Music in the Open Air
Garden waterfalls are a contrivance of landscape design—and when done well, they become works of art. If you’ve ever vacationed at a beachfront cottage, you know how it feels to wake up in the morning to the sound of gentle surf lapping the shore. The sound of moving water is pleasing and calming. Backyard water features strive to achieve that effect. Water trickling over rocks or splashing into a pool brings an additional layer of music to your backyard garden, underscoring the music of birds, insects or the on again off again brush of a breeze through foliage.
An Artful Illusion
To create the artful illusion of a waterfall, our landscape architects always try to follow the natural slope of the landscape when laying out the waterfall. We also mask the starting point of the falls, so that the water appears to be coming from someplace out of sight. We may accomplish this by siting the waterfall in a corner of the property and screening it with plantings.
Designing for Sight & Sound
In nature, it is often the case that you will hear a waterfall before you actually see it. The sound of the water is compelling. So, when designing a backyard waterfall, we design for sound as well as for the look of the piece.
Waterfall Sound Design
Loudness and quality are affected by
- Volume of water running through the system
- Distance water drops through the air onto a landing point
- Arrival surface of the cascade—either a pool or grouping of stones
- Size and shape of stones guiding the flow
Waterfall Visual Design
Aesthetic impact depends on
- Height and steepness of the waterfall (also controls sound quality and loudness
- Number of drops or cascades
- Use of flat stones to create a curtain of water as it flows over an edge
- Use of a retaining wall to create a “weeping wall” effect (dampens sound quality)
Natural Style Waterfalls
These waterfalls are designed to look and flow like a little feeder stream you might come across while out hiking. The elevation change from top to bottom is gentle, as is the sound produced by the flow. The stone work and plantings are designed to have a random and slightly overgrown look.
Curtain Style Waterfalls
When the flow drops over a flat stone edge, it creates a thin curtain of water. Finessing the edges of the stone can fine tune the flow into see-through strands of water that show off the stone work behind the falls. This style of waterfall lends itself well to being dramatically lit at night (as shown in the adjacent photo).
Weeping Wall Style
In this more formally crafted style of waterfall, a retaining wall is used. Sometimes the water pours through spouts, but allowing it to trickle down the face of the wall is what creates the gentle “weeping” effect.
The benefits of a garden waterfall are both aesthetic and psychological. A waterfalls has a positive effect on your garden as well. Moving and dropping water energizes the nearby air, cooling it and giving moisture to nearby garden plants. If you’d like to discuss adding a water feature to your Great Falls, Virginia backyard garden, please contact one of our landscape architects to schedule an appointment to meet at your home.