DIY Walden

It sounds like a gala event for a frog, but the Parade of Ponds is designed more for parched humans -- not amphibians -- who are eager for a little waterfront property close to the homestead. Sponsored by BR&D Landscape as a fundraiser for Hudson Gardens, the parade gives attendees an inside-the-fence glimpse of fourteen yards with small-scale reservoirs.

Having one, says BR&D owner Debbi Kiebler, is especially meaningful in crusty and dusty Colorado. "When you live in a semi-arid climate, the sensation that you get from water is really incredible," she says, "and having water is very important for people here."

Hudson Gardens director Andrew Pierce agrees. "Water is a very soothing thing -- it creates a feeling of quiet and contemplation," says Pierce, who oversees thirty acres of flora and ponds at his regional display garden off Santa Fe Drive. "It takes you away from the stress of life to a certain extent."

According to Kiebler, having a pond in your backyard is actually a natural for Denver residents. "Believe it or not, if you fly over Denver, you see there's actually a lot of water," she says. "It's just very small and contained in a lot of areas that people don't have access to and aren't able to enjoy." The at-home model remedies this problem, she says, and would be more prevalent if not for some misconceptions among the natives.

Most people deem a pond a worse waster of H2O than a plot of Kentucky bluegrass. But ponds use about 50 percent less water than a lawn that is watered with a conventional sprinkler system; they also need to be only about two feet deep to protect their finned inhabitants from freezing, she says. And they can easily be kept ice-free by circulating water. Worried about your prized koi ending up in the gullets of marauding migratory shorebirds? "We install fish garages in all of our ponds," says Kiebler. "That way, they can get away from the herons."

Her firm also touts a low-maintenance design system that employs natural processes and a few pieces of basic swimming-pool hardware to keep ponds clean and healthy. Kiebler's outfit specializes in substantial ponds that average about eleven feet by sixteen feet and cost around $5,000 installed.

That may be a bit extravagant by some standards, but Kiebler says no customer has ever complained about a pond being too big. The Parade of Ponds, which visits homes in the south Denver area, features similarly sized ponds, from thirty feet by thirty feet to about four feet by four feet.

"Anything you can put water in can be a water garden," says Bill Bittman, president of the Colorado Water Garden Society. Bittman's group, the first of its kind in the nation, has about 200 members and assists people interested in aqua gardens. The pastime can be addictive, says Bittman, who started out with a whiskey barrel. "Now I'm up to four holes [ponds], a bathtub, twelve varieties of lily and some lotuses, and I'm still looking for more."

"It gives you ideas on possibilities you can't grasp without seeing them, and what might work for you in your own pond," Kiebler adds. "It's very soothing to have running water in your backyard. One of our employees told us she works so much better when she's in a yard that has water. You can't explain it, but it's very calming."

The $10 Parade of Ponds ticket includes a tour of Hudson Gardens, where visitors can take in the display of perfect-for-the-region plants and trees for the practically minded gardener. -- Marty Jones

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