Ponds and foun­tains

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - CONTENT - By Paul Wei­de­man

THERE ARE MANY REA­SONS WHYWE LOVE HAVINGWATER FEA­TURES IN OUR OUT­DOOR EN­VI­RON­MENTS. The ap­pear­ance of a placid pool or pond is so re­lax­ing, and it of­fers a great con­trast to the (usu­ally) arid land­scape be­yond. A small wa­ter­fall or bub­bling foun­tain cre­ates a won­der­fully calm­ing effect, per­haps en­cour­ag­ing day­dreams of a rush­ing, clean moun­tain stream. Or maybe you just love fish, and the va­ri­ety of birds that visit a pond.

Michael North­way has a par­tic­u­lar pas­sion for koi. There are lots of the fish, and some tur­tles (red-eared slid­ers), in large tanks in a back room at Oa­sis Aquatic Ser­vices. “The rea­son I do this,” he said about the busi­ness he shares with his wife, Nancy, “is that I’ve been in love with fish since I was a teenager. And I’d say 70 to 80 per­cent of the peo­ple in my in­dus­try all came from hav­ing an aquar­ium as a hobby. You do aquar­i­ums inside and they get big­ger and big­ger and the next step is to move out­doors. All a pond is is an aquar­ium in the ground in­stead of in glass.”

North­way built his first pond in the sum­mer of 1995 in the back yard of his mother’s home. It was so cool that he and Nancy de­cided to open their own busi­ness, Oa­sis Wa­ter De­sign. In 2005, Mike North­way was hired to work as op­er­a­tions man­ager for an­other lo­cal busi­ness, Santa Fe Wa­ter Gar­dens. Five years later, the cou­ple went in­de­pen­dent again with Oa­sis Aquatic Ser­vices. They ex­panded into the re­tail sales mar­ket in Jan­uary 2014, open­ing the store now lo­cated at 1939Warner Cir­cle.

“We are con­trac­tors and we build ponds and foun­tains and we’re li­censed for hot tubs and swim­ming pools and in­door wa­ter fea­tures,” Nancy North­way said dur­ing a re­cent visit at the store. “We do­main­te­nance, con­struc­tion, and re­pairs, and we’ve had this re­tail store for three years.” Oa­sis is an au­tho­rized dealer and con­trac­tor for Helix pond-fil­tra­tion equip­ment, made in the USA.

The com­pany’s main busi­ness used to be build­ing and main­tain­ing ponds for clients who had big homes and could af­ford to hire some­one to do ev­ery­thing— they typ­i­cally want some­thing that’s aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing but don’t want to be in­volved in any­thing very hands-on. “We’ve done that pretty steadily since 1998,” North­way said. “But we were leav­ing a lot of money on the ta­ble in terms of the blue-col­lar, medium-in­come folks who were shop­ping on the in­ter­net and try­ing to do it them­selves. So three years agowe started the store to cap­ture that seg­ment, to teach the­mand sell them the prod­ucts.”

Oa­sis is cur­rently “busier than ever,” with a newly hired main­te­nance worker, a well-stocked store, and a con­struc­tion depart­ment booked months in ad­vance. “Our main fo­cus in 2016 is to ed­u­cate and sup­ply the do-it-your­selfer.”

If some­one wants a newwa­ter fea­ture at a home or busi­ness, the com­pany be­gins the process with an on­site con­sul­ta­tion, for a rea­son­able fee, or with a free in-store con­sul­ta­tion if the cus­tomer wants to brain­storm pos­si­bil­i­ties— which can be helped along if pho­to­graphs of the site are brought.

“We can get the ball rolling here,” North­way said. “We talk a lot about de­sign and that’s when we find the di­vi­sion: are you go­ing to be a build client or a do-it-your­self client? Then we pro­ceed and ei­ther put to­gether a ma­te­ri­als pack­age and give them some ed­u­ca­tion or give them a de­sign and sell the build.”

An early, im­por­tant ques­tion is whether you want a ster­ile wa­ter fea­tures, such as foun­tains and many types of pools, or a liv­ing sys­tem, a koi pond or a wa­ter gar­den. “A

wa­ter gar­den is en­gi­neered to­ward plants, and it can have some fish — gold­fish, be­cause koi can be de­struc­tive to plants— to com­plete the ecosys­tem. A koi pond is en­gi­neered to­ward keeping fish and it may have some plants to com­plete the ecosys­tem,” North­way said.

