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Go fish...on fourth annual Koi & Water Garden Tour

Posted: May 31, 2008 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 1, 2008 5:03 a.m.

This 300 gallon pond in Canyon Country is ideal for a smaller space and features a multi-level waterfall. The Santa Clarita Koi and Water Garden Club will host a tour of this and 11 other private gardens on Saturday, June 7.

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If there's a silver lining to be found in the rising gas prices that make travel to exotic locations cost prohibitive, perhaps it is in the discovery or rediscovery of the hidden potential in our own backyards.

Whether you're planning to create or enhance a serene oasis in your outdoor landscape or simply interested in what others have done, the fourth annual Koi and Water Garden Pond Tour is a must-see summer event.

For one day only - Saturday, June 7 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., 12 private gardens will be open to the public for viewing. This represents the largest koi pond and water garden tour to date in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The Santa Clarita Koi and Water Garden Club will host the garden tour at the homes of some of its members. These private gardens will be open to the public on this day only with the purchase of a tour booklet, and club members will be available at each location to answer questions. Since parking at each residence may be limited, comfortable walking shoes, a sun hat and sunscreen are highly recommended.

Who should attend? Anyone who already has or ever considered adding a pond or water garden to their landscape, along with those who simply enjoy the tranquility and artistry of these remarkable water features, should take advantage of this annual tour. Founding club member Al Nicholson explained.

"Before considering a fish pond, water garden or other water feature, it's a really good idea to see what options are available and speak with club members who can provide valuable insight into the various aspects of pond construction and maintenance," he said.

The Nicholson home in the Old Orchard tract of Valencia will be one of the 12 residences featured on the tour and exemplifies a well-established aquatic garden. This garden showcases approximately
35 aquatic plants representing seven species, along with ornamental fish. There are typically 12 to 40 water lily blooms on the surface.

Other water gardens may include fixed items such as rocks, fountains, statuary, waterfalls and watercourses that can be combined with the pool to add visual interest and integration with the local landscape and environment.

The word "koi" comes from the Japanese, simply meaning "carp." The ornamental cultivation of koi originated in Japan in the 17th and 18th centuries before eventually spreading to other parts of the world.
These cold water creatures are hardy and adapt well to Santa Clarita's varying climates and temperature changes.

Koi varieties are distinguished by coloration, patterning and scalation. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, yellow, blue and cream. Ghost koi, developed in the 1980s, are metallic hybrids of wild carp.
When it comes to pond construction, there's no one-size-fits-all.

Nicholson points out the many differences that exist - concrete versus liner versus pre-formed, size, filtration, aeration and other factors.

Even the number and type of fish affects the pond environment. "Ponds differ dramatically in size and options," Nicholson said, while describing the diversity of ponds on this year's tour.

From the smallest home garden pond, 300 gallons with an average depth of two and a half feet, to the largest at 9,000 gallons, with water depths up to seven feet in the center, the range and diversity of ponds is impressive. Many are well appointed with fountains, waterfalls, babbling brooks and aquatic plants. Koi and goldfish are featured in most gardens, while others introduce shubunkin and active turtle populations.

Proper filtration is essential for a well-balanced pond, yet the choices are seemingly endless. Some ponds on the tour use bio filters, whereas others rely upon mechanical filtration systems. Many have ultraviolet lights that work to clarify the water. Some systems run on less than 200 watts of energy, making them energy efficient and good for the environment. There's no right or wrong type of system since every pond and situation is unique.

Almost every area of the SCV, and beyond, will be represented in this year's pond tour - Valencia, Newhall, Saugus, Canyon Country, along with gardens in Granada Hills, Piru and Agua Dulce-adjacent. Plan to visit some or all, but observe that gates will close promptly at 4 p.m. at each location.

Included on the tour is a koi breeder and hatchery in Piru for those interested in learning about the breeding of these colorful aquatic creatures. Thousands of koi are housed in the main 10,000 gallon concrete pond, which has an average depth of five feet. Eight liner ponds used for breeding are also featured at this location and small koi will be available for purchase.

The Santa Clarita Koi & Water Garden Club was formed in 2003 by a small group of koi and water garden enthusiasts from the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys. Meetings provide a forum for sharing ideas, experiences and assisting one another in designing and maintaining a healthy koi pond or water garden.

Club membership is ideal for new hobbyists interested in learning how to keep koi successfully and finding how to acquire quality fish and the materials needed to maintain them. For example, did you know that fish should not be fed when the water temperature in the pond drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit? The reason is that the koi's metabolism slows dramatically at this point and the fish cannot properly digest food. As a consequence, unconsumed food contributes to high ammonia and nitrate levels, which can be harmful and sometimes fatal to the fish.

The local koi club also hosts an annual koi fish growth contest, where members have the opportunity to purchase a small koi from the Piru hatchery, add it to their pond and have it measured at the one-year mark. Exactly how the slippery, fast-moving fish are measured remains a mystery to all but the most experienced handlers.

Club meetings are held on the fourth Sunday of each month at a member's home. Annual dues are $20 per household. With the purchase of a tour booklet, membership dues are reduced to $12 for those joining by June 30, 2008.

A limited number of tour booklets will be available at Green Thumb Nursery, 23734 San Fernando Road in Newhall on Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1 between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Club members will be available at the nursery to provide additional information.

Included in this year's tour booklet are detailed maps to each location.

Tour booklets will also be available at Rooms & Blooms, 24264 Valencia Blvd., Valencia, and Vision Center at 26506 Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus during normal business hours, while supplies last. A donation of $8 is requested and covers the entire traveling party.

For more information call (661) 259-6437 or visit www.santaclaritakoiclub.com.

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