Landscapes of the Month: Installing a Complex Courtyard Waterfall - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Installing a Complex Courtyard Waterfall

Photo: Stephanie Olson Gordon/Staff

Using the funding and inspiration of a generous couple, Northeast Georgia Health Systems proposed building a waterfall garden. The garden was to serve as a natural setting for patients’ families, providers, staff and community to find solace. The waterfall garden connects the main entrance to the hospital café plaza below.

The Fockele Garden Company, based in Talmo, Georgia, was brought in to install this 5,000 square-foot garden that includes waterfalls and pools meant to replicate the north Georgia mountains. Conceptual designs were provided by the medical center’s landscape architectural firm.

Photo: Stephanie Olson Gordon/Staff

However, there were no plans for the elaborate water feature’s operation, hardscape construction, grading or drainage. Nor were there any irrigation or lighting plans provided.

Despite this, The Fockele Garden Company managed to complete this project in one year and made the waterfall appear it had been there all along. This project received a Silver Award in the 2020 Awards of Excellence.

Being experienced in designing and building waterfalls and streams, The Fockele Garden Company’s staff designed the complex water delivery and filtration system for the water feature. Their designers employed a structural engineer to specify the footings for all the concrete work. The company also modified the existing stormwater drainage to accommodate for the addition of the water feature.

An independent drip irrigation system with zones tailored to the 700 plants installed was added along with a low-voltage lighting system. Uplights were added to define tree canopies and for reflective lighting on the waterfall below. The landscape lighting also allows hospital staff and evening visitors the opportunity to enjoy the waterfall.

Photo: Stephanie Olson Gordon/Staff

 A major challenge on the project was the steeply sloped site. This made it hard for crews to work and to safely operate heavy equipment needed for excavating, grading, hauling, pouring concrete, manipulating boulders and planting large trees. The terrain also limited options for staging areas.

To solve this issue, the company started their work at the highest point of the garden. As they worked their way down, ‘ledges’ were created to make space for the excavators and backhoes. Concrete was poured from long chutes while boom trucks were used to place trees from above.

Photo: Stephanie Olson Gordon/Staff

Wet weather compounded issues with the slope and massive tarps were used to keep sections dry.

490 tons of boulders and river rock were used for this project. To create the most natural-looking boulder placement, advanced staff training was provided to crews. The boulders were numbered, photographed and plotted so they could be placed again once the liner was laid.

Water flows from the source pool into a shallow pool where some water is diverted into a runnel and the rest falls down a second set of cascades. An underwater reservoir is well concealed with river stone and plantings.  

Photo: Stephanie Olson Gordon/Staff

Planting pockets were developed and smaller stones were used to dress the edges. Plants hold soil in place along the streambank. A full crew, along with The Fockele Garden Company’s design team, came together to plant the hillside garden.

Throughout the entire installation, The Fockele Garden Company worked in partnership with the landscape architect, the hospital and the donors. Each proposed design change was presented for their consideration and approval.

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? The deadline to enter is Aug. 9, 2021.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.