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Ponds satisfy thirst for serenity

Published January 5, 2007


Regina Riley knows that sometimes good things come in small spaces.

Especially goldfish ponds.

In three years, Riley has transformed her charming South Tampa back yard and adjacent living spaces into an oasis that redefines the notion of compact: A 10-by-10-foot courtyard became an outdoor room with a view of a serene, plant-fringed, in-ground fish pond only 20 inches deep, created by the garden store Pondscapes.

"It's where I like to entertain before serving dinner on the deck," Riley says. "We have cocktails by the pond."

The pond inspired the courtyard, decorated with wire chairs and a chaise longue salvaged from a garage sale that Riley painted black and topped with homemade cushions in a Tommy Bahama-type tropical fabric that works well in the space.

Pondscapes owner Michael Jones helped Riley build a wooden wall with a clever opening for a hanging metal sculpture she calls "the dancing lady." Mexican pots and lots of green foliage add flair to the courtyard, which has become a usable outdoor room.

"Like everything that Pondscapes does, the wall and sculpture display is subtle, very discreet," says Riley, 59, who loves art and interior decorating.

With help from Pondscapes, she added all kinds of unique touches, from a concrete cocktail table to an outdoor speaker system for maximum music enjoyment.

Al fresco.

"Michael is so good, between the two of us we put great things together," Riley says.

Riley's pond and outdoor living spaces will be featured on Pondscapes' annual tour, from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday. More than eight private ponds and gardens will be featured during the tour.

"A garden takes on a different life at night," Jones says. "The purpose of our tour is to showcase how garden lighting can create a mood and emphasize hardscape and landscape features."

The tour had been a tradition over the December holidays, but the season in Tampa proved so busy, "we had people showing up in formal evening attire on their way to another function," says Kevin McLeod, co-owner of Pondscapes. They moved it to the first week in January because that's usually a quiet week, free of festivities. In addition to ponds, visitors can see imported Japanese koi, goldfish and a variety of aquatic plants. They can also chat with homeowners who are usually on hand to answer questions about building and caring for a pond.

In the true spirit that defines the neighborly Pondscapes tours there is also a daytime tour during the spring, Riley plans to pop open a bottle of wine for her guests and pass around nibbles.

Riley will illuminate her courtyard, another outdoor living space, the fish pond, deck and half a dozen or so water features by "lots of candlelight." She also lights her cozy garden with an outdoor chandelier, wall sconces and small accent lights.

Visitors can expect to hear the soothing tempo of water all around Riley's garden, something that lures good friends who like to just come sit even when Riley isn't home.

"You know what water does for the soul. It gives me goose bumps just to think about it," Riley mused.

Her pond - too small for large koi but plenty big for goldfish - is the quiet focus of her garden. Unlike ponds in more spacious yards, hers is "not a focal point, but an accent."

Riley says her pond was a good choice for the tour, mainly because the other featured ponds are typically larger. Her yard has been maximized to its fullest, proof to the visitor of what a little creativity and planning can do to transform a small outdoor area.

"Some people might come away from the tour thinking, 'I don't have the space for a pond,' but that's not true," she said. "You can have a pond in any size space, even a very small one.

"The pond really makes my courtyard. You can listen and hear the sounds. It gives me such peace and tranquility."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at

Pondscapes evening tour

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday

How many: More than eight private ponds and gardens will be featured.

Where: Pick up maps and garden descriptions at Pondscapes, 4213 Manhattan Ave., or at Life's Treasures, the Lifepath Hospice Thrift Store, 1918 S Dale Mabry Highway.

Price: A donation for Lifepath Hospice is requested.

[Last modified January 4, 2007, 22:01:58]

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