Copyright ©2003 by Nina Stine
It started innocently enough, it always does. We lived in a mobile home, in a mobile home park, on a rented lot, but that didnít stop us from doing a little gardening. A few flowers, some little trees we transplanted, and the trellis that Tom built for Mothers Day that was covered with roses.
The acrylic garden tub in the master bath developed a crack in the step, so it was time to repair or replace it. We visited a salvage store quite often, and always looked at the whirlpool tubs, so this seemed like a good excuse to consider one of our own. There was one that would fit in the space we had, and the color was nice, so we took the plunge and installed it. It was a wonderful addition, but what do you do with a cracked acrylic garden tub? I was surprised when Tom fiberglassed the drain shut, dug a hole, buried the tub, and filled it with water. The reason became clear soon. At the Church Camp in our community, there is a lake where every spring painted turtles hatch, the babies run to the swimming pool, and they are trapped. Well this year Tom rescued the little turtles and the buried tub became a turtle pond.
That old bathtub became the focal point of our yard, and even the entire mobile home Park, as people just loved the water, turtles and goldfish we added. As with most projects, we learned a lot and the next spring took a trip to the home store to buy a preformed, ready to use garden pond, which we buried, in the same hole. We were hooked!
When we moved to our new old home we knew we wanted a garden pond, but there was much to do. The yard did have some great old growth trees. Five mature red buds, a large ginko, and a very old maple, so we did have something to start with, but the rest of the landscaping was pretty bad. A few prickly barberry bushes by the porch, an overgrown hedge, and a HUGE juniper bush that had taken over the East Side of the yard. The first order of business was to take out the juniper. We were busy ripping up floors, etc so that chore fell to Tomís father, Clair, and our son Eric. They spent several days with the chain saw cutting up the bush and hauling it off to burn. After they were done we saw why it was so overgrown; it covered an old large stump.
The next spring Tom borrowed a tractor and dug out the stump, that left a large hold in the yard. The perfect place for our new garden pond. We put some thought into the design and thought that an English cottage garden with the pond at the center would be the perfect foil for our country Victorian home. The area we wanted to put in the garden was quite large and our soil is heavy clay, and even though we were novice gardeners we knew that we had to condition the soil. Clair had a tiller and graciously lent it to us to use. Living in a rural area we have access to a large amount of manure, if we were willing to shovel it, so we trucked down several loads and tilled it into the garden. After adding some peat moss, sand, and compost we felt that the soil ready. Tom went to the local home store and purchased the largest pre-formed pond they had, and after digging the hole put the pond into the center of the garden. We wanted a more natural look so we wanted to edge the pond with rocks and plants. Bear creek is only about 5 miles from our town and we spent several days collecting interesting rocks to line the pond.
The pond was installed, but we did need a filter to control algae, and to keep the water clear. We purchased a bio filter with a small fountain and the hardscape was complete, but we needed plants and animals. We put in some small turtles of couse and added some feeder goldfish, but the pond still looked empty so we started looking at water plants. Our garden zone is 5 so we needed to have winter hardy plants and found some water lilies that will survive the winter nicely if we sink them to the bottom of the pond each winter. The plants also help to keep the water cleaner and give shade to the fish and wildlife that take up residence each summer. We were still having trouble with green water when we found barley straw. A couple of small bales (10"x3") did wonders.
The pond was installed and looked lovely but stark by itself. We had some plants that had been transplanted from Tomís grandmothersí house in Pennsylvania, peonies, snow bells, lilies, iris, and even a small white pine. Of course those had to be moved again. We added roses and other plants as our budget allowed and the garden was filling out, but it still needed more structure. We were able to purchases bricks from the old Warren County Court House after it had been demolished and added a path through the garden. The aged look of the bricks makes it look like it has been there forever. Clair came by one day with a pitcher pump he found at a garage sale, which with some tubing and a small pump became a pond side fountain. We added a small bench by the pond, but it was often too hot to sit and watch the fish. After we built a small pergola over the bench and covered it with wisteria, it made a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the fish and smell the roses.
The garden was nearly finished, but I still spent many hours moving plants around and added new plants here and there, but it just made me want more. We added several more small gardens here and there around the property, but the more we did the more we wanted to learn. A garden club was formed and of couse we were charter members. The fish were becoming crowded, when we added the large goldfish that Tomís sister Yvonne gave us when she moved we knew we needed more room for our little pets. So after about five years we went on a trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with a friend. It was a beautiful afternoon even though it was a bit hot being the first of July. We were strolling down the paths when we happened along a dry streambed when Tom looked me in the eye and said the inevitable words "Iíve got an idea"; we can add another large water garden by the redbud trees. So that summer in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in decades we started to build what some refer to as Lake High Hill!