For the second weekend in a row, two homeowners on West Main Street in Waxahachie welcomed neighbors and complete strangers to their property, inviting them to walk around and look at literally everything they’d like.

How-ever, this latest invitation was a bit different from its predecessor.

During the Gingerbread Trail, the Smith and Cross homes on West Main put their interiors on display.

This past weekend, during the North Texas Water Garden Society’s Tour of Ponds, the throngs of people came straight to their back yards.

“Some people peeked out the back (during the Gingerbread Trail), so they got two-for-one,” David Smith said. “Well, they got to see one pond anyway.”

While that pond was already in place when he and his wife bought the house four and a half years ago, it has taken four years to get the landscaping around the pond and all the plantings sorted out, Smith said.

With 2007 marking his backyard pond’s fourth year on the tour, Smith said that the pond’s primary feature — one it shares with many of the others - is its waterfall.

“The best focal point of ours is the waterfall, and the splash and the sound that it makes is a good thing,” Smith says.

His pond used to have koi in it as well, but a heron managed to make a feast of them, Smith said, telling that among those he lost were some yamabuke.

However, Smith is not alone in his heron problems, as his neighbor and fellow Tour of Ponds host Dennis Cross will tell you.

“He’s aggressive,” Cross said of the great blue heron he’s seen perched on his pond, adding that the bird also “seems to wait for them to get beefed up” before going after them.

The unwelcome visitor seems to eat everything that gets put into the pond, Cross said, including the comets and albino catfish he’s had in there before.

“(The heron) is very wily,” he said. “He’ll see me when I come out the back door of the main house or hear me, and I’ll sneak around and he’ll see the movement and just take off.”

Built with concepts from Japanese, Chinese and American water gardening, the Crosses’ four pond-one river system took about 18 months to build.

“It is an undertaking,” Cross said. “And I don’t know how many tons of stone it has on it, but it has a lot.”

His pond draws in wildlife frequently, he says, listing off frogs, skunks, raccoons and diamond-backed water snakes as regular visitors of his backyard.

“There’s a lot of activity that can go on here,” he said. “It’s just a nice peaceful complex of ponds.”

However, Cross and Smith weren’t the only homes from town on the tour. Also featured was the pond of Ben and Rebecca Skelton, built into the rear patio of their home in Spring Creek Grove.

Placed literally just steps from the back door, the motivation for building the pond was simple, Ben tells.

“It was an ugly flowerbed, and I got tired of the ugly flowerbed,” he said, with his wife adding, “We put it up near the house so we could hear the waterfall night and day.

“It’s very relaxing,” she said.

Built last spring, the Skeltons’ pond was installed in about two weeks. However, they have a much bigger project in the works right now, Ben says, pointing out a place in his back yard where he’s thinking of putting in a 15,000 gallon pond with a fountain.

Of all the ponds the Daily Light visited on this year’s tour, the largest was that of Michael and Lois Yarborough.

Tucked away in the Brookbend neighborhood, the Yarboroughs’ entire back yard is a pond setting, with multiple pools, water features and rivers running throughout it.

The back yard “is both of ours,” Lois said. “He’ll say it’s not, but he likes it. Because why else would he get a dragon?”

The dragon Lois speaks of is a 4r-foot long sculpture positioned above one of their ponds and is perhaps one of the biggest draw for the pond.

And that’s because it can spit a 4-foot plume of fire.

“We had a small one in the pond over there, and I happened to run into an artist who does fantastic work, who had made this dragon that he had spitting water into a pond,” Michael said. “And I figured out that it would be a whole lot better if we had him spitting fire.”

Of course, the dragon isn’t Lois’ favorite part of the pond.

Asked what she thought of it, she replied, “Not so much. I think it’s really more of a guy thing, because all of the male friends, they love it.”

“And so do all the women who come back here,” Michael interjected.

Built in several phases, the Yarboroughs’ pond and garden started out as poison ivy and brush when their house was built.

However, slowly, Michael built Lois’ garden complex and then the brick labyrinthine-pathways and plantings, and then the ponds.

After it was all said and done, it’s taken about six years to get the pond and garden where they are today, the two said.

A popular setting for everything from senior photographs to weddings, the Yarboroughs have also let friends come in to walk the labyrinth of pathways during times of tragedy, Michael said, telling that others will come to find “peace and solace” amongst the plants and ponds of their garden.

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