The term water feature typically refers to an assembly of natural materials including boulders, stones and gravel to mimic a form of a stream or waterfall you would see in nature. Fountains are usually more formal style structures that create a jet or stream of water from a decorative piece or nozzle.
Natural water features use various types of stone and river rock. Here in Sedona, we have an abundance of what everyone calls “red rock”. It is a type of sedimentary rock formed by layers of ocean bed over millions of years. Sedimentary stone is not unique to Sedona, however the red color is due to the presence of iron oxide.

 

sedona waterfeaturesSince the local red boulders are so readily available as a local resource, they are relatively cheap compared to another kind of natural boulder found outside of the Sedona area and is a type of granite, which is heavier. Boulder types are named from the area where they are mined, such as Hasayampa Gold. Boulders that come from Sedona are simply called Sedona Red. Since everyone in Sedona loves the red rocks, using the red rock boulders of Sedona are the most popular choice for water features.
Another type of natural stone that is used in Sedona water features is called Moss rock which is typically a type of sedimentary stone that has surface growth of moss and lichens and is usually hand harvested since these boulders are located on the surface of the land. They are also weather eroded from water and wind giving them uniqueness quite different than the red rock.
The third type of rock used in Sedona water features is known as river rock and is commonly found in our streams, rivers and washes. It is smooth and rounded and comes is screened to produce sizes ranging from ½” pebbles to large boulders. River rock is typically used to line the underwater portions of the water features, especially along the stream courses and the basins. Since river rock does not stack very well nor does it look natural when stacked, it is always used under the water where it mimics its natural condition.

 

hillside waterfeature in Sedona
How Are Sedona Water Features Built?

Most water features are dug into the ground in which a rubber liner is placed to contain the water. The type of liner most used is called EPDM rubber and typically 45 mil thickness. The liner is placed on top of an underlayment fabric that helps prevent any damage to the liner from rocks, soil and roots, etc.
The plumbing components consist of a skimmer box inside of which the pump is placed. This works just like a swimming pool filter and has a weir that draws in the water at the surface level. Inside the skimmer box is also filtration screening materials that can be accessed for periodic maintenance.
The pump pushes the water up through a “return line” to the highest point of the water feature where either the simple end of the pipe discharges water or it can be plumbed to a “waterfall box” that has various widths of the lip opening for different effect on the face of the waterfall. The waterfall box can also be the location for a biological filter and contain media to help colonize good bacterial that keep the pond aspects in balance. A water feature that does not contain aquatic plants or fish does not need a biological filter.

 

Key Design Tips for Sedona Water Features

1) Natural. The whole point is that the water feature looks like it belongs where you are building it or at least integrating it the best you can in your man made landscape. Not everyone has a perfect slope of red rock formations ready to be used for a water feature.
2) Elevation change. Water flows downhill so naturally the end of the pump’s return line must be higher than the pump at the low point. The more the elevation difference, the more cascading drops and sheer drops you can create with the arrangement of stone.
3) Avoid artificial mounds. On a flat property, it is tempting to bring in a pile of dirt to create a mound so you can artificially create the necessary elevation drop. This is the number one mistake made by amateurs and the reason such water features tend to not look natural.
4) Use different size boulders. Depending on your access to heavy equipment to lift large boulders, varying the size of boulders is important rather than using uniform size stones.
5) Create pockets for plant material. Plant material close to the edge of the water feature in strategic locations using appropriate plants will enhance the natural appearance. Envision the kinds of shrubs you are going to place as you are creating the pockets.

 Maintaining Your Sedona Water feature

For water features that contain no plants or fish, cleaning the filter screen in the skimmer box is required. Also make sure the automatic water leveler fill valve is operating properly and is not stuck which could lead to over flowing the basin. A well designed water feature will have a pipe situated a bit higher than the desired water level in case the basin is over topped due to a stuck valve or inordinate amount of rainwater.
If algae becomes a problem, there are products sold that will control the algae and clarify the water. Do not use chlorine or bleach as this can damage the pump components.

