Serene scene: Splash of water, flash of fish – Record

Tranquil pond

Wendy Baskette Little has been a pond enthusiast for many years. She enjoys both the sights and sounds provided by the water feature in her Redding yard.Roger Mullis / Special to the Record Searchlight

Wendy Baskette Little has been a pond enthusiast for many years. She enjoys both the sights and sounds provided by the water feature in her Redding yard.
Roger Mullis / Special to the Record Searchlight

Six of the koi in the pond are from Baskette Little's previous pond in Stockton. One is 17 years old.

Six of the koi in the pond are from Baskette Little’s previous pond in Stockton. One is 17 years old.

Feeling frazzled? Perhaps a pond would help.

The soothing sound and sight of water splashing over rocks and into a pond filled with colorful, feathery-finned koi can be a nice antidote to everyday stress.

Victoria Dolan, owner of Sunset Koi in Redding, said the main reason people decide to add a water feature at their home is to create a relaxing space. “The sound of water is probably the number one attraction.”

“I think it is the sound that draws people first, then it’s the rippling effect of the water and the fish underneath,” said Karlene Stoker, a member of Shasta Koi Water Garden Club. “It’s kind of hypnotic and relaxing.”

But see for yourself. The club’s 2011 Pond Tour is June 25. It will feature seven backyard ponds in the Redding area. One of them is Wendy Baskette Little’s. The pond with rock waterfall was built in 2009, transforming a plain Redding subdivision backyard of lawn, cottonwood trees and a swing set into a splashy retreat. In addition to the pond, there’s a brick patio, redwood pergola and greenhouse, a deck and lots of native plants.

The pond is not the first for Baskette Little. A 1960 Shasta High School grad, she lived in Stockton for 30 years. She and then-husband, Jim Baskette, raised four children and had a backyard pond filled with koi. Baskette Little, who was a high school Spanish teacher for many years, said sitting by the pond and watching the fish go by was her way to unwind.

“After dealing with 150 kids in a day, I’d come home, have a glass of wine and feed my fish. It was very relaxing,” she said.

When her husband, to whom she had been married for 25 years, died from cancer, she expected to stay in Stockton. That plan changed, however, after a friend connected her with former high school classmate Frank Little of Redding. They dated for three years, and then married in 2008.

Baskette Little found herself back in Redding. She and Frank purchased a home and then decided to build a pond so her koi could come to Redding too.

“We completely changed everything,” Baskette Little said of the backyard.

Along with the pond, they added a new deck, pergola and greenhouse — where her many cactuses and succulents in containers spend the winter until it is warm enough for them to be brought onto the deck.

To offset the water in the 3,000-gallon pond, they planted mostly California natives and other drought-tolerant plants in the landscape. The yard includes three types of manzanita as well as salvias, coffeeberry, a chitalpa tree and flannel bush.

“We didn’t want any lawn,” Baskette Little said.

The pond is the focal point. It is home to eight hefty koi, six of them from Baskette Little’s Stockton pond. Her oldest koi is 17. One of the new fish in the pond is a koi purchased for Frank.

“He’s never raised fish, but we got him a fish,” she said. “He likes watching his fish swim around. It’s become our pond, instead of my pond.”

The koi are like pets, Baskette Little said. “They bring you joy,” she said.

There’s therapeutic value in a pond, she said. When she was recovering from abdominal surgery this spring, she spent a lot of time near the pond.

“I would go outside and sit and feed the fish. It was the one thing I could do every day,” she said.

Having a pond isn’t all about relaxation. There’s work too. And it can get expensive if a fish gets sick and has to be isolated and treated, Baskette Little said. She said it’s important to research the type of pond and filtration system before jumping into water gardening. But Baskette Little said the time and effort she puts into her pond are well worth it.

“I think the yard would not be nearly as beautiful and tranquil if it didn’t have the pond,” she said.

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