By Jennifer Zuri
You’ve heard the phrase “Bring the outdoors in” when it comes to home décor, but the trend is reversing, and more consumers are focused on bringing the indoors out. According to the 2014 Garden Trends Report by Garden Media Group, more people are decorating their yards, driving demand for elements such as decorative planters, garden art, fountainscapes, and more. In fact, strong growth is expected to continue for outdoor living areas and an important component of this space is water.
Water conservation and the economy are important influencers when it comes to today’s water feature trends. As the economy improves, the water gardening market is showing an upswing in demand from consumers. Savvy landscape contractors are smart to add this category to their list of products and services, particularly if they focus on the trending options.
Getting Wet with Patio Ponds
Portable, miniature water gardens are all the rage this year, and provide an efficient and affordable entry point into the wonderful world of water gardening. These decorative patio ponds are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Aquatic plants, small fish and a pretty fountain can be added to a patio pond to create a true water garden experience that’s smaller in stature.
“Even people with existing waterfalls enjoy adding a patio pond to their yard,” explained Brian Helfrich, construction manager for Aquascape Designs. “They love the sound of their waterfall, but want to enjoy the experience of fish and plants on a smaller scale than an in-ground pond.”
Patio ponds also make it possible for renters to enjoy the water garden lifestyle since the bowls are portable and can fit almost anywhere. Avid gardeners love them too, since they open up greater options for plant choices. Waterlilies, such as the petite Helvola, thrive in this small pond environment, affording gardeners exposure to flowering greenery that exists beyond the terrestrial world.
Also small in stature, fountainscapes are rapidly growing in popularity since they offer the sensory element of sound to the garden. People are naturally drawn to the soothing sound of running water, so it’s no surprise that fountains become the focal point of any landscape. Fountain options start with do-it-yourself kits, and extend to larger, contractor-installed fountains like multiple bubbling rocks.
“Natural rock is the number-one choice in garden fountains,” said Helfrich. Stone products can be expensive, but those with limited budgets can opt for a more economical look-alike option. If the price tag for a natural rock fountain is too steep for your customer, you can offer a fiberglass stone composite look-alike instead, cutting the cost considerably without affecting your margin. And if your customer is enticed by the idea of a fountain but isn’t fond of rock, a variety of options are available, such as a brass decorative piece or a ceramic bubbling urn. There really is no limit to the style and budget of fountain features on the market today.
Fountains are also a great way for contractors to get started installing water features. They can be set up in a few hours, and provide a healthy profit margin just over 45 percent. When purchased as a kit, the cost of goods is less than purchasing the fountain items separately.
Sustainability with pondless waterfalls
Many areas of the country enforce watering restrictions, so homeowners are ever mindful of including native plantings in the garden. Likewise, they enjoy the sustainability of pondless waterfalls — a waterfall without the pond. This re-circulating waterfall requires less water to run than a pond, and can fit almost anywhere in the landscape. Small waterfalls can be used near entryways to greet visitors at the front door, while more expansive waterfalls can meander through a backyard like a natural stream. Families with small children often choose the pondless waterfalls for safety reasons. When the kids are grown, an ecosystem pond can be added.
An exciting new option available with today’s waterfalls is the ability to incorporate an adjustable-flow pump that allows the falls to be dialed up or down. When you’re entertaining, dial the waterfalls up for a more impressive waterfall. When you desire a quieter atmosphere for solitary relaxation, dial the falls down. In addition, the remote control offers the ability to turn the waterfalls on or off.
In areas with severe watering restrictions, many homeowners are opting to add a booster pump and larger reservoir to their pondless waterfall. The booster pump makes it possible to irrigate flower and vegetable beds with the excess water stored in the pondless waterfall’s basin.
Trending back to ponds
Helfrich noted a recent trend back to full ecosystem ponds, “Ponds provide longer and greater interaction levels than a waterfall or fountain,” he said. “People will watch and feed their fish or dangle their feet in the water when they have a backyard pond — spending more time outdoors.” Ponds naturally draw people outside and keep them there longer, thereby increasing therapeutic benefits.
Ponds also provide greater educational opportunities for children, and allow more exploration with nature. Parents enjoy knowing their kids are outside learning about Mother Nature instead of being glued to a video game indoors.
The majority of people who have a pond admit to fish-keeping as one of the greatest pleasures of their water feature. They might have chosen a pond first and foremost for the sight and sound of water in the garden, but the joy of watching fish soon becomes a favorite part of pond ownership.
Pond and landscape lighting
Since most homeowners work during the day, pond and landscape lighting has become an increasingly popular component to enjoying their water feature and outdoor living space. LED lights are preferred over halogen since they have a greater output, making them more economical to run. Additionally, LED lights have a more natural, warm color than their halogen counterparts.
When used underwater, pond lighting extends the viewing hours — allowing homeowners to enjoy watching their fish swim in and out of the lights, providing flickers of color in the evening pond. Waterfall lights create drama and enhance the landscape scene when placed behind the falls. Even fountains create an enchanted mood in the garden when up-lit from the ground or when a fountain accent light is added.
Get your feet wet
Water features are becoming easier to sell because they’re unique and fit a variety of budgets. An added bonus is that once you install a water feature, it typically leads to installation of other landscape projects and services. Landscaping around the pond is critical to providing a natural transition to the surrounding yard, and your customers will want to beautify their water feature with perennials, annuals, and ornamental shrubs. Likewise, many homeowners will install additional hardscaping — such as an expanded patio or deck — to complement their pond.
The water garden lifestyle continues to grow in popularity, from the smallest of fountains to the grandest of ponds. By incorporating water features into your service offerings, you’ll do well to separate yourself from your competition and secure ongoing future business. Get your feet wet by starting with popular patio ponds and fountains, and then expand into larger options like ponds and pondless waterfalls.
Jennifer Zuri is marketing communications manager for Aquascape, Inc.