Winterizing Your Sedona Water feature

About half of winter nights in Sedona experience freezing temperatures. Two or three of these, on average, drop down into the range of 11 to 20 °F (-12 to -8 °C). Lows in the teens can occur from November to March, but are most likely in December.
Is it necessary to take certain measures to protect the pump for a water feature in Sedona? Most pump warranties I have seen recommend removing the pump during freezing temperatures and storing the pump in a bucket of water indoors. There is also the argument that leaving a pump running actually reduces the likelihood of the water freezing because flowing water does not allow water pressure to rise when flowing through pipes. Typically, the surface of the pond may freeze and ice develops on areas where the water flows, but inside the skimmer where the pump is at is not at risk as much as the surface areas.
It is recommended to shut off the water supply line that controls your auto fill valve during freezing temperatures. Keep an eye of the water level and fill with a hose if there is some loss due to evaporation.

Now that you have a list of suitable plants that will grow in the Sedona area (USDA Zone 7), which plants you use will depend on design principles based on the plant’s form and purpose. If you are looking to simply create an area that you will call your hummingbird garden that will be quite easy to design. It would be based on the size of the space as well as the amount of sunlight it gets. But before selecting which plants are suitable for your particular space, let’s look at the general form of each shrub. Not all the plants will be suitable for any space within your garden.
If you want your garden to not look like a hodgepodge of plants, you have to spend some time thinking about this basic principle: Select the right plant and put it in the right place.
What this means is you have to understand the growing requirements of the plants such as how tall and wide do they get, what kind of sunlight do they need and water and soil needs. Also, research and understand the aesthetic characteristics of each plant such as the flower color, texture, size and form.
Once you have a palette of suitable plants to work with, where do you place them? This is the art and science of planting design and there is a process that you must go through to achieve a thoughtfully designed garden.
The key to a successful “hummingbird” garden is to not rely solely on plants that have flowers that attract hummingbirds. Use other plants that provide the necessary structure, form, textural and seasonal interest to your garden. For instance, if you have a 12 x 12 spot that you want to create your hummingbird garden and select all perennials, what will it look like during the winter? A garden in Sedona must be designed with a balance of evergreens and perennials. This balance is key to the placement of the plants.
Start with analyzing your garden, its various spaces, the site conditions such as the amount of sunlight, slope, soil type, existing structures and elements you want to keep. Many of the ridge line properties in Sedona are rocky. You may have to rely on using containers instead. If you have sloped areas, consider using low terraced retaining walls which will allow you to add good soil to plant.
What are the functional elements such as a sitting area, patios, walkways, focal points, fountains or fences that may be included? Laying out the “hard” surfaces will define the areas available for plantings.
Perennial gardens are typically planting beds that are intended to create a flower show. For a hummingbird garden, you may want to designate a certain spot for this special bed or it could be a series of beds that border a walkway. You can also locate specific hummingbird plants throughout the garden so not all the excitement happens in one particular area.
In order to create interest place the plants based primarily on their form.  Categorize the forms based on trees, tall shrubs, medium shrubs, low shrubs, ground covers, spiky accents, evergreen vs. deciduous, annual and perennial. Conceptually layout each particular planting area based on the forms, then pay attention to the grouping, the layering and the massing of the plants.
Vertical layering is the escalation of height from the front to the back of a bed or a vantage point in the garden. Small low plants go up close and taller, bolder textures go in the background. Midlevel shrubs go in the middle.
Horizontal layering is the massing of shrubs and the repetition of shrubs to fill up a void. It is not a good idea to create horizontal layering with too much variety. Repetition of the same or similarly formed shrubs is best. You can break up the monotony by using vertical accents to break the linearity of the repeated shrub texture and form. I like to do this with spiky accent shrubs like Liriope, Red Yucca or Agave. Note that the Liriope and Agave are not hummingbird plants. Limiting your plant palette to all hummingbird plants is not a good idea. Use them as accents for when they flower, but not as the primary structure of the garden.