Over at EcoS­capes Land­scap­ing, a com­pany that also does ponds and other wa­ter fea­tures, rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing is a big deal. “For the last four years I’ve been de­vel­op­ing build­ing cus­tom ferro-ce­ment tanks,” said owner Michael Nelsen. “With the fiber­glass tanks there are the trans­porta­tion costs; no­body makes them here, so you have that em­bed­ded en­ergy. Ferro-ce­ment is much stronger in the long run and it’s em­i­nently re­pairable. I’ve got­ten a struc­tural en­gi­neer’s stamp on the de­sign of tanks from 4,000 up to 20,000 gal­lons.”

Awa­ter fea­ture can serve as stor­age for har­vested rain­wa­ter from roofs and other flat sur­faces to use in ir­ri­gat­ing your land­scape. And rather than stor­ing rain­wa­ter un­der­ground in a buried cis­tern, you can use it to cre­ate a beau­ti­ful high­light for your prop­erty. “One of th­ese ferro-ce­ment tanks can be a fea­ture in the land­scape, but you do need to have a sec­tion of it a few feet un­der­ground to pro­tect the valves and ev­ery­thing from freez­ing. Most of the tanks uti­lize sub­mersible pumps that are de­signed to pump against a dead­head, in other words for drip ir­ri­ga­tion.

“We do a lot of foun­tains and we build ponds,” Nelsen said. “Fish and plants love it, and you don’t need to treat the wa­ter. The key is keeping it clean go­ing in. In just nor­mal use you have a mod­er­ate amount of dust and bird poop and peo­ple ask, Doesn’t it get stag­nant? No, it re­ally doesn’t. It set­tles out and forms a hard layer on the bot­tomand if you set things up­with a stiller de­vice so it’s not dis­turbed ev­ery time wa­ter comes in and then you draw fromthe mid­dle for your ir­ri­ga­tion­wa­ter, it will be fine.”

EcoS­capes Land­scap­ing, 6037 Agua Fria Street, was founded 15 years ago as “a com­pany that de­signs, builds, and main­tains beau­ti­ful land­scapes, while re­main­ing mind­ful of the lo­cal ecol­ogy and lim­ited wa­ter re­sources,” ac­cord­ing to the com­pany web­site. “It is our wish and in­tent to work col­lab­o­ra­tively with de­sign­ers, builders, ven­dors, and in­di­vid­u­als who are so­cially and en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious.”

Nelsen said the busi­ness built steadily un­til the on­set of the na­tional fi­nan­cial down­turn in 2008, when it dropped off 30 per­cent or more and stayed flat for a few years. The num­ber of projects has in­creased with the im­prove­ment of the gen­eral econ­omy, but he said EcoS­capes and other land­scap­ers have all got­ten used to do­ing smaller jobs.

“I am a land­scape con­trac­tor,” he said, “and we do a lot of small rock walls and paver walls and boul­ders in­cor­po­rated with moss-rock walls. And we’re de­sign­ers. Peg­gyWright has a mas­ter’s in land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture and we’ve been work­ing to­gether for 10 years. We do a lot of in­stal­la­tion work with Stone For­est and we’ve had re­la­tion­ships with Prull Cus­tom Builders and other Santa Fe con­trac­tors.”

A bot­tom­line at EcoS­capes is that you can have a beau­ti­ful land­scape, with wa­ter fea­tures, with­out com­pro­mis­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. “One of the top uses of har­vest­ing rain­wa­ter is to be able to have a pond,” Nelsen said. “I have a small koi pond my­self with a nice drop and the sound is great.”

Win­ter wa­ter lilies, cour­tesy Oa­sis Aquatic Ser­vices

A natural mill­stone foun­tain from Stone For­est, with land­scap­ing by EcoS­capes; photo by Kate Rus­sell

Oa­sis set this stone foun­tain in a basin and sur­rounded it with flow­ers, or­na­men­tal grasses, and river stones

An EcoS­capes fish pond that is re­filled by an un­der­ground rain­wa­ter-stor­age tank; photo by Kate Rus­sell

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