The North Texas Water Garden Society has scheduled the 16th annual Tour of Ponds for Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10, with 11 ponds in Ellis County featured on the tour.

With some veteran members of the tour returning for another year, as well as newcomers to the tour, the Tour of Ponds offers Ellis County residents an opportunity to view various sizes and types of water gardens — from small ponds with small water features, to elaborate stream and waterfall systems surrounding a large backyard pond.

“This is the most we’ve had in this area,” said Dennis Cross, a veteran of the Tour of Ponds and whose home will again be featured in the 2007 tour. “Each is distinct and different. For those interested in water features in the backyard, this is a great opportunity to get ideas.”

Cross’ backyard, which includes a Chinese contemplation garden and a western water garden, will be one of eight properties in Waxahachie included on the tour. Other Waxahachie ponds include the properties of Kurt Gustafson, David Smith, Mike Yarborough and John Thornhill. The other three Ellis County tour stops are located in Midlothian. All property owners on the Tour of Ponds are members of the North Texas Water Garden Society.

Cross encourages those planning to tour the Ellis County ponds to visit on Saturday.

“There are a lot of interesting ponds in the area,” Cross said. “Some people will have little, tucked away ponds, but those will still attract nature activity. Some will have heavy landscaping and some are more Zen-like.”

Koi and other fish are abundant in most of the ponds, along with various species of wildlife that flock to the ponds, such as birds, lizards, frogs and other wildlife.

“By bringing in a water feature, it immediately brings in nature,” Cross said. “We have a whole family of cardinals that bathe in our pond.”

Landscaping and features vary depending on the type of pond, including varieties of tropical plants and plants native to Texas, docks, pergolas, sitting areas near the pond, elaborate streams and waterfalls and bridges.

The North Texas Water Garden Society annually publishes “The Modern Water Gardener,” which provides the address, pictures and a description of each garden on the tour, which has stops throughout the Metroplex. “The Modern Water Gardener” is available at the Greenery for $10 and all proceeds benefit the North Texas Water Garden Society educational fund, which built two ponds with 25-foot stream systems at elementary schools in the Metroplex last year.

Cross encouraged those planning to visit not to bring their pets, watch their children carefully, wear sunscreen and wear comfortable shoes. Most property owners allow photographs, but one should ask permission first. Cross also said those visiting the ponds should bring “The Modern Water Gardener” with them on the tour stops.

Cross said the pond tour is the perfect opportunity to learn about different types of ponds and everything that comes with a pond — construction, maintenance, plants, fish, wildlife, water features, the positives and the negatives.

“When they go on the tour, sometimes the builders of the ponds will be there,” Cross said, adding that most of the Ellis County ponds featured on the tour were designed by the owners. “They can ask questions about building, maintenance and cost, the downside of ponds. They can pick up sources of information on liners, pumps, filter systems. There’s a whole matrix of decisions to make.”

Cross said that one of the greatest benefits, and challenges, is the wildlife that is drawn to water gardens.

“There are some challenges — water snakes are drawn to ponds. Great blue heron are drawn to ponds,” Cross said. “But you will also bring in doves, cardinals. You will bring in lots and lots of frogs. They make a fair amount of noise.”

The range of aquatic plants and marginal aquatic plants are numerous, and visiting the stops on the tour will allow those contemplating a water garden to see the various plants, as well as ask questions about the plants.

“You can pick your visiting strategy — you can visit all 11 ponds and get 11 ideas, or you can focus on the ponds that you are really interested in,” Cross said.

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