Home & Design | Bridge Over Tranquil Water

When Mitch and Sue Sondreaal designed their landscape water feature nearly 20 years ago, they went big and bold: A grand canal runs the length of their Craftsman-style home with a covered deck and bridge that spans the burbling waters and leads to their front door.

While bridge entryways usually encourage a journey from point A to B, here the midpoint is the real destination. There, in the cool shade, Mitch and Sue spend hours, morning and evenings, enjoying the sights and sounds of the pond. “It’s so relaxing,” Mitch says.

A fountain at one end adds sparkle and movement, while the waterfall beneath the bridge provides music. Hummingbirds zoom from feeder to feeder. Frogs sun themselves on the rocks while butterflies flutter about the edges. It’s true that water brings life to the garden.

Not all wildlife is as welcome though: A mink recently ate all of their fish (they plan to get more).

With their home high on a bluff above the meandering course of the Kinnickinnic River in River Falls, Wisconsin, the couple decided on straight lines and angles for the water feature, softening the corners here and there with a tumble of rocks. The limestone used for the home and pond project was locally sourced, quarried only a short distance away.

More than 30 tropical and hardy water lilies adorn the surface, flowering at different times in shades of red, pink, and lavender. Iris and sweet flag punctuate the liquid landscape with their swordlike leaves. Enormous hostas around the margins anchor the garden, and mounds of groundcover blur the formal lines in places. A red Japanese maple, Bloodgood, throws its reflection onto the water at one end.

When winter approaches, they take out the pumps and move all the hardy water lilies to the deepest part of the pond. “We keep it going early spring to late fall,” Mitch says. He notes that having plants that can weather the cold is key. “The way it’s evolved is, more or less, what survives the winter, which most of them do.”

“We love sitting on the bridge, watching the birds, sometimes deer and fawns. It takes away all of your stress. During a rain, it’s so tranquil.” — Mitch Sondreaal

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