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Create a splash of excitement

Sun., July 12, 2009

When adding a water feature to your landscape, think big

Just add water. It’s amazing how a landscape can be transformed with the addition of that one element.

That’s what Paul and Betty Fisher discovered when they added a water garden to their Spokane Valley landscape 20 years ago.

“I love the sound of the water splashing and the tranquility of it,” explains Betty Fisher. “I like getting up in the morning and sitting out on the back deck with a cup of coffee and watching the fish. They’re so intriguing.”

The Fishers’ pond is one of several featured in next Sunday’s annual pond tour sponsored by the Inland Empire Water Garden and Koi Society.

There are eight water gardens on the tour, but tickets can only be purchased at three of them, including the Fishers’ (see information box). Maps and information for the entire tour will be provided at those locations.

The best advice the Fishers have for aspiring water gardeners is to build their pond with expansion in mind.

“We started out with a little bitty pond at first and then it just started growing,” Paul Fisher says.

Their first pond held 50 gallons. Then they expanded to 1,100 gallons, then 1,700 gallons, and finally to a 3,500-gallon masterpiece.

Colleen McCalip, owner of Still Water Gardens near Cheney, agrees with this advice but goes one step further.

“Build the largest water feature you can afford,” she says. “Then you will be more satisfied with the results.”

In addition to the pond, the Fishers’ garden features immaculately maintained perennial beds, two splashing water features, several attractive sitting areas and a charming garden shed sure to make most gardeners envious.

Their pond houses seven koi that are about 18 years old. These brightly colored fish range from 24 to 28 inches in length and have all been given names by Betty Fisher.

The pond that these pampered koi call home is 5 to 6 ½ feet deep with straight sides to keep the local raccoons from stopping by for a fish dinner. It’s fed by two small, natural-looking creeks

The Fishers hand-dug the pond, lined it with three inches of concrete reinforced with steel, then put a sealer over the concrete.

Paul Fisher says one of the most challenging aspects of the pond has been keeping the water quality good so the fish stay healthy. They used to have a problem with Great Blue Herons, which have quite an appetite for fish, but their heron decoy does a good job of keeping the territorial birds away.

While any visitor would be hard-pressed to find fault with this beautifully designed water garden, the Fishers are quick to point out the one thing they would have done differently.

“Don’t plants trees too closely to your pond,” says Betty Fisher, “and plant them on the downwind side so less debris falls into it.”

The silver lining to the overhanging trees is that they help keep the pond cooler during the summer and hide much of the pond from predatory birds like herons and ospreys.

Paul Fisher has other helpful advice for those interested in adding a water garden in their own landscapes.

When deciding on a site for the pond, he says, “Pick a spot where you’ll enjoy viewing the pond. Think about the sun patterns in your yard as well.”

He also suggests going to the meetings of the Inland Empire Water Garden and Koi Society.

“Talk to the members because there’s a wealth of information they can give to help you avoid making mistakes,” Fisher says.

McCalip also has some suggestions for those attending the pond tour.

“Look for design ideas,” she says. “Everyone has different ideas for water features.

“Think about whether you want plants and fish, and look at the mechanics of the ponds to see things like how the filtration systems were set up.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at

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