Japanese gardens inspire pool project in suburban D.C.

Choice Logo120 The client had spent a number of years in Asia and wanted a design with an Asian look β€” but not a strictly formal Japanese garden," says Albert V. Short, Harmony Ponds president. "The design had to be compatible with the existing landscape elements, which include a gazebo and the decks on the rear of the residence."

Traditional Japanese garden style is defined by a number of elements; among them is the concept of view. That means the designer must consider that the garden will be viewed from inside one or more structures. For this project, the site of the waterfall was influenced by the view from within the home, especially from the family room. Furthermore, the winter views from inside were as important as the summer views from the decks.

Oqq 1107 Aq Other important elements of Japanese design include waterfalls (always changing and always there, a perfect symbol of the "permanent impermanence" of the universe), stones (so central are the placement of stones that the 1,000-year-old gardening manual Sakuteiki, or Records of Garden Making, equates placement of stones within the garden with the act of gardening itself), bridges, paths and nature. All of these elements are present in Harmony's design, yielding an Asian sensibility.

The boulder steps and the stone slab bridge invite the visitor to walk over the pond to the small Canadian cedar deck that is cantilevered over the pond basin, where there is an intimate view of the waterfall and the close-by sound of falling water.

The steeply sloped site provided the elevation required to execute this ambitious garden pond and waterfall design. First, over 50 tons of soil were cut from the slope for the pond basin and the waterfall. More than 88 tons of Pennsylvania mountain stone β€” some boulders over three tons β€” were carefully maneuvered around the site and painstakingly placed with a 10-ton shooting-boom forklift. This type of select boulder material was chosen for its naturally eroded texture and the color match to existing stone walls on the site. The pond was lined with EPDM rubber backed up with geotextile.

The installation team worked from designer Donald Jump's plan for the pond shape and waterfall concept and let their skills, the topography of the site and the shape and size of the boulders drive the details.

The pumps and ultraviolet sterilizer were hidden beneath the wood deck. This pump/skimmer system met the client's desires for a low-maintenance pond that would maintain consistently clear water and support aquatic plants and fish. Subtle low-voltage lighting enhances the views of the pond and garden from inside and facilitates evening use of the space.

The end result was a garden pond that met the client's expectations, fits comfortably with its surroundings and looks like it has been there since the last ice age. It's a serene garden environment for this suburban residence.

What the judges said:

Nonemaker"The water flows over an asymmetrical space, not over the full width of the feature. It zigzags, like it would in nature, and that's good." ROBERT NONEMAKER, principal of Outerspaces, specializing in landscape and watershape design and construction, and Robert Nonemaker Exterior Designs, a watershape consultancy.

White"It's a peaceful, inviting setting. It's good to see mature plants. Ferns are surviving well in the water; plant selection was successful." LEE ANNE WHITE, photographer, landscape designer and writer; former editor-in-chief of Fine Gardening Magazine and author of numerous books including Taunton's Pool Idea Book.

Tisherman"The reflections on the water are a nice visual element; the placement of stones is well done." DAVID TISHERMAN, principal and founder of David Tisherman's Visuals, principal and founder of Genesis 3 Design Group, and an award-winning designer and teacher.

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