A Lifetime of Interest

Koi and water combine to create this landscaping jewel.

By Lucyann Boston

Photography by Kim Dillon Photography

Waterfall and koi pond design by Bauer Falls


For a BIG birthday, many women would long for some bling or a trip to an exotic locale. This Town and Country homeowner requested some rocks of a different kind. Specifically, she wanted a rocky waterfall, more water in her backyard pond and more fish.

Always a knowledgeable and enthusiastic gardener, she had fallen in love with the koi pond that came with the home she and her husband purchased in 2009. The friends, who owned the home, also entrusted the five koi that swam in the 2,500-gallon pond to the new owners. With five children between them and five dogs, the fish were a different adventure. “The five koi spawned, and we had babies,” she recalled. “My kids didn’t even have fish as children. We had dogs.”

Entranced by the beauty of the fish and the relaxation they provided as she watched them glide through the water displaying flashes of brilliant color, she set out to learn as much about koi and ponds as possible. She joined one pond club and then another, finally settling on Gateway Koi and Pond Club.

“Koi live a long time, and I have beautiful fish. Not the kind you typically see in other areas. The club brings them in from Japan. During shows, normally at Timberwinds Nursery in Ellisville, people come from all over the country. We have lectures. I even have a koi vet.”  Through that group and mutual friends, she got to know Caleb, Josh and David Bauer of Bauer Falls, who specialize in major backyard projects. After viewing a number of ponds and water features they designed, she knew they were the ones to create her enlarged backyard haven when the time came.

“I didn’t want jewelry, I wanted more water,” she says with a laugh. “If you talk with koi people, they never have enough water.” There were other factors involved in the pond makeover as well as just wanting more fish. Steps going up the hillside by the previous pond had deteriorated and become dangerous. The garden itself needed a makeover.

Wanting more water and more fish is not a matter of simply digging a bigger hole. Knowledgeable koi people also are fully aware of the balance required between water, fish and plants that make a successful and ecologically sound water feature.

“It is nice to have at least 100 gallons of water per koi, but one of the key factors is to have as many pounds of plants as you do koi,” Caleb explains, noting that plants help keep the water in a pond clear by pulling nutrients out of the water that otherwise would allow algae to grow, and by releasing oxygen back into the pond.

Enlarging an existing pond can be as much of an engineering feat, if not more, than creating a new project. Both the Bauers and the homeowners, who became fast friends during the project, had existing dogwoods and Japanese maples to preserve, so they were limited in how far back into the hillside they could dig. In addition, the pond ran along a previously existing swimming pool. They could not excavate too close to that. The new project called for enhanced mechanical and biological filtration systems and larger pumps to bring the water from the pond to the top of the newly created waterfall. Plus, there needed to be a run-off system to prevent the pond from overflowing in the event of heavy rainstorms.

Because the hillside and the waterfall they were creating were so close to the house and the pool, the Bauers opted for a gentle flow of water. “They (the homeowners) have a large farm in Lincoln County; they are more nature oriented,” Caleb explains. “Sometimes if the water feature is away from a seating area or there is a need to cover highway noise, you want the crashing sound of a large waterfall. Here we wanted the more splashing sound of a babbling brook.”

All in all, they created a 25-foot-long stream with 5 feet of vertical fall that averages from 6 to 15 feet wide. That stream spills into a 8,500-gallon deluxe 15x30-foot koi home that is 5 feet deep. To make the system work, the pond pumps 20,000 gallons of water per hour.

As with every project, the Bauers hand-selected the stones for the project at Semco Stone in Perryville, MO. With Josh on the excavator, who according to Caleb can dig down to the inch, Caleb got into the hole and working with David began creating and sculpting the new pond and adjacent stream bed. With weather intervening, the project took two months and during it the Bauers and the homeowners became great friends. “They are a delight to work with,” she says. “And they are wonderful about helping us maintain the pond. They are the salt of the earth; wonderfully kind and generous people.”

The feeling was mutual. “We really enjoyed working there. She is an avid gardener. If you go to 10 different corners of the yard, you will find 10 different beautiful spots,” Caleb says.  “I love gardening and planting. I am outside all day,” she notes. Favorite plants include elephant ears, which she digs up every year and returns to the garden in the spring. “I love the way they sway and bob in the wind. I get them from friends who pass them on from their gardens, then I go out and buy more,” she adds with a laugh.

Coleus are another top choice. “I am mostly into lime green and rust colors; strong colors like orange, red and green. I love crotons. When fall hits, it is glorious,” with planters complementing the turning leaves. Backstopping her on the heavy lifting are Patrick Tosie of Wild Wind Landscaping and Tina Garrison.

The care and beauty of her current landscape are an outgrowth of a lifetime interest in gardening. “Even when I lived in an apartment, I always had plants,” the homeowner says.

Looking after her expansive garden and enlarged pond, “is a lot more than feeding the fish a few times a day,” she admits. “But I love my pond and the energy that goes into it. If you love what you are doing, it is not work.

The relaxation and joy she and her family get from the pond and garden are worth all the effort, she affirms. Her four grandchildren, ages 3 to 6 months, are already into her passion for koi, the garden and the relaxation watching beautiful fish can provide. When they were babies and they were crying, we would take them over to the window and let them look at the fish and they would stop crying,” she says happily.   



Waterfall / koi pond: Bauer Falls