DIY Garden Project: Making a Focal-Point Pond

Few garden focal points are as hard-working as a pond. The sounds masks neighborhood noise, the water invites wildlife, and the sight draws all eyes.


Northeast yard from back corner before the pond

When we moved into our home, the backyard was pretty much a blank slate with lots of overgrown, volunteer trees. And one maple that was deliberately sited but dead all through the center. After removing them, the landscape needed something special to make it inviting.


Narvas chops a tree

That maple turned out to be the ideal spot for a focal point and as Narvas dug out the stump, it became clear that a pond would be a perfect solution.


Digging out the tree stump

If you’re going to have to work that hard and dig that deep, why not make something wonderful out of it?

The pile of dirt from around the stump will form the base of a waterfall.


Creating the waterfall

After removing the stump and shaping the hole for the pond, Narvas carved out steps for the waterfall and inserted a spillway that holds the filters and creates the cascade with a 2-foot-wide weir.


Trench for tubing and wiring

At the opposite end of the pond, a skimmer holds the pump. In a trench dug around the right side of the pond we buried both the tubing that carries the water from the pump to the waterfall and an electrical line inside a PVC pipe to the grounded electrical outlet at the rear of the waterfall.


Rocks placed on waterfall steps

Plastic liner waterproofed the steps of the waterfall. A series of flat stones provided definition to the design. With that complete, the pond took shape with a shelf that runs around both sides. A long plank of wood helped us ensure the overall construction is level. See how this works in more detail. 


Planting the berm around the waterfall

While the pond was being shaped, it was time to blend the waterfall berm into the landscape. We added some soil amendments and a few large rocks scattered here and there on the mound to tie it to the waterfall.


Plants around waterfall

Nestling a new structure into a garden takes time, so we opted for plants that fill in quickly like petunias and liriope, along with a few evergreen boxwoods for all-season interest, and variegated plants to brighten shady spots.


Narvas resting in a chair

While I was planting, Narvas took a well-earned rest before installing the final pond components.


Hannah resting on pond liner

Adding the rubber liner and outlining the waterfall with large rocks was hard work so Hannah took a breather with her faithful companion nearby.

Filling the pond with water helped to settle the liner in place. Water plants and stones anchor the liner on the shelves that encircle the pond.


Testing the waterfall

With all the components in place, it was time to test the waterfall. We adjusted the placement of the flat stones to change the pattern of the water flow. A nice long drop from the last stone to the surface of the pond makes the splash of the waterfall louder.


Rock patio

The final design element was a patio of Pennsylvania bluestone and river rock around the pond.


Rocks stones and pavers bordering the pond

Laid on a bed of leveled sand, the stones and rocks were fixed in place with concrete and an outline of pavers.


Plants in pond

A mixture of submerged plants, marginal potted plants on the shelves, and free-floating water plants provide oxygen and filter the water.


First fish

When chlorine is removed from the water, it becomes a haven for a few fish while we allowed the pond to settle into a balanced ecosystem.


Pond lighting at night

Low-watt lighting turns the pond into an evening focal point as well.


Pond and rock patio

The pond was finished and quickly established itself as the main feature of the backyard. The floating plants have a tendency to take over so they have to be thinned out from time to time.


Growing plants around waterfall

We moved and added plants throughout the season to get a low-maintenance garden around the waterfall that would give us a lush look from year to year without a lot of fuss.

In the next post, you’ll see how the pond progressed in its second season. I think you’ll be surprised!


© Caruth Studio

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  1. cathispick

    Love your water feature! Such talent!

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