A Touch of Giverny
LONE STAR ZNA KOI CLUB BRINGS REFLECTION OF FRENCH LANDSCAPE
By Christie Craig
It isn't Giverny, the late artist Claude Monet's
famous gardens where he placed his easel and painted images of delicate
water lilies, but the Long Star ZNA Koi Club has brought reflections of
the French landscape to Houston by way of their own gardens. Once a
year, the Club offers visitors a chance to see and marvel at several of
these creations. If you missed the tour on June 3rd and 4th, you missed
an impressive show, but don't despair, next years tour is already in
the planning stages. Until then, here's a sneak preview of Houston's
very own...touch of Giverny.
many of the Club members may never have held a painter's brush, they,
like Monet, are artists in their own right. A stroll among these many
gardens reveals a succession of colored harmonies.
Like a dab of paint on a canvas, they use the brilliance of
flowers, the textures of plant life, and well-chosen pieces of statuary
to create their works of art.
They choose the perfect lighting conditions, knowing just
where the sun's rays will leave dappled shadows. The colors intermixed
with the shadows reflect from the water's edge. In the water, you will
find what some club members consider the inspiration for the gardens:
jewel-toned, brocaded carp from Japan- the koi. The Japanese refer to
the koi as, "living jewels" a befitting name, for as these fish,
golden, black, red and white, swirl among the ponds they appear as
"For me," says Diane Caulk, member of the Koi Club, "the koi
are the portrait, the garden is the frame. And the portrait is always more important than the frame."
for those seeking show quality koi, these "portraits" can be as pricy
as jewels. Many koi enthusiasts travel to Japan where they pay anywhere
from fifty to thousands of dollars for these ornamental fish. Others,
however, say that by knowing about color and conformation, a person can
purchase a ten dollar koi at the pet store and it will be as beautiful
and bring elegance to any pond.
While some of the members give equal significance to the
garden as they do these beautiful fish, they all agree, the koi helps
complete the picture of a perfect water garden. However, the exact
definition of "perfect" goes unanswered, for each garden has a unique
style that is as individual as the gardeners themselves.
"Some like a very formal, sculptured look, preferring
foliage over flowers, while others lean more to the cottage garden
appearance," says Virginia Joiner, master gardener and Club member.
"Gardens and ponds are an expression of each owner's personality."
This personality and expression is clear to see in the garden of Beth
and Bruce Grunden, Club members and one of 10 winners of the Golden
Trowel Award by Garden Design and a winner in the Country Garden
Amateur Garden Design contest. Individuality lies at every nook and
turn of this garden, from a totem pole she had carved and made in
Hawaii to the collection of prehistoric plants.
as the plant life and garden accessories vary, so do the ponds. "Water
gardening can be as expensive or inexpensive as people like," says
Joiner. From concrete, rubber-lined, to the preformed fiberglass ponds,
the choices are many.
While there are companies that specialize in constructing and
designing ponds, many of the ponds on the tour were masterminded and
built by the owners themselves. "It was a labor of love," says Victor
and Marcia Alvarez who designed and, with the help of a few friends,
dug, by hand, every inch of their 12,000 gallon pond.
Barbara and Ralph Hilton also designed and built their 2,500
gallon pond which consists of five waterfalls. "The more you put
yourself into a hobby, the more you get out of it," says Ralph Hilton.
One question often asked of pond owners is, "How much time do you have
to put into it?" Water gardeners will tell you that with the right
filtration system the pond is practically carefree.
pond owners tend to lean more to the biological filtering system than
the mechanical filters because they don't require as much care. "More
time is spent tending the garden around the pond than the pond itself,"
says Barbara Hilton. Yet gardeners continue to echo the sentiment,
"Time spent in a garden is time well spent."
Weeding the pond's landscape and caring for plants and fish is
part of the water gardening process that most pond owners consider
enjoyable and even therapeutic. The amount of time depends of the
garden itself, or as Charlotte Hilger, Club member and Junior High
Physical Education teacher, tells us, "As much time as you need to
escape." Hilger comes home and spends several hours a day tinkering and
simply enjoying her garden.
"This is my down time. Out
here, my day's stress accumulated by working with teenagers, melts
away. I love it because...well, plants and fish don't talk back."
Victor Alvarez tells us, "If I've had a tense day at work,
I'll go feed the fish before I greet my family. It always puts me in a
better mood." Scientist have proven that watching fish can lower the
blood pressure and recently they are promoting gardening as a way to
gardeners, however, say it much more eloquently. Their stories of
savored moments, of sipping morning coffee while watching lilies open
to the first rays of sun, of care-free evenings - hushed and still-
spent relaxing as the sky turns to dusty pinks, of small talk shared
between friends encouraged by the quiet setting of trickling water,
these stories alone are enough to make any wanna-be water gardener
reach for a shovel and take the plunge.
As touring visitors stroll away, visions of their own ponds
swirling in their heads, words such as tranquility, serenity, and
peacefulness are used to describe the ambiance found at these works of
art we call water gardens. Oddly enough, these same words are
frequently used by world travelers to describe Monet's famous gardens.
No, it's not Giverny, but it's close. And for the Lone Star
ZNA Koi Club and other water gardeners in Houston, it's as close as
their own backyards.