Project Details Cost of Waterfall: $150,000 for waterfall feature only (does not include the irrigation system) |Build Time: 45 days over the course of several months |Size of Project: 1 acre
Smith DesignScapes|Cox Woodland Estate Landscape Pond & Waterfall
Richard Smith is a hands-on designer. He plays an active role in both the design and installation of landscaping projects at his company Smith DesignScapes. With that kind of dedication and attention to detail, he can handle the most challenging jobs.
A recent challenge was building a pond and dual waterfalls on a new residential estate. The completed project moves 75,000 gallons per hour (gph) of water through two disappearing streams that have five- and six-foot falls into the pond in a woodland setting of native trees.
The project had its share of issues, and work conditions were not ideal, but Richard was not deterred. Part of the property drained to the installation area and the project was completed during a particularly rainy winter in Tennessee, so the ground was a muddy mess. The client’s new home was being constructed at the same time, so it was louder and more chaotic than a usual work site.
Richard and his crew had to work around the weather to finish the installation, which took about 45 days and spanned several months. His team also completed landscaping on other parts of the property and installed nine acres of irrigation before they even started the pond and waterfall features.
After meeting with the client, Richard spent time on the property to take in what he says photographs and sketches cannot capture. He invited the homeowners to other job sites so they could see the type of stonework he proposed and better understand how the feature would look. With a project of this magnitude, he wanted to make sure he captured the client’s vision before he even began buying materials.
Work in Progress
When it came time to select materials, Richard literally left no stone unturned. He selected each boulder, rock and slab from the Arkansas mountains and had the estimated 48 tons of stone hauled back to the site in multiple tractor-trailer trucks.
He was on site for the total installation, handpicking where each rock should go. There is little room for error in a project this large, because each boulder and slab have a specific purpose in directing the water flow. According to Richard, precision is key when selecting and placing materials because it eliminates rock waste and speeds up installation.
Even though it was a large project, he kept the install team small because of the space limitations.
“With a project like that, it’s a confined space. Since I’m picking out every rock, we generally only have a few people,” Richard says. “If you have more than that, you’re either standing there watching or you’re in the way.”
Richard knew his biggest challenge was having a large water feature in a wooded setting, and the client wanted to preserve as many native trees as possible. The usual water filtration system would not be sufficient, because leaf litter would clog a surface skimmer and require constant maintenance to keep 75,000 gph of water flowing.
He had to get creative, so he designed a custom filtration system that would keep the pumps running at full capacity, even when the leaves drop at the peak of fall.
“The pumps draw all the way across the pond from the bottom, so the leaves can fill but they can never stop the pump,” he says. “It always has places to draw water from because what we made was basically a snorkel system through the pond.”
The skimmer basket is usually the last line of defense in keeping debris out, but with this system, the leaves never make it that far. Maintenance is easy, too. The pond only needs to be skimmed with a net a couple of times a year to remove fallen leaves.
On “performance day,” when everything is constructed and the pumps are turned on for the first time, Richard and the homeowner got to see—and hear— the project on full display.
“The system moves approximately 75,000 gph, so with that amount of water compressed and falling from these heights, it creates a sound that can be heard from quite some distance,” Richard explains. “Surprisingly to most, it is not a water feature you stand next to and hold a conversation if you want to be heard.”
The homeowners originally wanted to have the feature behind the gates of their estate, but when they saw the outcome, they decided it was too beautiful not to share with their neighborhood. It has become a popular backdrop for special occasions.
“In the spring, during prom season, there will be 100 people down there on Fridays and Saturdays taking photographs,” Richard says. “If there’s a wedding, people are there taking photos. It gets a lot of exposure.”
Smith DesignScapes is a full-service design, build and maintenance landscape company specializing in water features. Based in Jackson, Tennessee, they serve surrounding areas, including Memphis and Nashville.