Archive for Thursday, April 21, 2005

Streaming along

Dry creek beds add function, beauty to any landscape

April 21, 2005

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Dry creeks add a certain amount of mystery to any landscape. Onlookers must wonder: Is this for water or purely aesthetic?

The answer is both.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger tinkers with stones in
her recently installed dry creek bed. The faux stream adds beauty
to Praeger's yard but also solves a drainage problem.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger tinkers with stones in her recently installed dry creek bed. The faux stream adds beauty to Praeger's yard but also solves a drainage problem.

A dry creek -- typically created with rocks and boulders to emulate the winding path of a natural stream -- used as a decorative addition to the garden is a great way to steer the eye to what you want the viewer to notice: a sculpture, a bridge, a seating area or a grouping of plants.

But dry creeks also can be extremely functional when used to direct excess water that pools in yards or solve pesky drainage problems. Although dry creeks are largely ornamental, they can be quite serviceable during heavy rains when they gurgle to life as an actual stream.

Dry creeks intended to solve a drainage problem should, of course, begin at the source of the water run-off, such as under a gutter or on a slope. But if you're installing a dry creek for purely aesthetic purposes, start from behind a big boulder or plant. Hiding the starting point creates an illusion and makes viewers use their imaginations.

The good news is that once a dry creek is properly incorporated into the landscape, little upkeep is required.

Water's Edge, 847 Ind., has a dry creek. Its sole function is to bring viewing pleasure to the garden landscape.

Owner Susan Davis says she wanted to show off the business's granite bridge.

"By adding a dry creek, we achieved that," she says. "And it brings a great interest for pedestrians and people driving by."

A dry creek bed near Peterson Road and Kasold Drive is adorned with
trees and rocks.

A dry creek bed near Peterson Road and Kasold Drive is adorned with trees and rocks.

The creek begins behind a planting and meanders under the bridge. It is created with black, smooth river rock.

"Gardens are always evolving," Davis says. "They are never really done, and introducing a hardscape is fun architecturally. It is always there, where as the plants die or are removed and shuffled around. Plus it gives the garden the feel of water without all of the upkeep that water gardens require."

Whether your creek is for steering water or just an artistic hardscape feature, remember that streams meander and never flow in a straight line. Creeks also tend to be wider than they are deep in nature; and so should your handmade creek. This is great news because it means less digging.

A hint if you'll be using the creek for directing water: Look at how the water naturally flows through the landscape the next time it rains. It's always best to work with the water than fight it. But you can maneuver the water anywhere you wish, such as helping water the lawn, fill a pond or aid in watering a flower bed.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and her husband, Mark, have integrated a dry creek into their property to help with a drainage problem. Thanks to the assistance of landscapers Mary Olson and George Osborn, the Praeger's water woes are a distant memory.

A bridge spans this dry creek bed at the home of Wilfred Hadl, 1211
Monterey Way.

A bridge spans this dry creek bed at the home of Wilfred Hadl, 1211 Monterey Way.

"The rock bed is designed to carry the water from the guttering down spouts away from the house, and so far it has worked beautifully," Sandy Praeger says. "The bed creek is located at precisely the areas where we were getting some major erosion because of the water running off the roof.

"The guttering is newly installed, which allowed the design team to take full advantage of where the erosion's source was and work with the guttering for good drainage."

The Praegers then softened the creek's appearance by planting hellebores, ornamental grasses, lilies, ground cover and other perennials, taking what could have been an unsavory situation and turning it into an unexpected garden paradise.





















What you'll need¢ String, landscaper's paint or a garden hose¢ Landscaper's plastic or weed fabric¢ Fabric pins, garden staples or sand¢ River rocks and boulders¢ Wheelbarrow (for transporting rocks)¢ Tamping tool¢ Shovel¢ GlovesDirections1. Using string, garden hose or landscaper's paint, plot out the course you want your creek to follow.2. Dig 6 to 8 inches deep where you have chosen to lay the creek. Keep the excess dirt on each side of the creek to help build up the sides rather than hauling it away.3. Shape the sides of the creek. Create a natural look by keeping the banks random and not uniform. Be sure to remove twigs, roots, stones and any other obstacle that arise; they may poke through the landscape fabric.4. Lay the landscape fabric or weed cloth. Be sure to use solid plastic if the intention is for the creek to carry water. Keep the fabric in place with rocks, sand, or fabric pins or staples. Be sure to overlap the seams and leave some excess fabric to go over the banks on each side. Use two layers of fabric for good measure.5. Add stones. Smooth river rock stones add to the illusion of an "active" creek. Rough stones make the creek look as if it has been dry for some time. Try to place stones in a way that imitates nature, use various sizes with the heavier stones on the sides of the creek and the smaller stones in the middle so they "flow" down the stream. Avoid any pattern. Try using fine decomposed granite at the end of the creek to create the look of sediments.6. Anchor the fabric edges with large boulders on the banks to camouflage the fabric.7. Landscape. This will help cover any unsightly fabric and will soften the look of the creek. Try balancing both sides of the creek with plantings and creating focal points with such plants as large ornamental grasses. You may decide to choose a color palette. Using warm colors (oranges, reds and yellows) makes a large space feel cozier. Using cool colors (blues, purples and greens) creates a relaxing feeling and the illusion of depth.8. You may need to add some more stones in a few years after the original rocks have settled.Source: www.hgtv.com

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