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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Austin Pond Tour 2008 Part 1



I found out Saturday that the Austin Pond Society was having the 14h annual tour of their members' ponds this weekend. The tour is now over and I only got to see 6 locations out of 28! The tour is put on every year the 3rd weekend in July to raise awareness of the beauty and serenity of ponds, and also to benefit the APS by raising money and increasing membership. The tour was divided into the South Austin Tour, which happened Saturday, and the North Austin Tour, a small part of which Jan and I were privileged to see on Sunday. The day was sunny, hot, and there was not a cloud in the sky for most of our tour, but we and many other tour-ists were treated to some beautiful and relaxing ponds.

I am going to have a separate "chapter" in this post for each pond that we visited. I think that the work and care that went into the ponds makes them deserving of some special attention. Each pond and each society member is unique and special, and Jan and I came away from the tour as many others have done in the past -- we want our own pond in our backyard!

Stop 1 -- Brushy Creek Community Center


Our first stop on the tour was the Brushy Creek Community Center, about 5 miles from our house. We were unsure of the directions to the center, so I used the Navigator (GPS) feature on my cellphone to get to the spot. We were greeted by two very friendly volunteers who took our fee for the tour, gave us our wristbands and some other information about the APS, and sent us on our way to tour the 3 ponds that the BCCC has on its grounds.




The ponds were small (all three totaled approx 8,300 gallons) but were well-tended and had a variety of water plants and fish in each one. The pathway was lined on both sides by large blooming native Texas plants and there were several large trees that shaded parts of the walk and the ponds to give some relief from the sun and the heat.


A large bridge crossed over a small brook (man-made of course but very natural looking and peaceful) and there was a windmill to add to the ambiance of the park. Large limestone rocks also lined some of the walkways and the ponds themselves.



Stop 2 - Thelma and Deborah



Our second stop on the tour was to the home of Thelma and Deborah, a mother/daughter team who built their pond after seeing George and Leanna's pond last year! There are actually two ponds on the property, a small one in front that they built themselves (I love the blue spilling vase!) and a larger more elaborate one in the back yard by the pool.


Deborah told me that the sound of the water was most important to them, so they added the spilling vase so they could hear the sound whenever they were out in the yard. I had to admit that the sound of falling water really did make the whole arrangement more relaxing and calming. Jan and I were hooked!



Thelma and Deborah had the backyard pool installed by a professional pond company, Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery, who worked with them to design the pond, and lay in the liner and the rockwork. The ladies added the plants inside and around the pond, and also added the nice statuettes and figures that surround the pond.

The water garden is less than a year old. Thelma and Deborah took last year's Pond Tour, and were so taken with some of the ponds they decided to make one of their own! I have been told that this happens quite often, and I can tell you that Jan and I have our two-year plan to get ours done and be in a future Pond Tour.

Stop 3 - Irene and Clyde


In the legends and lore of the Austin Pond Society, Irene and Clyde have a special place. They have taken the DIY (Do It Yourself) concept to a whole new level with their water garden. Not only did they dig the hole and place the rockwork, they fashioned a home-made sink filter and skimmer as well.


As we walked up, Irene was explaining how they went about designing and making the pond. She was very proud of their water garden and surrounding space, and rightfully so!


Two water pond tour takers admire the fountain in the center of the pond. As Clyde was digging out the limestone to make the water garden, he ran into a large lump of granite. The granite being much harder than the limestone, they decided to build it into the pond and placed a bubbling water fountain on top of it. Pretty ingenious, I'd say.

View from the bench

Beside the pond is a rock bench surrounded by flowers, a perfect spot to see and appreciate the pond. A gazing ball beside the bench blends perfectly with the foliage, completing the serene meditation spot. All in all, this was one of the nicest water gardens in our small part of the tour.


Stop 4 - Vicky and John


Our next stop on the tour was to the lovely home of Vicky and John. They have had their pond in place for about 4 years. They built the pond by themselves, including digging the hole and placing the large rocks that provide the "stream bed" the water flows in to get to the pond itself.


As with most of the pond owners we talked to, the sound of the water falling is the highlight of their "pond experience." John told me that the water must fall at least 6 to 8 inches to get the right sound. He had done a lot of research, and it showed in the care and attention to detail in their layout.

I asked John if his water lilies bloomed very often. He said that in earlier years they had, but now that the trees have grown and have shaded the pond more, the blooms are less frequent. He said he has seen as many as six different color blooms all at once. That must have been a pretty sight!


The back patio is raised off the ground several feet, and gives the family a wonderful view of the park behind their home. Jan had walked with the grandkids by their house several times, never suspecting that there was such a lovely oasis behind one of the fences.


The metal wheelbarrow has been in John's family for several generations; he told me he has photos of his grandfather pushing his dad around in the 'barrow. If I remember right, his great-grandfather used the wheelbarrow in his work, and it has been handed down since then. The wheelbarrow as a planter really goes well in the backyard, and in the corner opposite the pond is a plow or combine, I am not sure which.

Stop 5 - Tad



Our visit to Tad's water garden was an eye-opener! Another do-it-yourselfer, Tad has made a masterpiece of thought and planning come to reality in a beautiful way. A lot of work went into this wonderful water garden, and the very large koi in the pond are spectacular. They are a focal point of the whole display.



Jan and I noticed in his photo album of the water garden's beginnings to the present, that he is the proud father of three young daughters. Jan said that he would have a great place for bridal photos as well as weddings when that time came. It's true, several spots around the pond would be a photographer's dream for wedding photos.




We could have stayed a lot longer at this great water garden, but time was getting short and we needed to get to our last stop before 5 pm. Tad, I apologize for not getting more photos of your red arch bridge (a small part of it is in one of the photos above).


Well, that's it for Part 1 of this small tour of some of Austin's water ponds. To George and Leanna (who inspired Thelma and Deborah), Elsie and Gene, Jody and David, Kirk and Xenia, and the many other water garden enthusiasts who opened their yards to us tourists, we apologize for not getting to see your ponds this year. But you can bet we'll be ready for 2009! There is a bus that will take tourists around on both days to many of the ponds on the tour. We'll probably make use of that next year.

NEXT: In Part 2 of this post I will take you to Rick and Kathy's 25,000 gallon monster pond that was our last stop on the tour, and well worth it! I hope you'll stop back by and see the photos. With streams, fish, water lilies, sculptures (done by Rick himself) in the back yard of their 26 acre estate, this one was a fitting end to our 2008 Water Pond Tour.

See you then,
Mike Z

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