More Gold!
The Awards continue with “The River at Tanayan.”

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in,
                                           where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul.”
                                                                                                                                     – John Muir

Ever wonder where the inspiration for a garden comes from?

Well, in this case, it came straight from our new client.

“I’d like a creek”, he said at our first meeting. “A real one… like Rattlesnake Canyon.” “And a dam,” he continued, “A real one… that you can walk across. Like the dam at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. The old one built by the padres.”

Until that very moment, I’d never realized that I’d been waiting all my life for someone to say that to me… I was down.

And so began a delightful and epic collaboration with our client and soon-to-be-friend. We went on to dream up and build eight gardens together, the crown jewel of which we call The River at Tanayan.

Starting with 75 lineal feet of derelict rose garden…

…we added a meandering series of check dams stair-stepping down the gently sloping land…

…dressing the watercourse with boulders, cobbles, pebbles and gravel to mimic natural stream geomorphology…

…and – voila! – we had a mini Rattlesnake Canyon flowing through the landscape!

Copyright by Sydney Harris; Science Cartoons Plus; NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED

Okay, okay, there were actually a few steps I skipped above… Read on for details…

A small waterfall at the koi pond forms the “headwaters” of the “river”

The water feature is comprised of two distinct, separately circulating water loops – the koi pond and the dam-stream-turtle-pond. (Turtles are high nitrite-producers which might lead to oxygen depletion and disease in the koi pond, so the two habitats were separated.)

The koi pond above the “dam”

Oxygenation, balanced nitrogen-cycle, shelter from predators, water temperature – vital for koi health – are addressed in this separate subsystem.

The “dam” below the koi pond

The koi pond extends under the footbridge opposite the headwaters, appearing to spill over the dam to join the lower reaches of the stream. (The water does not actually spill over the dam. It is never allowed to comingle with the water circulating in the stream below; it is circulated back over the waterfall at the headwaters where it runs back into the koi pond.)

View of turtle pond (in foreground) looking upstream towards the dam

The second circulation loop functions as follows: water from the outflow side of the pump issues from the “spillway” of the dam, wends its way down the stream and flows into the turtle pond. (Note: The little bamboo fence and strategically-placed vertical-face stones keep turtles from wandering off the property.)

View looking downstream from the middle of the watercourse

View looking downstream from the shingle “beach” below the dam

Intake from the turtle pond at the bottom of the stream is divided between the outflow line at the dam and a waterfall at the edge of the turtle pond to provide abundant oxygenation, preventing the nitrite-laden water from going anaerobic.

Close up of stone work and plantings

Hidden pumps, filters (physical and biological), circulation lines, check valves, sluice valves, auto-fill valves and drains support a well-balanced ecosystem that is easy to maintain.

Specimen planting and subtle landscape lighting complete the landscape along the river corridor

This was a challenging project – technically, logistically and artistically – and we’re mighty proud of the end product.

A project like this is the work of many hands, hearts and minds.

Thanks go out our client, a uniquely inspired – and inspiring! – man who invited us into his sandbox to play, who generously shared his dreams with us and who trusted us enough to do our best work.

Many thanks to the GDA team, without whom nothing ever moves from dream to reality – thank you for the years of bringing forth beauty and magic from simple, base ingredients, for always being a “yes” and for giving your all at every turn of our long journey together.

A special thanks goes out to our superintendent and my brother, John Oberholtzer. His brilliant mind, seemingly effortless artistry with large, heavy objects and his fearless competence in executing design concepts is simply without peer. Thanks always and forever to Dawn Close, my partner and biggest cheerleader, who keeps the business running smoothly so that we can do our thing. Thanks also to our technical consultant on this project and good friend, Joe Bischel of Superior Pools.

And finally, a huge thank you to the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), for recognizing The River at Tanayan project with a Gold Award and for the honor and the privilege of being named APLD 2018 Designer of the Year.



Woo hoo!!! The Cover of our Home Town paper…

Designing with Grace Article

Sneak peak at our next blog post…

Last – but no means least – Padaro Lane takes Silver at this year’s APLD Design Awards…

Tune in to see the transformation blight to beauty… the perfect end-of-summer reading!

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