Water Features for Portland Landscaping: Proper Planning, Design & Maintenance

July 18, 2014

Portland-Landscaping-Water-Feature-DesignSince ancient times, people have appreciated the healing powers of water. Modern research proves that the sound of flowing water decreases stress levels. The playful gurgling of a stream can lift a person’s spirits, while water’s sparkling movement enchants the eyes. Beyond a yearning for beauty, our Portland landscaping clients cite additional reasons for installing water features, such as achieving a balance of elements (fire, water, metal, air, and so forth). Moving water is also an excellent way to drown out traffic or other unappealing sounds. Water features can attract entrancing wildlife to your yard. Finally, if you’re looking to create a Zen/meditative garden space where you can escape the cares of the world, a water feature is a key ingredient in your overall design.

Regardless of your motivation, this blog post will help you create and enjoy a functional water feature. After years of experience in Portland landscaping design and maintenance, I can offer the following tips on planning, designing, and maintaining a water feature.

Planning Water Features

Reflect on what you want out of your water feature. Ask yourself a few questions:

Portland Water Feature1) Do you want fish and/or plants in your water feature?
This is an important question because these living creatures will add organic waste to your water feature, requiring a heavy-duty filtration system for proper circulation and water clarity. Come up with a firm answer to this question up front; changing your mind later could add redesign costs down the road.

2) Do you want a natural-looking water feature?
Consider how water flows in nature: It tumbles, flowing freely through landscapes. You won’t find walls or fences in natural water scenes. If you’re looking for a naturalistic water feature, consider creating a small stream or bubbler. Surrounding it with the right plants can go a long way in creating a natural-looking feature. If you prefer a more formal design, a self-contained fountain system is a great way to go.

3) How much sound are you looking for? To drown out traffic noises, you may need water cascading down rocks, crashing as it flows. On the other hand, if you simply want a sound that the mind can follow during meditation, a soft trickle will suffice. Sound considerations are a big part of water feature design.

4) Where will excess water go? Heavy water flow is always an important consideration for Portland landscaping maintenance. During a deluge, where will extra water drain? Consider adding a catch basin or a French drain to your water feature scheme.

Water Feature with Outdoor Lighting5) Would you like lighting? For larger pools, underwater lighting can be dramatic and absolutely stunning. Even for bubbling rock arrangements, lighting offers nighttime elegance. Just know that your costs will be higher if lighting is included.

There are many types of water features for you to choose from, including Koi ponds, water gardens, waterfalls, and decorative fountains. As you plan, envision how your new water feature will fit in with current garden elements.

Designing Water Features

Portland Landscaping Water FeatureOnce you’ve planned the basics, it’s time to dive into the design of your water feature. Here are a few things to consider as you do so:

Make sure your design includes accessible, insulated pipes. It doesn’t freeze often in Portland, but even so it’s best to be prepared for the cold snap. Water feature pipes should be accessible—you don’t want to have to move boulders to repair plumbing. Additionally, pipes should be insulated, and all valves should be accessible as well. Pipes that aren’t close to the ground are more liable to freeze, crack, and break.

Get electrical advice, particularly for larger water features. An electrician can ensure that your feature will be properly supported. By the way, if Landscape East & West is designing and installing your water feature, we are happy to handle this aspect of the design.

Choose between hard and soft liners. Soft liners work best for horizontal water features. If not cared for or used for vertical designs, liners tend to become punctured and leak. Gunite and concrete are better liner materials for more vertical, dramatic water features.

Select a location with care. Your water feature should be visible, yet out of the way of foot traffic. It should also be within access to water and electrical hookups, if required. Finally, avoid placing your water feature in a windy area.

Include design considerations when choosing a water feature. When creating water features, landscape architects ponder many design elements, including scale, setting, color scheme, and style (formal vs. naturalistic fountains).

The construction side of water feature design can be rather complex, so we suggest that you contact our experts at Landscape East & West for more details on choosing the right basin, pump, nozzles, and filtration system for your water feature.

Water Feature Maintenance

Avoid frozen, broken pipes.
As with irrigation systems, the best way to ensure your water feature still works after a hard freeze is to drain out all water before frigid weather arrives. Another option is to leave your water feature running—flowing water won’t freeze.

Portland Water Feature DesignWater feature design determines which repair options are available. For instance, the pumps on some water features are practically inaccessible. So, if the pump fails, you must tear apart the water feature to gain access.

Clean water features regularly.
Determining when to clean your water feature depends on its size, filtration system and whether it contains fish or plants, or if it is subject to detritus like falling leaves. Some systems may need cleaning every three months and other types of systems need cleaning every two or three years.  The pump should be cleaned regularly and thoroughly as well. A toothbrush can be extremely handy when cleaning tough-to-reach nooks and crannies in your water feature. Be sure to ask your landscaping professional what the cleaning schedule should be for your particular system.

Keep the fountain filled with water.
Evaporation and wind can slowly drain your water feature. This is dangerous because if a feature goes dry it is likely to destroy your pump. Regularly refill your fountain to avoid a burnt-out pump. Also: It’s best to keep your pump going constantly, as most water feature pumps are designed for continual operation. Starting and stopping them actually causes more wear and tear.

Landscape East & West’s Water Feature Design & Maintenance Services

Tall Pot bubbler Water FeatureFrom custom fountains to cascading waterfalls, the Portland landscaping professionals at Landscape East & West can create a water feature enhances and complements your landscape design.  Considering  a luxurious pool or hot tub? Our team is skilled at creating designs that blend seamlessly into your landscaping. Looking for a water feature maintenance professional in the Portland area? We can help! We invite you to learn more about our water feature design services.