Cascading Waterfalls & Splashy Statuary
A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
The veriest school
Of peace. . .
—Thomas Edward Brown (1830-1897)
Few things are more satisfying to the home gardener than peering into the landscape and seeing how their handiwork, dare I say, has improved that of the ultimate green thumb: Mother Nature.
No slouch in the scenic view department, Mother Nature can lay the groundwork for a beautiful garden, but sometimes needs a helping hand or two to transform the ho-hum into a backyard botanical garden. What’s making a splash these days are lushly planted waterfalls and gardens rife with color and texture and whose exclamation point is a piece or two of well-chosen statuary.
Making a splash
Cascading water is one of the most inviting and irresistible elements in a home garden. Master Gardener Fatima Salehi designed an oasis on her 9-acre spread located just outside of Frankfort. Using organic methods, Salehi created a three-level pond, 30 feet long by 15 feet wide, with water splashing over limestone rocks from one level down to the next.
“It is the most relaxing thing in the world,” she says. An immigrant from Iran who has lived in the Bluegrass State for 35 years, Salehi is a retired sous chef who served at the Governor’s Mansion and worked for four governors.
“Water helps you to calm down and is very good for the environment,” she adds.
Salehi designed her waterfall to take full advantage of her sloping, limestone-rich landscape. The holes were dug with the help of a backhoe and a worker was hired to truck the rock, all found on her property, to the pond. Accenting rock and water and adding a pastel palette of pinks, yellows, and lavenders are arrowhead, water lilies, irises, several ornamental grasses, and potted geraniums that winter in her greenhouse.
“So many people think it’s completely natural because of the rock at different levels.”
Adding more drama and a touch of whimsy to the waterfall are statues, either of stone or metal, including Buddha, a frog, and other animals.
Supplementing the animal statuary are the real thing: Salehi’s well-planted waterfall garden attracts butterflies, frogs, birds—even bats. She is visited nightly, first by tree and bullfrogs croaking out what she calls a “free concert,” followed by birds who add their own song, then a small clutch of bats, and finally, late in the evening, screech owls that, while not as melodious, belt out their own nocturnal tune. The bats are her favorite.
Salehi admits that the waterfall feature in her garden is the most expensive part of her garden, but she says it is “a million, million times worth it. It’s a wonderful place for meditation and it’s so peaceful. I love it every minute.”
Adding drama to the landscape
Landscape designer and Master Gardener J. Gary Puckett appreciates the role that waterfalls and statuary play in the landscape so much he turned his Hart County garden into a veritable Arcadia with cascading water, gardens including tropical and rose, landscaped pathways, and show-stopping statuary, with a beautiful 6-foot-tall concrete piece called Rebecca at the Well in the entry garden.
“Landscaping intrigues the mind and gets you searching to see what’s around the next corner,” says Puckett.
Puckett’s garden, called Rowletts Station Inn and Gardens, accented with white picket fencing, arbors hung with wisteria, gazebos, bench seating, swinging gates, fireplace, and assorted hardscapes, is spread over approximately 2 acres in Rowletts, a town located about three miles south of Munfordville and a key site during the Civil War.
“With its railroad station, Rowletts was where all the ammo and soldiers got off the train for war,” he says.
Opened in 2000 and site of weddings, receptions, garden club meetings, seminars, and other gatherings, Rowletts Station Inn and Gardens encompasses a number of vignettes, including a tropical garden anchored by a grassy hut constructed by Puckett, a cottage garden fragrant with Russian sage and peonies, and a Civil War “conifer-and-coneflower” garden with soldier statues and concrete Civil War cannons.
Eventually a children’s garden will be installed to accentuate a miniature wooden caboose Puckett is building. Another project dear to Puckett’s heart is a garden that will re-create his boyhood home, complete with cherry tree, vegetable gardens, and the log cabin he grew up in, which will be reconstructed on its new site.
Statuary pieces, all concrete, range from playful, like a lion and lamb stretched out side by side and a child peeking from the greenery, to traditional (St. Francis of Assisi) and arresting (Rebecca at the Well), to the unexpected with Civil War soldiers rising from their concrete foundations in watchful silence, one at the north end of the garden and one at the south.
