La Quinta Backyard Water Garden
This video features a large water garden just completed in September 2017 in La Quinta, California. Although the garden is attractive now, it will become even more impressive over the coming months as the plants mature and the environment becomes more established. This is a spectacularly beautiful, tranquil, inspiring garden where the homeowners and their family and guests will enjoy many happy hours.
This garden, which fills the entire side yard of the home, is meant to simulate the type of rocky canyons found naturally in the area. At one end of the garden, a simulated artesian spring erupts from the top of a small hill and forms a waterfall that cascades down to a stream, which runs for approximately forty feet through the rocky landscape and terminates in a large pond.
The plants used in the landscape are a combination of native species and other plants suited to arid mountain and desert environments. The landscape incorporates an existing large native chilopsis tree. Many of the plants flower, and are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and other animals. The environment in general is attractive to many species of native wildlife, including songbirds, roadrunners and other birds, reptiles and amphibians, dragonflies and other insects, etc. The combination of water and a diverse array of plants make this a welcome oasis in the desert.
The video and photos above are of our latest interior showcase environment, a large tropical terrarium. One of our specialties is converting old installations (like aquaria), unused or difficult spaces into innovative, new, fresh and unique environments. A San Diego couple had a 15-year-old marine aquarium that wasn’t doing well. They were tired of it and wanted something new and exciting. With a terrarium in mind, they called us. This is what we created for them.
Landscaping a repurposed aquarium is difficult. Unlike the tanks we have custom-built, which have full-front-opening doors, aquarium tanks are accessible only from the top and often not fully open, as this one was not. The hardscaping was done by my partner sitting inside the tank, while I handed in rock and tools and directed from outside. I did the planting hanging through the top, while my partner outside made sure everything was properly positioned and looked good. Everything we do in a tank like this must be up to artistic standards, both ours and the client’s, just as in our custom-built tanks. There are no excuses. As indicated by their comments at the end of the above video, our clients were pleased with our finished product. We always seem to have the most wonderful clients, and we thoroughly enjoyed this project.
We started by removing all of the old aquarium equipment, repairing certain areas where leakage had occurred and cleaning up all the salt residue, etc. We then installed our terrarium equipment, making use of existing tank intrusions to run our cords and tubing and for tank drainage. The old aquarium overflow column, which could not be removed, was concealed behind a rocky cliff face, which we built from scratch in situ. About half-way up the cliff face is a simulated artesian spring, forming a small waterfall, which spills into a pool below.
The systems include automatic misting, drainage, daylight and moonlight fixtures. We utilized a new daylight fixture in this installation, which incorporates every component in one nice fixture. It provides full-spectrum, intense light that simulates natural tropical midday sunlight. It provides every wavelength, from UV through infrared, needed for the plants to grow and bloom, as well as anything necessary for animals, should the clients eventually decide to add these to the environment. The intensity ranges from over 20,000 foot-candles immediately under the fixture to over 13,000 fc at upper treetop canopy/upper cliff level, to about 2,000 fc at lower epiphyte levels, to 5-800 average at ground level. This makes it possible to grow and bloom difficult, high-light orchids in the tree canopy and upper cliff to African violets on the ground below. Under this excellent light, along with the regular misting to maintain moisture and humidity, plants will bloom prolifically and the bromeliads will not only maintain, but increase, their vibrant colors.
The primary tree is a lavender star flower, planted on the cliff, to be trained using bonsai techniques, over the course of a year into a windswept/gravity-induced form that fills most of the upper interior space of the tank. At this point, it hosts few epiphytic plants. More will be added as the tree grows. On either side of the cliff pocket where the tree is planted, there are root bundles contained in wrapped columns of planting mix, which we call braids. These can be seen in some of the photos. The roots will grow down through these braids of mix. When they reach the tank bottom, they will grow into the planting mix. When this happens, we will gradually unwrap the braids to expose the roots, which will harden over. The eventual result will be a simulation of a tree growing on an eroded cliff, hanging on by the exposed roots.
Other plants in the environment include thirteen types of bromeliads including Neoregelias, Aechmeas, Billbergias and Orthotanthus, seven types of orchids, six types of tillandsias, African violets and several other types of gesneriads, a dwarf water lily and several other types of aquatic plants, ferns, mosses and several other types of tropical plants.
Check back for updates on the evolution of this terrarium.
Definitely something unique!
A Palm Springs Vivarium, Just Refurbished After Four Years
San Diego Vivarium
See all our wonderful specialty environments at www.secretenvironments.com.
After a vacation to Costa Rica, where they fell in love with the tropical forest and especially the many colorful frogs, this San Diego family contracted with us to recreate a little piece of the tropics in their home. As part of a remodeling project, they had a large wall unit built in the front living room. The central feature of this unit is the tropical rainforest vivarium we created for them. As always, this is a museum-quality installation that allows homeowners and businesses to have magnificent, state-of-the-art living environments of the sort previously only seen in major zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and upscale hotels.
This top-of-the-line vivarium incorporates several new features and upgrades, including a new latching system and a new outer door design to improve the museum-quality picture window look of the installation.
All systems are automated and controlled as usual by the EcoZone 500. The lighting system is almost totally LED, providing beautiful light that simulates tropical sunlight in spectrum and intensity, with footcandle levels up to about 3,000 at the tree canopy top to about 500 at forest floor level. This includes a dawn/dusk feature and moonlight at night.
A high-pressure misting system maintains ideal humidity levels and waters epiphytic plants throughout the volume, while the active ventilation system maintains good fresh air circulation.
An internet hookup to the controller allows monitoring and adjustment of the vivarium systems from computer or smart phone.
The landscape includes a multi-level forest floor with volcanic rock outcrops, a waterfall. stream and forest pool that spans the front bottom of the vivarium and a large jaboticaba tree, trained bonsai-style to simulate a giant forest tree, that fills most of the upper volume of the tank.
The forest floor is planted with bromeliads, orchids, ferns, miniature African violets and other dwarf gesneriads, begonias, various dwarf aroids, etc. The various mosses covering patches of forest floor, rocks and tree branches are all true tropical varieties from the jungles of Asia. The canopy of the jaboticaba tree is planted with many varieties of epiphytic plants, including bromeliads, tillandsias, orchids, ferns and mosses.
At the time of this video, the vivarium is newly established. The tree has had its initial pruning/shaping, the plants have been installed and the waterfall initiated. After a period of time to allow for environmental “maturation”, including plant growth and establishment, water conditioning and the establishment of terrestrial and aquatic microbial biomasses, the aquatic plants and initial animals will be added.
This is a pan-global tropical forest community vivarium, specifically designed to accommodate a variety of species comfortably. It incorporates numerous environmental features and microclimates to meet the needs of a wide variety of animals. The primary residents will be several species of dart frogs and tree frogs. Other animals will eventually include geckos, tree lizards, anoles, dwarf leaf chameleons, tropical fish and invertebrates such as freshwater shrimp.
As animals are added and this vivarium matures and changes over time, new videos will be posted.