Nestled within an expansive neighborhood backed by the beautiful rolling hills of Wildwood, MO, Betsy and Tom Meier’s home is tucked into a giant hillside full of mature hardwood trees that tower over their back yard like an amphitheater. Their landscape begged for a waterfall, and that’s precisely why garden designers Caleb Bauer and his brother Josh were there. Owners of Bauer Falls, a St. Louis-based landscape design company that creates natural waterfalls and koi ponds, their task was to implement a water feature that went from the driveway, tumbling down along the deck, all the way down to a pond the owners could view from their atrium.
“We also wanted to create a stairway alongside the waterfall and a patio down below where the Meiers could walk out of their basement to enjoy it all,” explains Caleb. “They used to walk straight out to their basement to grass and a hill. Josh and I conquered the hillside, making a stairway with a waterfall cascading next to it, and then created a natural patio to have a place to walk out of the basement to enjoy the koi pond,” he notes.
Built in 2010, the Meiers’ water garden was actually inspired by one of their close friends, who was also Caleb’s client. “While working on that project, they stopped by to visit several times,” he recalls. “Upon completion, they loved it so much they immediately had us out to their place to build them a waterfall. Tom and Betsy have very fun personalities with wit and humor, which really lightened our days at the job site—and we had a lot of fun working with them. In fact, they named two of their koi fish Caleb and Josh. Caleb eats out of Tom and Betsy’s hands and lets them pet him,” he laughs.
“The fish are a big part of what Tom and I both enjoy,” says Betsy. “We have 25 koi fish now—we named them all—and Tom knows them really well,” she jokes. “It’s a lot of work, but something we truly enjoy. In the winter, they hibernate, and we have to put them in a cage with plastic netting because the mink prey on them—as well as owls, hawks and herons in other seasons. We now have a net we keep over the pond year-round to keep the predators out,” she notes.
The Meiers loved their koi pond so much that they had Caleb come back months later to enlarge it by making another pond. “The original koi pond pumped up to a biofilter stream where the water recirculates back down to the pond,” he says. “When we came back, we left the biofilter stream as is but removed the pond liner and dug a larger pond and replaced it. A bridge connects the two ponds,” he adds.
Caleb’s overall goal was to emulate nature during the installation and make everything look like it naturally belonged there. His primary technique was to set boulders in a way that looked most natural with stability and beauty. It has since become Bauer Falls’ trademark—crafting natural, organic waterfalls that blend seamlessly with the landscape.
Complementing the water features, lush plantings and beautiful trees display a tapestry of color and texture throughout the seasons. Betsy is an avid gardener and has done all the planting on their property since the couple first built their home here 20 years ago. With well over 30 different plant varieties and tree species, her garden is an ongoing and ever-evolving work in progress. Favorites include dwarf Bloodgood Japanese maple, royal star magnolia, multi blue clematis, purple fountain grass, and false aster. “I’ve always liked plants, and I enjoy finding different varieties of perennials,” she says.
“My favorite color is blue, so I love the blue asters and the Stachys with their spiky bluish-purple flowers—and I love our magnolia trees,” she adds. “Gardening is relaxing but can get overwhelming at times. There is always something to do,” she sums.
“This property is special because it’s surrounded by nature and beauty,” says Caleb. “It feels as though this ‘natural spring’ waterfall truly belongs here. The homeowners routinely enjoy it with family and friends as well as having garden tours visit their beautiful oasis,” he adds.
“We truly enjoyed being a part of the St. Louis Water Garden Society’s annual Pond-O-Rama event in 2011 and again in 2020,” says Betsy. “It was great to share our beautiful space with others. The sounds of the water are so soothing and relaxing—we sit out here in the nice weather, eat out on the deck and just listen while watching the fishes.”
Waterfall: Bauer Falls