Pond tour looks beyond the water

Every morning, Gary DeGrande bends down to feed the koi in his back-yard pond — without having to step off his patio.

He built the biggest pond in his yard right up to the patio so he could have a close-up view of the fish darting among the water lilies.

“It’s relaxing to watch them swim,” he said. “And when they’re spawning, we can hear them splashing from the bedroom window.”

DeGrande’s water garden is one of 13 on the Minnesota Water Garden Society Pond and Garden Tour this weekend. Despite the two ponds, his White Bear Township garden isn’t all about water. Over the past decade, DeGrande has surrounded the 6-foot waterfall and koi pond with a careful combination of native plants, cottage-style perennial gardens and shaded ferns to create a secluded, lush setting.

“I’ve made an attempt to not separate the perennial gardens and the water features, so people get a taste of both,” he said.

There’s no doubt that the big attraction of water garden tours is the water features. But this year, the tour committee, of which DeGrande is a member, selected “a unique assortment of mature ponds with an emphasis also on the garden,” said Jan Schreier, president of the society.

Those mature ponds range from a Roseville “fairy pond” dotted with water hyacinth to a 13-foot bridge that connects two ponds accented with found objects in Prescott, Wis.

Novice and experienced water gardeners can pick up ideas on design, types of plants, care tips and learn about new products from water garden vendors and members of the society, who will be at the sites. But even pond enthusiasts admit that with the downturn in the economy, fewer folks will be emulating the expansive multi-pond and multi-waterfall landscapes showcased in previous tours.

“People are cutting back on everything, including their landscape,” Schreier said.

A desire to slash installation and maintenance costs has fueled the popularity of lower-maintenance water features, said Schreier.

“We’ve gone from large swimmable ponds six years ago to smaller, more manageable water features like pondless waterfalls, bubbler fountains and container water gardens filled with water lilies,” she said.

The membership of the society, which was started in 1997, has also gotten smaller. Schreier said there are about 300 members today, compared with 650 in 2002, when water gardening was all the rage.

But passionate water gardeners, such as DeGrande, have no plans to cut back. In fact, DeGrande is more committed than ever to tending his water gardens, in part because he believes that weeding, deadheading and feeding his koi helped him recover from a kidney transplant a few years ago.

“Every day is another day to enjoy life,” he said. “This time of year, I enjoy it in the garden.”

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

Article source: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/126201873.html

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