Another Pond Tour has come and gone leaving me with a touch of sadness to no longer be anticipating the big event and at the same time, relief that it is all over with and I will no longer be thinking of what I need to do next.
That’s not to say that the work is over. No, when you have ponds and gardens, the work is never done but the main difference is there is no longer that deadline that seemed to loom ever closer with each passing day. We all wanted our ponds and gardens to look and be the very best so we tried to attend to every detail and most of us probably went overboard. I would go to bed and before going to sleep, go over in my mind what else I needed to do to get the ponds ready. I often wondered why I would wake up so tired in the mornings until I figured out that I was working on the ponds the entire time I was supposed to be asleep.
I started preparation for the Tour way back in January after the frost knocked down some of the remaining greenery. It didn’t get it all as we had such a mild winter this year so much of the plant life had a head start. I try to mulch the garden before the fresh new shoots start showing but with the mild winter, it turned into a real race between my efforts and those of Mother Nature. I couldn’t slow her down so I had to pick up the pace at my end to get the work accomplished. It is so much easier to spread mulch over empty spaces than trying to spread it in between the plants. Altogether, I spread a total of six yards of mulch over the entire part of the garden that I cultivate. I have this great little set up using my X5 BMW to tow a small 4×8 trailer and it works out perfectly. I haul mulch, rocks, lumber and anything else that I need to move. Saves a lot of time and effort and works perfectly for me. I don’t have to rush to unload the trailer like I would if I used a pick up truck to do the work.
The rain in early spring which was most welcome after the terrible droughts of last year really increased the speed that things were growing as the combination of rain and warm, but not hot, temperatures helped Nature work her magic. Before long, from waiting for things to grow, we were already in the cutting back stage to manage the growth. It was absolutely wonderful. My yard has never looked so green nor so overgrown which is kind of the look that I try to achieve. Nothing is in straight lines nor are the plants carefully segregated. Quite the opposite in fact with all kinds of plants mixed and growing together. If I see a plant getting crowded out by its neighbors, I move it to a more open spot.
I have tried to replace most of the plants with Texas Native to help with the maintenance and the need for water and in most cases, have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. There are still a few non-natives mainly to add a bit of color so with much confidence, I opened my doors or should I say back gate, to the members of the public promptly at 9:00 am.
The Pond Society had set up a member, in my case Linda Tinsley in the morning and Frank Vanderpool in the afternoon, to work the front table and welcome the guests as they arrived. That left me the time to answer questions or show people why I did things in a certain way. My good friend Elayne, who is also my next door neighbor, is a big plant expert and has volunteered her time for the last two Tours to sit and answer all of the questions (and there were many) about the different plants that surrounded the ponds. I am forever grateful for her help and her immense knowledge on the subject.
Taking a leaf out of Elayne’s book, I did get a lot smarter this time around and spent a lot of time labelling each plant using the small metal nameplates made for the job and that helped tremendously. Helps me too as I haven’t a clue as to what I have planted. Well, maybe I know and the names are always on the tip of my tongue but I can never quite remember. Darn senior moments…
I think I can remember two plants, one is a Philodendron by association to my friend Phil Friday. The other is Thalia and the only reason I remember that one is when I try to tell people what it is, I always say-“and that is a Thalia” which comes out as Athalia. For some reason, that one sticks also. I have heard that associating names with other things sometimes helps jog the memory but I always forget what I associated the name with and am no better off.
I made a point of putting up a few words about each pond and placing them where people could stop and read what they were looking at including the history behind each pond. The oldest pond is about 16-17 years so there are a lot of stories to tell and even the Little Old Man feature is now at least 4 years old. This was the last of the 5 ponds and 3 streams that I installed and they all have a history or at least a story or two to tell. The visitors made a lot of comments and thanks about the write ups and even followed-up with questions based on those small snippets of information.
I also got a lot smarter and had arrows showing people the route they needed to take the first time around when they first walked in the gate. “Please keep to the left and follow the arrows” I had the greeters tell the visitors. This kept the traffic flow moving in one direction during the busy times. By following the given route, the visitors ended up at the table where I had both bottled water and a Visitors Book which many people signed and also information and business cards about the blog in the hope of directing more traffic to it.
People that are interested in ponds and take the time to come and view them all seem so nice. They all, without fail seem so happy and in good spirits even when it is hot. Nearly everyone including the young kids, took the time to say “Thanks” and generally add a comment or praise about what they had just seen.
Some will never own a pond while others are in the in between process of “shall we or shan’t we” build one and many of the visitors are pond owners who are there to admire and to pick up ideas for their own ponds. A lot of the questions were focused towards the amount of time it takes to maintain the ponds which I gladly answered to the best of my ability. Others were directed to the construction and filters and again, I tried to encourage them to “give it a go”.
I had many questions about the lily nets that I have surrounding the lilies in all of the ponds. I explained that the big Koi are so destructive that the lilies are destroyed before they have a chance to grow and even though the nets are a little restrictive, at least I have lilies in the ponds. I was also asked about the small tubs that housed plants and why I didn’t have very many mosquitos. As I do not have an answer to that I just told them it was dumb luck and that I probably was not a very appetising meal so they left me alone.
As a means to give the visitors ideas on what they can do and how to build a simple water feature, I set up two separate 45 gallons water troughs and turned them into small ponds complete with fountains, plants and 4 fish in each one. I was trying to show the visitors that a pond does not have to be big or extravagant at least for starters. I noticed a lot of interest and was asked many questions on these small ponds.
The day wore on and Elayne had to leave early much to my chagrin as now I was left to answer the plant questions. If someone wanted to know the name, I led them to the same plant in a different part of the garden that had a name tag. Pretty slick on my part…
At 5:00 pm the last of the visitors left. Frank Vanderpool and I went over the receipts as we had been instructed to do and he went on home with my extended thanks for his help. The dogs had been cooped up in the master bedroom for the entire day and even though I had covered the double doors with a bamboo curtain, had still set up an almighty hue and cry every time someone got too close. They were glad it was over and were very grateful when I let them out. All made a bee line to their most favorite spot to answer the call of nature. Amazing that they had managed to hang on for nine or so hours.
I had a total of almost 300 visitors which was very good as many had commented that they had been here before so we must have made it interesting enough for them to come back. All in all, a very successful day. The question now that I have to ask myself is, “Shall I do this again next year”. This is my 4th year out of the past five and it does involve a lot of work and preparation. I know that the APS does not like to show the same ponds too many times to try to keep the Tour interesting so unless I can come up with a bunch of new features, I would imagine this might be the last one for a while. We’ll just have to wait and see…