Water Gardens

by - April 27, 2011

What is the other feature one could have in their backyard that could be as dangerous to children as bees? Sure enough, a pond. Needless to say we don’t have the yard that you can just turn your kids loose to play in, it is definitely a supervised jungle at all times.
When I was in 8th grade, my dad and I built a pond in our backyard at home. It has undergone many a transformations, but it is still absolutely beautiful. When the husband and I bought our house, I was more than ecstatic that this house built way back in the 1920’s had an old cement lined pond in its backyard.
For a little bit of history—our house was built by the Matthews of Matthews-Belk, the department store. (If you are from the Charlotte area, it will sound familiar.) Mrs. Elisabeth Matthews LOVED gardening… oh the stories I could share about her. She had 4 children and one year an uncle bought the kids a baby pet alligator. (Evidently back then getting a baby alligator was like getting a free hermit crab at the beach.) Well “Lizagator” grew and grew and eventually was about 6 feet long. In the winter she lived in the basement of the house and during the summer she lived in this deep cement lined pond. No one can settle on how the alligator died but she was supposedly buried on the property.
**This is all completely TRUE, the oldest son Frank still lives close by and we’ve been able to sit down and record a lot of history through his stories. Several other older families throughout our neighborhood attest that all he says is true. Just another great thing about living in an old house, so much character and history in these places.**
When we moved here in 2005 the pond had been neglected for MANY years and there was no sign of life in it, instead it was filled with what I called “jello-mud.” It was nasty and we spent many weeks cleaning that thing up and getting it back into working shape. But how glad I am that we did. Here is a view of the pond with the beehives in the background: 
After the death of the alligator, it was a koi pond. Our 90 year old neighbor across the street was given one of the koi out of our pond YEARS ago and wanted it to come back to its original home once the pond was up and running again. Our neighbors down the street moved and wanted their koi to be taken well care of, so they also came to live with us. So here are our monster koi fish! These guys are SUPER expensive if you buy them, so how gracious we were to adopt all these guys.
The smaller gold ones in the top left and in the middle are 99 cent fish I bought at PetSmart when we first moved in and had no fish. Fish experts tell the truth, as long as they have space, they will grow and grow—those guys are now about 8 inches. The koi, about 18-20 inches long.
Here is my oldest, whose job is feeding the fish. She knows exactly how much and will tell you when they are full. We are trying to get the BIG white and gold one to eat out of our hand and we are getting close but it hasn’t happened yet. After that perhaps will try to get it to jump through hoops. :)
Gardening around the pond has been challenging, especially since our entire yard is super shaded. But over the years we’ve found some plants that love calling the pond’s edge their home. Ivy and hellebores (one of my all time favorite plants) line the western rim of the pond.
Our beautiful water iris are at the north side, these guys actually have all their roots in the upper pool of the pond. We started with one tiny plant and look what they’ve done. It is indeed time to split these guys and send them out to some new homes. We have other floating plants and lily pads in the water, and they do fairly well unless we are gone too many days in a row and the fish get hungry. They don’t think twice about eating the green stuff in the water.
If you look closely at the two pictures above you can see our two big cement gargoyles that loom over the water’s edge. They were here when we moved in and they are part of the history, so they have stayed. Gargoyles, though not something I have been fond of before, have become my gardening friends.
Something about water in a garden is relaxing and we indeed enjoy watching the fish, plants, and the many insects (dragonflies being our favorite these days) that make this area their home.
Water gardening, while it may seem very overwhelming, can be low maintenance and enjoyable if done correctly. It doesn’t even have to be a giant pond, there are so many size options. Consider it, it’s a whole other world of gardening!!

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  1. Beautiful! I'd love to have a pond like that. Unfortunately, all the water features we've seen here in TX look about as luxurious as a plastic kiddie pool with a hose still hanging in it. Good thing my husband's a landscape designer and if we ever get a house, it's going to be tastefully done. How wonderful to have so much history in your home!!

  2. Joe keeps talking about wanting a pond. I love yours. We seriously need to come stay at the B&B some day... do you still run a B&B?

  3. What a great story about your house. I love the pond.I wonder where that alligator went? I also am trying to get my pond going again this summer! I received the giveaway of Sharon Lovejoy's book.Root Shoots,Buckets and Boots I Love it!!! I can hardly wait to read it from start to finish.Thanks again Cheri

  4. @Paige-- you are always welcome to come visit and stay with us! Due to the birth of crazy baby #2 last year, we have taken a break from the B&B. We gladly host friends, family, and family of friends-- but not general public. I can see making people pay to be woken up at night by a screaming baby!! :) HA!



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