Create a yard oasis with a water garden

Make your backyard your happy place

You don’t need a vast space or a huge budget to get your own backyard paradise. More Hudson Valley homeowners are creating water gardens – waterfalls, small ponds and fountains that feel like a vacation in your own backyard. These gardens can be what you make them, casual and quaint or formal and striking. After all, they are your center for repose and relaxation.

As the price of gas keeps rising, fewer people are hitting the road this summer. Ken Schoen, owner of Waterscapes in Kingston, says more people are using that vacation money to create their own home spas or “meditation ponds” in their own backyard – a kind of vacation without the expense of traveling.
Jack of Catskill Pond ( in Wurtsboro says he constructs large ponds that span 2 or 3 acres. But if you don’t have that kind of space, water gardens are the way to go. 

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Even a small, half of a whiskey barrel filled with water can add a new dimension to a small balcony or deck. “Just the sound of water,” Schoen adds, “is all you need.”
 Thinking big? Natural swimming pools (without chlorine filtration) can be pricey (about $35,000-$50,000), but they give your backyard a unique appearance. 
Schoen from Waterscapes says pools can be designed in any shape or size: round, square, oblong, with side ponds, plants and huge rocks to give that natural feel. A diving board can even be created from huge flat rocks. “I also tell people to build the pond closer to their house, where they can see it. Because aesthetically, it’s beautiful.”
Natural swimming pools are also easy to maintain because they look like real ponds, so a leaf here or there doesn’t need to be skimmed out. The only upkeep is caring for the plants around the perimeter of the main pond or side ponds. “And don’t worry about mosquitoes,” Schoen says. “Because the water is moving due to the filtration system, they aren’t a problem. Plus, if you have a side pond, separate from the larger swimming hole, with fish in there, they eat the mosquito eggs. Mosquitoes are only a problem with still water, and with these that’s not the case.”

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Aaron Mennerich, owner of California Water Gardens and Koi Ponds ( in Newburgh, says that traditional koi ponds are still selling strong. They range in size (the most popular choices are 8x10 or 10x15) and shape, cost around $2,500 and can include natural plants such as water lilies and lotuses to give your garden a vibrant effect. Koi ponds are easy to maintain; they only need to be vacuumed once or twice a year and have an aerator installed for the fish in the winter.

According to John Dillon, owner of Outdoor Magic ( in Blauvelt, there are less expensive alternatives to give your home beautiful water features. He says one of the most popular trends are fountains that range in size and design to fit your taste and budget.

Because they come in virtually any size, they cost anywhere from $500-$5,000.

Dillon says the average homeowner spends between $2,000 and $4,000. They can be free standing fountains that welcome guests to your home at the end of your driveway, or they can sit at the center of your backyard patio.

Smaller fountains, such as decorated water fountains or faux rocks, can become accessories to your regular garden. And they are easy to maintain. “All you need to do is keep the pump clear, and clean the fountain with a chemical, such as chlorine, to prevent algae,” Dillon explains.

One of the newest water features are streams. Whether it be a “drunken” or meandering stream, which Schoen constructs with twists, turns and slopes to give a more natural, rustic or “drunken” feel, or one that empties into a pondless waterfall complete with river rocks, each gives your garden a tranquil and inspiring air.