Well-Designed Waterfall Transforms an Unsightly Backyard

A stunning waterfall feature transforms an unsightly backyard slope.
The Blix family backyard is soothing in the daylight and even more stunning at night.

A backyard hot tub offers a relaxing getaway from the daily grind. But an unsightly view can make the desire for a dip a little less appealing. The Blix family of Maple Grove had just such a situation. Much of their backyard sloped, creating a shady hillside that made it difficult to mow and nearly impossible for grass to grow. They considered installing a retaining wall to eliminate the steep slope. But when the initial landscape estimates came in as steep as the hill in their backyard, they reconsidered their options. “We began to wonder what it might cost to incorporate a water feature,” says homeowner, John Blix. “We discovered that it wouldn’t cost much more than just a retaining wall and would provide a more scenic view.” A roadblock was encountered when Blix’s backyard vision was a bit different than what most landscapers wanted to do. That is, until he met Jeff Chudek of Inspired Design Landscapes. Not only did Chudek embrace Blix’s water feature perspective, he suggested a landscape design that would also incorporate a separate paver patio with a built in fire pit and retaining wall seating. “We created a plan that would arrange the fire pit away from the house and in an area that doesn’t conflict with the yard’s traffic pattern,” says Chudek. “We prepped the space and let the Blix family lay the Willow Creek patio pavers to help defray labor costs.” To build the water feature, Chudek started by digging a basin and lining it with aqua blocks, a system designed to reduce the amount of gravel traditionally used in a waterfall reservoir. Then Chudek overlaid the water feature near the basin. He says, “My preference is to avoid a large rock bed between the waterfall and the basin. That allows more space for planting trees or other vegetation.” To create the waterfall, Inspired Design Landscapes set large limestone boulders at the base of the hillside with a backhoe attachment called a dingo. The remaining rocks were carried up the slope by hand. Chudek was mindful to design the entire waterfall feature to follow the natural curvature of the land, making it appear as if created by Mother Nature. The Blix family then added a mix of mulch and landscape rock into and along the setting. Steeper areas were laid with the rock to avoid washouts that can occur with mulch. Mulched areas were planted with trees, shrubs and an assortment of perennials for added beauty and protection from erosion. “We chose plants from Home Depot and Lynde Nursery that are said to be deer resistant,” says Blix. “We get the most compliments on the weeping white pine and the black lace elderberry. The elderberry has intense purple black foliage and large pink flowers. Visitors love it.” Later, Chudek added low voltage LED lights, one under each of the six cascading falls. Two area lights were also added, one under a tree, another illuminating the back woods to add depth to the nighttime perspective. “It’s kind of a moonlight effect,” Chudek says. “Their backyard is great in the daytime. But, lighting gives it an entirely different dimension at night.” The water feature is on a remote control that Blix runs only when their family is at home to enjoy it. “Inspired Design Landscapes did an amazing job,” says Blix. “We’re lucky Chudek understood what we wanted.” Chudek’s satisfaction with his own work can be detected from the backyard envy in his voice. “They have sky chairs on their deck overlooking the whole area,” he says with a smile. “I could easily relax there, listening to the sound of that waterfall and never get any work done.” The Blix’s backyard was featured on the Twin Cities Pond and Landscape tour last summer. Funds raised from the tour benefit the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Ironically, after the Blix agreed to take part, their own daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thankfully, she’s undergone successful surgery and treatment and has returned to a normal life. The Blix family is grateful for much including the knowledge that their renovated backyard has helped raise funds for the treatment and cure of childhood cancers. & The Blix backyard will once again be featured in the Twin Cities Pond and Landscape tour this year. You can see it June 22 or 23 on the day or nightscape tour. For more info visit tcpondandlandscapetour.com.  Area landscapers that can transform your outdoor space: Lynde Greenhouse & Nursery, Maple Grove, lyndegreenhouse.com Fair’s, Osseo, fairsnursery.com Lee's Landscaping and Design, Maple Grove, leeslandscapes.com Visionary Landscape Design, Maple Grove, visionarylandscapedesign.com AquaPar Lifestyles, St, Michael, aquaparlifestyles.com Signature Patio, Otsego, signaturepatio.com Hedberg/Aquatic Addiction, Plymouth, hedbergaggregates.com Inspired Design Landscapes, Columbia Heights, idl-inc.com