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In 1996 I was a happily divorced woman embarking on a life of my own, something I never dreamed of before. I own the family home (the one I grew up in) in Uniondale, NY, and work my butt off to keep myself in the style I was never accustomed to. That said, I have a number of hobbies, one being koi. At this time, I have approximately 60 rapidly-growing koi in my backyard. I embarked on the pond and koi hobby in 1990 with a small preformed pond 4’x 6’ about 13” deep. I added one koi and several goldfish.

The second pond was necessary, 6’x8’ 18” deep, by the third year. Koi can outgrow a pond rather quickly and as a hobbyist and nature-lover, I was suffering to watch the koi in such a cramped space.

As we learn more about a hobby like koi keeping, we most assuredly realize what we presently have is not adequate. To enjoy my garden and pond(s) I added a deck. In 1996, (the third pond) with the help of my two sons we installed a “dream-come-true” 18 x 9’ pond, three foot deep, after I won a 20x30’ 45mil. EPDM liner in a Mid-Atlantic Club show raffle. I was hooked! Three years later, my koi had again increased in number and size. This pond, the “do-it-yourself model” was 18’ long by 8’wide and 3’deep. I had problems keeping the water clear while the fish were growing even more rapidly and did two upgrades to the filter system before realizing the flat bottom was the problem. The dirt was not filtering out the bottom drain like it should.

So when it came time to expand the gallonage of the pond (at the time was 3,400-gallons), the obvious decision was to dig deeper. Just couldn’t really go much wider with the house, deck and garage already in the way. As koi use different muscles swimming vertically this was the right choice for both me and the koi.

This time, I asked a local pond builder to draw up a plan for a new pond. It was time to pay the experts to do their job. I wanted the large moss-rock and had been photographing their work so I knew they would build a pond I would love. We haggled a little over price and decided to shave some cost by using a lot of the original rocks. We added a waterfall on one end and stream with three small ponds flowing into the pond from the other. The present pond was the fourth pond installed in the backyard of a 50’x 100’ plot, with Cape Cod house in the center and a detached garage. It was now 6 ½ to 7 ½ ft. deep in the center.

I did the landscaping. They did the pond. They added some water plants, such as Typha Latifolia, to hide the side of the garage. Their trademark is the use of bogs and small river stone to create an irregular shape, such as in nature, and “beach” areas. Then I planted Myosotis to soften the edges of the pond and a low-growing hedge of variegated Japanese sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus’) as demarcation line between water and beach just below the deck. I do not have a traditional koi pond. I have a non-traditional koi-water garden pond. I was an avid horticulturist long before I knew about koi. I planted Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) along the stream and Houttaynia (chameleon vine) beside the brick walkways. Sedum decorates and overhangs the waterfall bringing a lovely splash of yellow.

For the upgraded filter, we incorporated the traditional vortex system with a bubblebead capable of filtering for twice the amount of fish presently in the pond. The vortex is fed by a bottom drain, about 6 ½’ or so deep at the center of the pond, and flows into a second vortex for the removal of the heavier detritus, into the Lim Dragon Series ¼ HP pump (with pre-pump basket), and then to the bubblebead filter. From the bubblebead the water is pumped back into the pond through the waterfall and two bog-situated outlet jets. The flow to each is regulated by a slide valve. The second pump is 1/3 HP Sequence used to circulate water from the skimmer to the stream. There are two 40-watt UV lights connected sequentially between the bubblebead and the waterfall. There are no dead water zones. The water turnover is twice an hour. Cleaning the vortex is accomplished by pulling a slide valve allowing the water to be drained into a six-foot sump. From the sump, the dirty water is circulated around the yard by a sewage pump through 1 ½ and 2” lines. The yard is both watered and fed by the pond simultaneously. An automatic refill replaces the water drained off without any dragging and hassling with a garden hose. It is discretely hidden beneath the Japanese maple.

After the ammonia is neutralized into nitrate, the nitrate is eliminated by the vegetable filtration which includes the stream and bogs. Control of mosquito and midge larvae is done by weekly applications of Microbe-Lift/Biological Mosquito Control (very effectively!).

My pond is planted and designed as a four-season pond. There are rocks with character, shapely trees with decorative bark, evergreens and collection of interesting shaped leaves throughout the year. During summer you can't see the statuary, but winter produces special effects. The fall is spectacular with the striking clump-forming white birch dropping golden leaves; the Japanese maple (dissectum) overhanging the pond turns scarlet; this is echoed by Burning Bush Euonymus hedging the back corner and accented by bright chartreuse of the spirea and other plants. The splash of burnt orange of the white-flowering dogwood brings it all together. In spring, the entire yard is under planted with daffodils, crocus and naturalized species tulips. Year-round the yard is encompassed by a tall taxus hedge giving me a sense of privacy and seclusion. Trumpet vine covers the side and roof of the garage. Hummingbirds are regular visitors here as are my neighbors, friends and family. It is my perfect garden retreat.

- Carolyn Weise

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MacArthur Water Gardens 2004
PO Box 3628 | Alpharetta, GA 30023-3628