On Peters’ pond: Walnutport couple create oasis in their backyard
Kathy and Rick Peters with their backyard oasis, a pond that has been more than a dozen years in the making. KAREN CIMMS/TIMES NEWS
Feeding time brings a variety of fish, including common goldfish, comets, Shubunkins and koi to the surface of the Peters’ pond. The fish spend their winters in the pond in a state of suspended animation.
Fish swim in the deep end of Kathy and Rick Peters’ pond. The waterfall in the background is 4 feet tall, from its base to the top of the large flat rock.
One of Kathy Peters’ glass topiaries, center, displayed near the pond.
Dusk approaches. The work day is over, and the heat of the day abates.
A gentle breeze stirs the leaves on a canopy of trees overhead. Water gurgles and splashes over a rustic waterfall. A bullfrog croaks and brightly colored fish wiggle and dive, anxious for their evening meal.
Sounds perfect — literally.
Not far from the bustling highway denoting Walnutport’s business district, Rick and Kathy Peters enjoy a peaceful oasis in their backyard. Their pond, which was a 15-year work in progress, is it’s crowning glory.
Rick built the pond and waterfall with the help of his brother and brother-in-law. It was a joint effort, he said, from formulating ideas to sharing the actual workload. Every year since he’s made some changes, some bigger than others. Two years ago he reconfigured the waterfall itself.
“I used Hollywood blocks and set them up to look like steps,” said Rick. “Then I covered them with a liner. I added boards to the sides and wrapped them with a liner.”
The new waterfall stands 4 feet tall.
“The biggest part, was making it look like natural flowing water,” he said.
To do that, he would glue rocks into place with specially manufactured foam for use in ponds, let it dry, and then after a few hours, let the water flow to see if the look and sound was aesthetically pleasing.
“It took hours,” Rick said. “I would guess and be 40 to 50 percent right. Then I’d add other rocks to make the water go where I wanted it to go. I want it to meander.”
While there are books and tutorials on building ponds and waterfalls online, Rick said the process was still pretty much trial and error. The last major change, enlarging the waterfall, took about 10 hours over the course of a week. If he didn’t like something, he would change it.
It seems all that work has finally paid off.
“This was the first spring I didn’t change a thing,” he said.
The pond and waterfall is made up of about 15,000 pounds of rock Rick collected from his property and hauled into place. Using local stone helps give the pond a more rustic, natural look, which complements the setting. His brother, Rick said, has a very formal pond.
“It’s beautiful,” Kathy said. “And it fits in perfectly with the style of their home.”
Kathy and Rick’s pond is home to about 25 fish, which include two large koi, and numerous goldfish in black or gold; comets, which are similar to common goldfish; and Shubunkins, which are a hardy, mottled goldfish.
Because of the depth of the pond, which is at least 3 feet in some spots, the fish are able to overwinter in place. Rick installs a heater to keep a small area free from snow and ice to allow harmful gases to escape the water and oxygen to make its way in.
In the fall, about mid-October, Rick said the fish will go to the bottom where they’ll go into a form of hibernation, similar to suspended animation. On bright, sunny days when there is no ice or snow on the pond, you can look down and see their fins moving gently, but they’re not active like they are during the warmer months.
In addition to the fish and at least one vociferous bullfrog, water plants and several pieces of Kathy’s artwork enhance the pond.
Water plants include lily pads, arrowhead, water lettuce and water hyacinth. The plants help filter the water. There is a standard pond filter as well, but Rick does not add any chemicals to the water.
The location of the pond also helps to keep the water clean.
The pond gets a few hours of sunlight a day, but as the sun moves across the sky, the house casts a shadow, which shields it from direct sunlight. If the pond would get more sunlight, such as eight to 10 hours, Rick said it would likely get a “pea souplike algae,” which can be difficult to deal with.
“The location is key,” he said. “And this is pretty close to perfect.”
A variety of grasses, such as zebra grass, pop up along the perimeter of the pond, as well as some perennial flowers.
A lot of the color, however, comes from Kathy and her admitted addiction to Pinterest. Some of her creations include glass topiaries created with bowls and vases, glass flowers made of plates, and bricks painted to look like books.
In all, the Peters’ pond is a peaceful, personal setting that is the crown in this gem of a yard.
“I just love sitting and listening to it babble,” said Kathy, “and watching the water fall over the stones.”
“That’s my man-made bit of nature.”