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Home and Garden

Fond of ponds? Take a gander at this masterpiece, others

By Elizabeth Bettendorf
Published May 18, 2007


For nearly two decades, the back yard of Mike and Mary Busciglio's 1940s cottage looked, well, like a back yard.

Then, a few years ago, they fell in love with the idea of a pond and went for it.

With wild abandon.

Their once-suburban back yard now beckons visitors with a 4, 500-gallon raised koi pond with a waterfall and edged in flagstone and ringed by juniper, creeping fig, jasmine and fresh herbs.

They paved the 50-by-120-foot garden area in soft-hued multicolor brick and added two more fountains, a luxurious salvaged iron fence from an estate in New Orleans, as well as a variety of black wrought-iron chairs and tables.

The landscaping is semiformal with "a little bit of Charleston and Paris mixed in, " explains Mary, an executive secretary with the Hillsborough County School District.

Think deep greens mixed with a sophisticated black-and-white-themed decor.

"I wanted it to be very peaceful without a lot of color. Just a pop here and there."

The couple's French-meets-Deep South garden will be among 20 residential ponds featured Saturday on the eighth annual Pond and Water Garden Tour sponsored by Pondscapes, 4213 S Manhattan Ave.

The store has long been known for helping homeowners put in ponds and complementary garden areas that are often magazine worthy. The Busciglios' pond and garden has been featured in local magazines and once attracted the attention of Better Homes and Gardens.

All donations from the self-guided tour go to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which is one reason the Busciglios opened the doors to their "secret garden, " Mary says.

"We really care about the Humane Society, " she explained as the couple's two Jack Russell terriers, Maggie Mae and Russell, clamored for the attention of visitors.

The pups love the garden, as do their guests. They've had 60 at one time "without feeling crowded, " says Mike, who works in maintenance for Hillsborough County schools. "Our nephew just asked if he could have his engagement party here."

The couple bought the house 27 years ago for about $48, 500, Mike recalls. Over the years their home has expanded, including the addition of a screened porch with a view of the garden.

But they never lost the good bones, or the charm, of the taupe and white post-World War II house. A matching cottage-style utility building is shrouded in vines and offers a food prep area for entertaining as well as space for their washer and dryer.

The garden was five years in the making for the Busciglios, who share green thumbs and a deep passion for gardening.

He credits her vision; she credits his ability "to put things together."

They love garden festivals, particularly the springtime GreenFest at the University of Tampa, where they have picked up moon vines and a rusted garden loveseat designed by an artist.

The couple will be on hand during the tour to answer questions. Visitors will likely want to know how they planned the garden and pond layout.

"It's really a series of outdoor rooms, " Mike says. Guests, he says, are usually impressed because the pond and garden are hidden behind the house and totally unexpected.

Says Mary: "I just wanted to bring what I have inside outside."

It all started when they discovered Pondscapes, the legendary South Tampa pond and water-garden center that has morphed into an institution that not only specializes in bringing water to chic Florida back yards but in accessorizing them.

"Most everything we have out here is from that store, " says Mary, pointing to a beautiful wicker and glass hurricane lantern that appeared to have been pulled from a shipwreck.

Pondscapes co-owner Michael Jones found the salvaged wrought-iron fence that is the centerpiece of the garden. He also advised the Busciglios to create an actual gate using antique Chicago bricks smothered in vines.

Mary and Pondscapes' other owner, Kevin McLeod, go to garage sales together every Saturday morning, a passion they share.

The 1930s wrought-iron chaise longue that rests alongside the large pond was a garage sale find, as was the concrete rabbit statue by the front door.

The Busciglios are currently working on a side yard garden, a meditation area that will feature Asian style landscaping.

For now, they're pretty much finished with the main pond garden, though Mike, the cook in the family, dreams of building an outdoor kitchen.

"Someday, " he mused late one Sunday afternoon as he planned the blue-cheese burgers he would grill on his Weber that evening.

"They are so delicious, " Mary said.

After dinner the couple planned to relax inside their screened porch on a comfortable all-weather wicker couch made by Eddie Bauer. The TV is hidden inside a handsome wardrobe, proving that indoor pieces can be used outside in protected areas.

"We really do live out here from the moment we get home from work, " Mary says.

"I work in an office all day and there's nothing better than being in our garden."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at


. if you go

Pond and Water Garden Tour

The tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The self-guided tour features 20 residential ponds. Tickets can be picked up at Pondscapes, 4213 S Manhattan Ave., and are free, but participants are asked to make a donation of any amount to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Tourgoers receive directions to homes and descriptions of the ponds. Information: Call Pondscapes at 839-8062.


[Last modified May 17, 2007, 07:43:36]

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