning problems into features.  To learn more about how ecological design handles natural resource problems, stay tuned. 

If you are ready to dive in and solve your water woes with ecological design, you can begin by answering my questionnaire.