Here is a list of trees and shrubs that will do well in the Sedona area which should form the plant palette that will comprise your Sedona Hummingbird Garden Design.
TREES
Mimosa (deciduous)
Desert Willow (deciduous)
Vitex (deciduous)
Crape Myrtle (deciduous)
Pomegranate (deciduous)

PERENNIALS
Agastache
Bee balm
Canna lily
Daylily
Delphinium
Flame acanthus
Coral bells
Nasturtium
Petunia
Red columbine
Russian Sage
Penstemon
EVERGREEN SHRUBS
Autumn Sage
English lavender
Spanish lavender
Red Yucca

VINES
Halls honeysuckle (semi-evergreen)
Coral honeysuckle (semi-evergreen)
Red Trumpet vine (deciduous)

Include feeders in your Sedona Hummingbird Garden Design
Don’t overlook the use of feeders to provide hummingbirds with a food source in addition to the flowers. Not all flowers will be blooming, nor have sufficient nectar. Place the feeders in shade and/or near sitting areas of to view from inside the house. Having more than one feeder will help attract more hummers. For more information about the use of feeders check out the Sedona Hummingbird Society web site.

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Sedona fiberglass pool being craned into placeIf you live or have a second home in Sedona and are thinking of getting a pool, your choices are basically concrete, fiberglass or vinyl. Depending on which part of the country you are from, you may be used to vinyl or fiberglass. People who come from cold climates are very concerned about concrete pools because of freeze and thaw soil conditions. Fiberglass and vinyl liner pools will not crack and so theoretically may be better suited for the colder climates. But if you have never owned a pool before, you may be confused as whether a fiberglass pool is the best choice for Sedona.

Research performed on the internet will reveal a huge debate between concrete/gunite pools vs. fiberglass. Much of the information is being put out by the fiberglass pool industry in defense of the misconceptions and myths about the downsides of fiberglass pools. So be careful as you educate yourself as the information is very biased when they are making side by side comparisons.

If you search for “sedona fiberglass pool” you will not find any local builder. There are only a couple of builders who claim to be able to install fiberglass pools, but it is not their mainstay. Most Sedona pool builders install concrete pools. So even if you have made the decision to go fiberglass, you may have to find a fiberglass pool builder located in the Phoenix area willing to come to Sedona to install your pool. This limits your selection process from whom to solicit proposals. Each builder may be able to install any of the top fiberglass pool manufactures, but may focus on only one because of issues of delivery, shipping and manufacturer warranties.

Things to consider for a Sedona fiberglass pool:

1) Maintenance

The long term maintenance cost savings of a fiberglass pool is persuasive for pool buyers who want less maintenance and less monthly cost. Because the fiberglass shell is impervious to water and chemicals, water chemistry is less likely to get out of balance compared to a concrete shell.

2) Initial Cost vs. Long Term Costs

It would be in your best interest to compare the cost of a concrete pool to that of a comparable fiberglass pool in terms of the initial cost of installation. Generally speaking, fiberglass will cost more and you will have to take that added cost and see how many years it will take to offset it due to the lower maintenance costs.

3) Design Considerations

The major advantage of a concrete pool is the endless shapes and styles that can be designed. There are no limitations. You are not limited to a number of cookie cutter shapes as in a fiberglass pool.

sedona fiberglass pools are typically uninspiringFiberglass pools also tend to be variations of a basic rectangle and are made from molds or templates. Fiberglass pools are not made to order, you have to choose from among what they have to offer.

4) Aesthetics

Fiberglass pools are not very imaginative due to the manufacturing process. You will not see many negative edge fiberglass pools, nor will you see boulders set into the edge of the coping nor inside the pool itself as you will with concrete pools. Spas that come with a fiberglass pool combination tend to be simple square extensions of the pool and not very innovative in design options.

Vanishing edge concrete pool designed by JSL Exteriors  Landscape Design Build

Innovative site design like this is not possible with fiberglass pools

You cannot have beach entries or place umbrella sleeves inside the pool. A fiberglass pool must be embellished by the decking and surrounding elements since the shape itself may be on the simple side.

5) Value

Pools do not add actual market value to the home, nor does the overall landscaping for that matter. What it does however, is make the home more marketable, but only for those buyers who are looking for a house with a pool. Some people see pools as a maintenance headache and safety issue, but everybody is different. A fiberglass pool may have a perceived value of being less desirable than a concrete pool because of the stigma due to decades of being criticized in the industry as being a “plastic facsimile” of the real thing. Some may have heard stories about fiberglass pools being prone to floating out of the ground.

Conclusion

If your criteria is primarily based on simplicity of design and lower maintenance costs and you plan on living with the pool for the next 10 years, then a fiberglass pool should be considered. But if your primary consideration is innovative, unique design that is well integrated with the surrounding landscape elements, a concrete pool will be the better choice.

