Damion Draeger

By Damion Draeger, MATC landscape horticulture instructor

With summer just around the corner, no doubt many of us are busy planning our vacations. How many of those vacations are spent near the water? Whether it is a big trip for fun in the sun at a luxurious beach or a fishing trip to your lakeside cabin in northern Wisconsin, water draws you there. Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring some of that relaxation home with you? Many people may not realize this, but you can!

What is a Water Feature?

There are a variety of options when it comes to adding water to a landscape. The simplest and best option for a small area is a bubbling rock or vase. This is a large rock with one or more holes drilled, which allow water to bubble through the holes and trickle back down into a basin.

The second option is a pondless waterfall system. This system has a reservoir below ground that holds the water and pump. The water is pumped through piping to an origination point where it pours out and cascades over various drops created with rocks to mimic a natural waterfall. Gravel covers the liner and helps beautify the stream that allows the water to return to the basin.

The third option is a pond. When building a pond, the installer uses rocks to create ledges for visual interest and safety. Because there is a body of water, owners are able to enjoy many types of fish varying from simple goldfish to beautiful koi.  Waterfalls are generally created with the pond to create a natural ecosystem pond. 

Landscape Horticulture Students Transform Mequon Campus East Entrance

At Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Mequon Campus, landscape horticulture students in the fall 2016 “Irrigation, Lighting and Ponds” course were able to create a miniature mountain stream at the east entrance. The class of nine students spent four weeks learning the ins and outs of various water features. After working with all the MATC landscape horticulture instructors to be sure the installation would not interfere with any of the other learning installations on campus, we chose to build an eight foot pondless waterfall system.


Water Pieces Source Corner 1Here is the location was chosen for the pondless waterfall installation. It sits in the center of the east entrance at the MATC Mequon Campus.


Water Pieces Source Corner 2

With our site selected and a kit with all the necessary parts and pieces, the students began mapping out the footprint of the project.

Water Pieces Source Corner 3

Pictured above: Mary Blaylock, Robert Caspari, Lynn Christiansen, Brennan Delap, Scott Jeffrey, Derek Kolthoff, Trent Neumann and Tyler Tschetter (not pictured Michael Richards)


Over the course of three class periods, the students created a living and breathing work of art. Every time I am at MATC’s Mequon Campus, I see students, instructors, and especially the children on their way to the Child Care Center, stop to look at this feature. Hopefully, you can visit the campus to see this relaxation spot created by our students and enjoyed by so many.