Transforming a Hillside into Pond and Waterfall

One of my favorite design jobs landed in my lap about 10 years ago. I really didn’t know what to expect when I first visited the property – a modest home set on a busy road with a huge level back yard. There was a small steep slope out the back door with some crumbling concrete steps. Seeing this slope for the first time with an ancient deck and scrubby perennials dotting the hillside, I was struck with the possibilities right away. Turning a liability of a steep slope into an asset of a beautiful waterfall was right up my alley. This was a perfect solution to a problem area.

Terraced Walls

For the steep slope, I designed two terraced walls of Western Maryland fieldstone, a native stone that blends in nicely with its colors of greys and tans. Using two smaller walls is preferable to one high wall, and each one was about 2 1/2 feet high and curved around following the natural contour of the hill. After removing the deck, a new stone patio with a curving front face to match the walls was built, covered with the same stone. Carefully excavating around the existing large maple tree and keeping any extra soil away from the trunk was critical to maintaining the health of the existing tree during construction.

Good Traffic Flow

Changing the location of the timber steps from an awkward area on the left side of the original deck to an uninterrupted pathway that starts in the front yard cleaned up the traffic flow. Traffic flow, or the way you move around a property, is critical for pathway layout and convenience. Perennial plantings on either side softened the new stone steps.

Pond & Waterfall

Installed with a black butyl liner, the pond and waterfall were built of fieldstone to match the new terraced walls. Hiding the liner – river jack a rounded rock that is good for aquatic life – was placed. Installation of an electrical outlet close by for the filter and pump, and convenient to the lower patio completed the pond set up.
The original ground level covered patio area of old cracked cement and low concrete block walls, from the 1950s, was unsightly and we covered everything in bluestone and Western Maryland stone to match the terraced walls. The new walls became wide sitting walls, perfect for lounging on.

Finishing Touches

To complete the transformation, the white woodwork was painted a fresh coat of white paint and the lower exterior of the house was given a parge coat in a color to match the stone. A ceiling fan was installed for a cooling breeze on a hot day.

Now my client can sit comfortably on the upper or lower patio, or the conveniently placed bench, and overlook the flowering plants, fish, and other wildlife. All kinds of pollinators are attracted to the new plantings.
Butterfly Bushes, Iris, Nepeta, Salvias, Creeping Junipers, Creeping Thyme, Geranium, Caryopteris, Ferns, Variegated Boxwood, Dianthus, Chrysogonum, and Hellebores were all used to give multi-season interest as well as being unappetizing to the local voracious deer population.