In either case, I am familiar designing with either fiberglass pools or custom designed concrete pools. From a design standpoint, I prefer to not have to work around a pre-designed shape, because it is often difficult to find a shape that fits the design criteria. I do find it a fun challenge however, to take a simple fiberglass shape and design around it to make the overall landscape design innovative and unique.

So if you are still in the market for a Sedona fiberglass pool, I can help you with the whole process, from design to installation with my network of contacts and years of experience both in Phoenix and Sedona.

Sedona Second Home Landscaping Tips for Prospective Owners

You’re shopping for a second home in Sedona and will use it part of the year or perhaps move into it full time when you retire. Since you will not be there full time, how much effort should you put into your Sedona second home landscaping? The answer depends on the current state of the landscaping and whether you intend to live in it part time or rent it out.

second home landscaping tips

Landscaping is included when shopping for a second home

For instance, the home may be a foreclosure or bank owned with neglected landscaping. Or it may be fully landscaped in good shape and you will need to continue the maintenance. It may have been a rental with minimal landscape improvements.

Regardless of the type of property it was, you need to assess the current state of the landscaping. It could be anywhere from a landscape that was disregarded (yes, even in Sedona), to a high end outdoor living environment where the owners valued professional landscaping and invested in a custom design and installation.

The current state of second home landscaping falls into three general categories:

1) The Clean Slate (needs a complete landscape)

These types of properties are homes that may have never been landscaped except for a few trees and shrubs and gravel cover. They are homes where the owners did not value upgrading the landscaping by installing improvements such as a patio, nice fencing, or other elements. There may be a lot of native vegetation left in its natural state.

To some degree, these properties are like a clean slate because there isn’t much that you need to rip out and redo the way you want it or to correct mistakes in terms of taste or poor quality work. These properties include foreclosures, rentals and older properties.

2) The Remodel (needs repairs and a makeover)

Your new home may be equipped with a concrete driveway, block walls, brick patios, a barbeque island and would appear that it was installed as a complete landscape project at one point. It may have been installed by professional landscapers, or some of the improvements could have been homeowner built.

When a landscape needs a makeover or renovation, it’s often because it doesn’t work for the new owner. It may need repairs, it may lack certain elements, it may not have enough patio space, the front may lack any curb appeal, the barbeque island was placed in an unacceptable location and so forth.

3) The Acceptable Landscape (fully landscaped)

The home may have been fully landscaped with an irrigation system, drain lines, a lawn, a fountain, decking, nice trees and shrubs and was maintained either by the owner or a maintenance service. This type of landscape requires minimal improvements except for areas where you would like to customize or add something it lacks. While being an absentee owner, you will need to make sure it is maintained.

Now ask yourself these questions:

Will it be vacant while you are not using it?

If it is an Acceptable Landscape, you may not need to do much at all except engage the services of a maintenance service so it looks good when you do visit.

If it’s a Remodel, you may be compelled to make a lot of improvements so that when you are visiting, it will accommodate your needs and wants and allow you to enjoy the outside without being reminded of all the fixing and replacing it needs.

If it’s a Clean Slate, how enjoyable will your second home be if there is not much to the landscaping? You will certainly want to make some improvements and here is where you can start from scratch and design the whole yard the way you want.

Will you rent it out so its not a financial burden?

If you will not be visiting your Sedona second home on a regular basis as in the case of the vacant property, you will most likely view it as an investment property with the intention of either changing it from being a rental to an actual second home or moving in when you can retire and relocate to Sedona.

The decision regarding how much you should landscape the property will often be made soon after you purchase the property and the current state of the landscape will affect your ability to market the rental for the going market rent for the price range of the home. For instance, a high end Sedona property that rents for at least $2000/month will need to have decent and well maintained landscaping. A property that is either a Clean Slate or a Remodel will need its landscaping to be acceptable and comparable to the rental amount.

Being a rental, most landlords are not inclined to make improvements that do not make a return on the investment, so they tend to keep everything as is. They will wait until they move in themselves to make significant changes to the landscape.

If you are currently looking for property for a second home or investment, consider hiring a landscape professional who can give you a Sedona second home landscaping assessment of the improvements required to bring the landscaping up to the standards you require depending on how you are going to use the home.

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