When I purchased my house in McHenry, IL a couple of years ago, it came with a pondless waterfall in the front yard. Most people, especially passers by walking their dogs, seemed to like it. But to me it looked like water spewing volcano! Time for a Pondless Waterfall Renovation.
It looked less like a natural feature and more like a glorified fountain. You see water in nature flow in the valleys, not from the high points. Here is what is looked liked all decked out with red geranium pots when I bought the house.
Being a self respecting gardener, I knew I could not leave this as is in my front yard. However, I could rebuild this into something a bit more natural looking.
While one part of me wanted to go all out, rent a backhoe, bring in another 5 tons of big boulders and turn it into a 20 foot long meandering creek, another part of me said: Hey dumbo you live on a lake, why would you want such a big water feature in your yard. I mean man you got a 240 acre lake out back!
So I gave myself a challenge and decided to see what I could do with only the existing materials from this waterfall. I love a challenge and my wife Jenny loves me being cheap. It was a win win.
Rebuilding the Pondless Waterfall
I think I succeeded in that I only ended up spending about $30 for new PVC piping and glue. That and a bunch of time and a pretty sore back.
I ended up taking it apart and getting quite a bit of extra flagstone to re-purpose elsewhere in the yard. So not only did I not have to spend much more money to finish my pondless waterfall renovation, but I got enough extra flagstone to create a backyard path.
My pondless waterfall renovation really only did three things to help it look a lot more naturalistic.
- Removing the flagstone stairs – Mixing flagstone and granite is not a good idea. You don’t see them together in nature, so why use them both here.
- Lowering the total height of the waterfall – Waterfall, not Volcano! Sure I could have bermed up soil adjacent to both sides of the waterfall to make this even better. For cost and simplicity sake, I will let plants create the illusion of higher ground around the waterfall for me.
- Rearranging the granite boulders into something a bit more natural – Not the typical landscapers daisy chain rock border.
Planting the Pondless Waterfall Renovation
After the hard work or moving stone, boulders, and rebuilding the waterfall is done, then comes the most fun, the planting! A new landscape feature deserves some new plants off course!
I planted it in stages. I didn’t create a complete plan but instead just kind of winged it to include what I had I could move, what I could get from my neighbor, and what could I leave where it is. Other than those, I did spend around another $200 on new plants, but I did also take out the lawn in front of the waterfall.
Phase one including moving a lot of plants into the gravel bed of the waterfall. I used an invasive yellow iris I pulled from my shoreline at the front of the waterfall. The “tall plant in back” rule is one that needs to be broken on occasion, especially if you are looking to create a quasi natural looking landscape. Plus this is a great spot (at least for one year) for this plant as it has nowhere to spread to.
I also moved some dwarf fountain grasses that came with the house into the gravel bed as they are supposed to tolerate dry conditions. We shall see. I bought and planted some Summer Beauty Allium for the same reason.
I won’t go into all the plants outside of the waterfall as that would take up another blog post by itself.
Here are the plantings in boom a few weeks later.
Phase 2 Plantings (the cheap stuff)
Of course, I needed a phase 2 of plantings (and probably 3 next year). These were mostly smaller plugs I had grown in the Spring. They will take a while to make an impact, but trust me they will. They include prairie smoke by the drive, asters (blooming by telephone pole), two types of goldenrods, and a bunch of mountain mint transplants from my neighbor Ken behind the catmint.
Here it is covered in snow the first winter after the redo:
Here is an updated video of it in late Spring of 2018, where the plants have begun to fill in.