Kansas Pond Society’s 2022 tour includes do-it-yourself water gardens
In Wanita Wright’s backyard in east Wichita, 54 koi have made their home in a water garden pond that she and her husband turned into a swimming pool nearly two decades ago.
With huge rock ledges, a low cascading waterfall that originates from an old dirt berm on one side, water gushing from statues of fish and cranes, and foliage ranging from lily pads to sedums and hibiscus, the 19,000 gallon pond bears little resemblance to its former use. The old spa at one end of the pool now contains water celery, watercress, horsetails and other plants that float in the water or are in pots that rest on what used to be a row of pool seats. spa.
At a recent party, Wright gave the Eagle a sneak peek at her garden, which is one of 13 water gardens featured on the Kansas Pond Society tour on Saturday and Sunday, June 18-19. Most gardens have been created by homeowners as stand-alone projects and range from small single ponds on a property to multiple ponds. Wright’s pond is one of the largest on the circuit.
Open to the public, tours cost $10 per carload with a color booklet serving as your admission ticket. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the following garden centers in Wichita: both Johnson’s Garden Center locations, Hong’s Landscape and Nursery and Scenic Landscape. During tour dates, booklets can also be purchased at 12 Sandpiper St. Proceeds help offset the costs of hosting tours.
As Botanica is on tour, the booklet also serves as admission to the attraction and its latest traveling exhibit, Washed Ashore. The nonprofit Kansas Pond Society has a longstanding partnership with Botanica. The society helps separate the water lilies from the attraction from its pond and holds an annual silent auction among its 180 family members, with proceeds going to Botanica.
A sticky start
When the Wrights moved into their home 25 years ago, the foreclosed house and its swimming pool had fallen into disrepair.
“The dog jumped in and was covered in drool,” Wright recalled.
As the couple rehabilitated the pool, after eight years, they realized they were spending far more time maintaining the pool than swimming in it. It was then that Wright asked her husband if she could finally have the backyard pond she had always wanted.
She even got an unexpected health benefit.
“That’s how I quit smoking,” she said, pointing to the pond. “Sitting here watching and feeding the fish has helped relieve my stress.”
She points out two of the larger border rocks that she once replaced on her own, while her husband was out of town.
“I read how they created Stonehenge,” she laughed.
She ended up using more modern materials of steel rebar and PVC pipe to create the way to get rocks from her front driveway to the back.
At one end of the pond, the couple built a deck that overlooks the pond and provides prime seating for listening to the sounds of the water and watching the fish. At the other end of the pond, a half-crescent shaped pergola creates a boundary between the pond and what will eventually become another smaller water feature in the works. Stretched by two other large boulders and connected to a narrow, winding waterway, Wright creates a Monet-inspired lily pond.
Wright designed the designs for the pergola panels herself, using Frank Lloyd Wright’s Asian-inspired designs.
A fountain of information
Like so many members of the Kansas Pond Society, the Wrights used the do-it-yourself approach to creating their backyard pond. That’s one of the benefits of membership, Wright said. Members are more than willing to offer their expertise and resource lists to each other for individuals to create their own ponds.
“That’s half the fun,” Wright said of the DIY approach. “You can create it however you want.”
Monthly newsletters and First Saturday meetings provide a lot of useful information, Wright said, from pond management to fish health to creating biological filter systems. In addition to its silent auction for the benefit of Botanica, the pond society often organizes plant exchanges.
The group’s tours have drawn the attention of other pond clubs out of state, said Wright and Mike Kandt, the company’s vice president and president, respectively. The Oklahoma City club brings a busload of its members after being wowed in 2019, and some Texas Pond Club members plan to travel to Wichita to see the ponds this year.
From one to four
Kandt was a prolific handyman. When he and his wife, Susan, moved into their north Wichita home 30 years ago, the property already had a pond in its front yard.
“We didn’t know anything about ponds…and then we started a long journey with ponds,” Kandt said.
Over the years, Kandt created three more ponds, all hand-dug and designed by him, on the couple’s property that borders the Little Arkansas River.
The largest is a 9,000 gallon pond at the base of a backyard slope that holds around 60 koi fish. Kandt said it took him four months, while working full-time as an architect, to dig that first pond. Eventually, he transformed the slope, once covered in honeysuckle and other ground cover, into a large, cascading, dry-stacked rock waterfall with two pools at the top.
His koi are a bit spoiled, admits Kandt. Every Sunday morning, he bakes them blueberry pancakes.
Kandt has created an irrigation system in which he can flush fish waste into a small bog pond.
In two other areas of the property, Kandt dug two small ponds by hand. Across an alley from the larger pond is a pond that Kandt calls his nursery pond. This is where he puts the aquatic plants in the works. Later in the season, when he empties the larger pond for his annual cleaning, it becomes a temporary home for about half of his koi population. The rest goes in a large portable pool.
To please his wife, he created a pond in what she likes to call her secret garden. Quite well hidden on the property on the south side of the house, the pond is adjacent to the sliding doors of the house leading to the dining room. Because the pond attracts raccoons, only two ceramic fish can be found in this water feature, which also includes a griffin statue springing from the water. On the way to the secret garden, Susan Kandt has created a fairy garden.
The Kandts are also members of the Hosta Society, so visitors will be able to see a variety of hostas. The couple tagged many plants to help them not only keep track of the foliage, but also to inform visitors who visit their garden.
Kansas Pond Society Water Garden Tour
What: visit 13 water gardens in the greater Wichita area, including Benton and Derby
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday June 18 and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday June 19
Admission: $10 per carload. Tickets on sale at both Johnson’s Garden Center locations, Hong’s Landscape and Nursery and Scenic Landscape. During the tour dates, tickets can also be purchased at 12 Sandpiper St. The ticket includes addresses, directions and descriptions of each of the gardens. It also allows admission to Botanica, one of the tour’s commercial gardens, over the weekend.
More information: kansaspondsociety.org0