HOW BACKYARD WATERFALLS BRING BALANCE TO A LANDSCAPE DESIGN

Backyard Waterfalls Complement Other Water Features

naturalistic backyard waterfalls feeding pond style swimming pool

Backyard waterfalls, when artfully done, can transform the way you experience the outdoor environment of your home. Aside from the obvious visual appeal, the sound of a waterfall creates a refreshing ambiance, one that is immediately pleasing and calming.

Waterfalls can be multi-leveled with multiple drops, or they can be as simple as a stream trickling over boulders arranged to mimic a glade you might come across on a hike in the mountains. The waterfall effect can also be achieved in a more “architectural style with a spillway from a pool or spa into a recirculating catchment.

Here are a few of the most popular ways of pairing backyard waterfalls with other favorite water features.

Waterfalls and Swimming Pools

Some of the best sites for pairing a naturalistic style swimming pool and waterfalls are in backyards with steep slopes. Using a combination of retaining walls and terraced beds, the pool can be set into the hillside with the falls dropping naturally from above. This approach works exceptionally well when the pool is a lagoon style that has a randomly curved shape.

pool withwaterfalls & retaining walls


Three naturalistic waterfalls streaming over massive boulders accent a fortress-like retaining wall running along one side of the swimming pool shown in the image above.

lagoon style pool with zero edge water spillways

In this backyard waterfall design, water flows from a spa on the uphill portion of the yard, through the swimming pool, and into a catchment at the downhill end of the pool. The two spillways lend the waterfall idea a more studied and architectural look and are designed to create a zero edge effect when viewed from above.

Another application for swimming pool and waterfalls on a level to a moderately sloped site is to let the water drop through spouts in a retaining wall with plantings in the beds above the wall.

 pool with water-spouts built into retaining-wall

In either application, the waterfall adds visual and aural appeal to the pool environment and can provide a refreshing place to hang out and get massaged by the dropping stream of water.

Waterfalls and Garden Ponds

Pairing waterfalls and garden ponds requires the most carefully designed and constructed artifice to achieve a natural and spontaneous look and feel. The landscape architect must use stone and constructed elements in combination with plantings to disguise the artifice and give the impression of a naturally occurring grotto you might come upon while walking in the woods.

waterfall and pond-in-woodland-setting

The little waterfall in the image above is 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 stonework and plantings are designed to have a random and slightly overgrown look.

Crafting Sound Levels for a Backyard Waterfall

multi-cascade-waterfalls and pond

In nature, it is often the case that you will hear a waterfall before you see it. The sound of an unseen stream or waterfall produces an energy that is intriguing. So, when designing a backyard waterfall, the landscape architect designs for sound as well as for visual composition. The loudness and strength of the falls are determined principally by the volume of water running through the system and the distance water drops through the air onto a landing point. The particular quality of sound is created by the arrival surface of the cascade—either a pool or grouping of stones. The size and shape of stones guiding the flow will also affect sound quality.

A large waterfall with multiple drops will create a symphony. A gently sloped waterfall that feeds into a pond will create a softer sound quality due to the slower flow of water and the water to water impact.

Water trickling over rocks or splashing into a pool brings a kind of music into your outdoor environment. Backyard waterfalls, whether large or small, complex or straightforward, produce a refreshing and restorative effect. If you’d like to explore the possibilities of adding another layer of sensory pleasure to your gardens, schedule a free consultation with one of our landscape architects.

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