Good Life

Tranquil oases

Chris and Gail Hurley, of Patton Township, installed this water garden in their backyard in 2006.  The garden features 3 waterfalls, a stream, and a main pond.  CDT/Nabil K. Mark
Chris and Gail Hurley, of Patton Township, installed this water garden in their backyard in 2006. The garden features 3 waterfalls, a stream, and a main pond. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

Some gardens are formal, with beds in neatly defined rows, colors coordinated and plants arranged by height to achieve maximum impact. Others are free-form affairs, following Mother Nature’s own designs.

Whatever the style, water gardens are an increasingly popular way to enhance the beauty of a yard. And despite average prices beginning at $5,000 for a complete pond and water plants, it’s a trend that people in Centre County have embraced.

“It’s all I do,” said Dave Zeigler, owner of Black Hawk Homestead Nursery. “I don’t do any other landscaping.”

Waterfalls and water fountains are becoming popular additions as well, Zeigler said.

“People are putting money into their backyards,” he said. “They want it to be a resort or a getaway.”

While they are fairly low maintenance, many requiring only a change of filter once a week or so, they still require some attention. “A water garden is still a garden,” Zeigler said. “You have to take care of your water plants, you have to take care of your fish.”

While they can be installed anywhere (even indoors), placement consideration should include the view from the house, Zeigler said.

“The important part is putting it where you can see it,” he said. “If you spend a lot of time in the family room, we usually put it in so you can see it from there.”

Falling Waters

Cut into the hillside behind Roy and Cindy Love’s Boalsburg home are a waterfall and pond that fill the air with the gentle sounds of moving water.

The pond was designed and installed by Landscape II in 2000 to complement the existing landscaping. “We wanted something to enhance the tranquility of the backyard,” Roy said. “Water was something that was really appealing.”

While the Loves don’t consider themselves gardeners (plants are supplied and cared for by Black Bear Nursery), they appreciate the bright floral displays in their garden. “We had a spectacular lily out the other day,” Roy said.

Frequent entertainers, the couple find the pond serves as a focal point and conversation piece, Cindy said.

“It really made the area more of a gathering place,” she said. “It’s very conducive to parties and fundraising.”

Upkeep involves changing a filter every four to five days and feeding fish. The cascading water helps to purify it, and algae, Roy said, has never been a problem. “It’s really low maintenance,” he said. “It’s certainly less work than a pool.”

And while it may not replace a pool, their children loved it when they were growing up. “The kids went in to cool off, splash around,” Cindy said.

The Loves, who also have a waterfall in their home, find there’s nothing like the soft sound of rushing water to bring about a sense of well-being.

“We love to hear the sound of it,” Cindy said. “It’s just so peaceful.”

Natural beauty

When Chris Hurley and his wife, Gail, moved into their Port Matilda home, they were already planning to have a pond. “We had a pond at the other house and really enjoyed it,” he said.

The new house had a small pond and waterfall, but they wanted to enlarge the feature. Expanding it by knocking out part of a stone wall in their backyard created a more open and relaxed feeling, Chris said.

“This is a more natural looking one,” he said. “The other one was more formal.”

Installed in 2007, the pond has at least two kinds of lilies as well as a variety of other water plants blooming from May to October. “There’s always some kind of flower,” he said.

Zeigler brings seasonal plants and takes others to an area greenhouse in the winter. Come fall, Chris said, he places netting out to prevent leaves from getting in the water, but other than that, there’s very little to do. “The fish just sort of go to the bottom during the winter,” he said. “The waterfall keeps flowing even in winter.”

The couple, who vacation in Maine, put an authentic buoy bell in the garden to remind them of their getaways.

“If you close your eyes and there’s a little wind you can hear the water and the bell,” he said. “It’s so peaceful.”

In addition to providing a tranquil spot for relaxing or entertaining, the Hurleys feel the pond adds value to the home.

“It’s another room in the house,” he said. “It’s just an outdoor room.”

Twin Falls

Water irises, a variety of lilies, Bird of Paradise, water lettuce, a chameleon plant and bee’s balm are just some of the plants found in and around Ted and Nancy Ziff’s Boalsburg pond.

“Every spring we pick out more plants,” Nancy said. “It’s been growing and growing, which is great.”

Designed and installed by Landscape II in 2003, color and shape define the 2,500-gallon pond, which features a two-tiered waterfall topped with another small pond. Quiet and soothing, the area is where the couple, especially Ted, come to escape.

“This is his getaway,” Nancy said. “He could spend hours out here — I call it his therapy.”

“For me especially, it takes my mind off more tedious stuff,” he said.

Like many pond owners, the Ziffs find the placid environment adds a feeling of being on vacation while still at home.

“We have annual visitors who come for arts fest and they always say it feels like a B and B when we have breakfast by the pond,” Nancy said. “We just feel like we’re on vacation all the time. It’s peaceful, it’s relaxing.”

“I just like that everything is green and growing and changes on an almost daily basis,” Ted said. “It’s almost magical.”

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