Feel-Good Home: Water, Water, Everywhere
You can mindfully introduce water features into your landscape no matter the size of your yard
You’re probably already aware that the Earth is called the Blue Planet because about 70 percent of it is covered in water. Proponents of biophilic design — building practices that aim to improve human health, well-being and productivity — advocate strengthening your connection to water by incorporating water into your landscape. Here is a collection of ways, large and small, to mindfully do that.
Keep it natural. Natural pools are self-sustaining and require minimal upkeep. They can be made either to closely resemble the rectangular backyard pools of sky-blue water we’re used to seeing or a more free-form pond. Natural pools use plants to filter and purify the water, negating the need for toxic chemicals.
Since these pools look so much like natural bodies of water, you can play up the image with docks to create your own lake. Just like the real thing, your creation may also attract deer and other critters that will enhance your view in exchange for a few sips of healthy, clean water.
Layer the view. This photo demonstrates three design successes. First, the waterfall that cascades out from the home bridges the home and site divide. Second, situating the small plunge pool as close to the house as possible gives those inside a pleasing view when they look out the window and see water that appears integral with the home. Third, it mirrors a common practice of architect Charles Moore, who spoke of “the heightened perception given to viewing the distant ocean by inserting a bowl of water or a small pool between the viewer and the view, as compared to just staring into the distance over dry terrain toward the ocean.”
Catch the rain. Harvesting rain is another way to incorporate water that delights multiple senses at once for a fuller experience. When it rains, water trickles down this rain chain, sounding pleasing pings as it fills up the barrel to be used later for plant irrigation or household chores.
What looks like a standard pumped water feature is actually a clever catchment device that channels rainwater down from a perforated pipe masked by the pergola’s framing and into a basin that carries it to underground reserve tanks.
Step it up. There are garden fountains, and then there’s this custom-designed tiered waterfall featuring lily pads and metal that will develop a lovely patina with time.
Introduce sound. A deer catcher fountain suggests the presence of wildlife on the home site. This apparatus originated in Japan to spook grazing deer as they make a meal of one’s garden. The long tube slowly fills with water until the weight of the water causes the tube to pivot on its center of gravity and descend, loudly hitting the basin below. It is this noise that is supposed to scare away the deer.
Build it in. Tables with a hollowed-out channel for ice, drinks or even fire are always a welcome sight on a patio, especially one that is too short on space to accommodate a separate cooler or fire bowl. But tables that use that channel as part of a larger water feature deserve special recognition.
Create an island. Whereas the previous example used a basin as a catchment, this tropical vignette features even more water that flows into a pool upon which the dining area sits like an island. This kind of design thinking is what can transform a nice-enough backyard into a oasis for all the senses.
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