“The garden started out as an area just to give customers some ideas,” he says. Puckett operates a landscaping and garden center, Quality Landscaping & Garden Center, another part of the property. “And then one thing led to another and, with lots of encouragement from a lot of folks, it has turned into Rowletts Station Inn and Gardens.” Puckett would like to see it become a community resource, sort of a public garden.
“I have a passion and a love of gardening and a big imagination.”
Garden club member Mary-Anne “Mimi” Powers also has a passion for gardening and one that articulated itself through a lushly planted waterfall in her Bowling Green back yard. Several years ago, when Powers’ parents died within a year of each other, she and her husband, Wayne, decided to add the water feature (waterfall, pond, and koi) in their honor.
“I had always heard that an aquarium de-stresses you,” says Mimi Powers, “but the pond does so much more.”
The focal point of the couple’s back yard, the waterfall is the site of visiting turtles and frogs as well as a small red fox and her kit that come by to drink from the pond. It is the gathering place for countless birds that drop by to bathe, quench their thirst, and eat from the feeders that were added at the pond’s perimeter.
“We all wonder what we would do without our visitors,” says Mimi. “Our neighbors and friends bring their children and grandchildren over to watch and feed the fish as well. It’s where I start and end my day.
“Our garden is a work of love—a true, forever changing and evolving experiment of diligent hard work and a lot of luck. We read, research, and observe, then try to incorporate what we like into our own creative interpretation.”
Mother Nature couldn’t have done it better herself.
DIY WATERFALL TIPS
Mimi Powers believes that a committed DIYer could install a basic waterfall in a weekend, but “if they are like us they will never be finished; we are always thinking and dreaming and working on new facets to enhance the outside room of our home.”
J. Gary Puckett, a former factory worker who went from “knowing nothing” about landscaping to Master Gardener—purchasing $22 worth of gardening tools from a yard sale in between—says that planning is the key to a successful waterfall or garden. Following on its heels are location, size, and material costs.
“Do not overdo it and know the cost and upkeep going in,” he advises.
Puckett also stresses understanding the water garden’s location in relation to the sun and choosing a site with good drainage.
“Use a good filtration system,” he cautions. “It will save on headaches later. And you need several hours of shade during the day, because sun makes algae.”
To speed up the process, Master Gardener Fatima Salehi suggests hiring a backhoe to dig the holes for the waterfall. Once dug, clean up the area and add sand and liners.
Salehi says one of the most important considerations in creating a pond is the expense. “Even if you do it yourself, it’s $2,000 to $3,000. Labor and materials (filter, pump, liner, etc.) are expensive.” To keep costs down, she shops for deals at Internet sites like her favorite, Water Garden Creations (www.watergardencreations.com), based in Arizona. Pond kits range from $595 for a deluxe 550-gallon pond to $5,200 for El Grande Pond Kit III, a 48,000-gallon pond.
Annual maintenance chores include a spring cleanup that involves replanting some plant materials, pruning out others, and restocking goldfish.
In Corbin, not far from the Cumberland Gap Parkway, what looks like a concrete jungle with lions, deer, and bears is actually the outdoor showroom of a shop called Antiques and Accents. Owners Walt and Bobbi Smith love statuary and wanted statues of every stripe to be part of their business.
At any given time, visitors to the shop will find some 300 to 500 pieces of statuary, everything from small birds in the $5-$15 price range to concrete fountains mostly in the $500 to $1,000 price range (although one retails for $16,000). In between are scads of concrete statues at all price points, topping out at about $600. Inventory includes animals (frogs, turtles, cats, dogs, sheep), angels, classic Greek figures, and gargoyles in all shapes and sizes.
Some of the shop’s best-sellers, in addition to the fountains, urns, and concrete benches, are the angel and gargoyle statuary, plus the lions, frogs, and the Savannah Bird Girl (the statue famously featured in the 1997 movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil).
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: COMPLETING YOUR WATERFALL GARDEN
No waterfall garden landscaping is complete without beautiful aquatic plants. For a list of suggested plants and trees suited in or near water, as well as sources for waterfalls, ponds, and statuary, go to waterfall garden.