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Restful retreat
Add a pond to your garden to please all of your senses

Debra and Phil Barta sit on their backyard patio, their feet propped up, frosty glasses of cool beverages close at hand.

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The Hampton pond of Phil and Debra Barta will be featured on Parade of Ponds July 14-15.

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Debra staples plant labels to the inside of the door of her gardening barn, a simple task that keeps her informed about what’s growing in her gardens.
Sang Jib Min/Daily Press photos


All is quiet, except for the sound of water trickling down a waterfall and the occasional splash of a fish surfacing to snag an insect.

Life doesn’t get much better than this, especially when a water garden turns your back yard into a restful retreat.

All of a sudden you don’t want to leave home. Friends and family can’t get you on the telephone. Work is a passing thought. You just sit and gaze at your water garden.

"We just enjoy every minute of it," says Debra.

The Bartas’ water garden — 11-by-16-feet with a waterfall and tons of accenting rock — went in last fall. It’s one of 23 water gardens featured on the Parade of Ponds self-guided tour July 14-15.

Debra and Phil are not new to water gardening. Their first pond — a small pre-formed shape — now trickles soothing sounds in their sunroom. That experience told them they wanted a bigger, better water garden outdoors.

Gardening, too, is not new to them. They come from a family of gardeners — people who enjoy a spring progressive dinner just to share good food and each other’s emerging plants.

The Bartas’ Hampton garden grows with all sorts of shrubs mixed with perennials and tropical vines. They like firecracker vine climbing across their trellis, spiderwort and four o’clocks blooming everywhere, dwarf pomegranate sporting tiny orange flowers and tickseed, evergreen clematis and Confederate jasmine strutting their stunning stuff. Miss Huff lantana is their butterfly magnet, bringing in clouds of flying flowers. Hummingbirds adore the red crocosmia.

All eyes and ears, however, linger with the water garden.

More Projects

- Water garden/Parade of Ponds
Aquatic plants
- Make it: Kids' projects
- How to: Keep roses healthy
- How to: Make a rain garden

"The first thunderstorm we had the biggest bullfrog we’ve ever seen jump in," says Phil, laughing.

And they’ve enjoyed giving their exotic koi some creative names — Black Jack and Buttercup.

"You kind of evolve with gardening," says Debra. "As you mature with gardening, you start looking past the flowers to textures and other features.

"We’re just a gardening family."


Join the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society for $30 and get the quarterly Water Garden Journal. The journal includes articles by authors of water gardening books and lists upcoming workshops. Write IWGS, Suite 328-G12, 1401 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, GA 30062-8115; e-mail;  fax (770) 517-5746 or see


WHAT: Parade of Ponds

WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. July 14-15; some ponds open for night viewing with dramatic lighting 8-9 p.m. July 14 (see brochure for listing); rain or shine.

SPONSORS: Custom Gardens and Custom Water Gardens co-sponsored by Kwick Kopy Printing and Pembroke Stone Mart

DETAILS: See 23 water gardens of all sizes and shapes during two-day, self-guided tour that stretches from Williamsburg, Newport News and Hampton to Virginia Beach. Tour booklet lists addresses and directions.

POND CENTRAL: Shop "sidewalk sale" of discounted new gardening books and tools, donated by Hampton Roads Gardening & Home magazine to benefit Christopher Newport University and the Virginia Living Museum; also see Aquascape products; 337 Redoubt Road, York County, home of Custom Gardens and its own water-garden landscape.

COST: $10, children 12 and under free. Tickets available at Virginia Living Museum, also site of a water garden, 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News; Ponds and Plants, 3821 Campbell Road, Chesapeake (421-POND); and Custom Gardens by phone/credit card ($1 fee for postage and handling), 833-8110.

ONLINE: Visit and


For information about the Mid-Atlantic Koi Club's membership, magazine and events, see or contact Wendy Maris (703) 497-0817, e-mail

July 2001

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