A path-level view with blue fescue grasses and salvia in bloom.

Garden of happiness in ashland

Delight bubbles from Sabina and Udo Gorsch-Neis as they take turns describing the wonders of their garden. There are so many things they love about it, they can't stop talking. It's the fish, the plants, the sound of the running water. But wait, don't forget the half-moon and sun vegetable garden, the "amphitheater" at the pond's edge, the spiral walk to the gong in the front garden"¦ well, you get the picture. This garden is filled with joy as much as it is with appealing plants and creative hardscaping.

The couple moved to Ashland in 2004, and only after moving in did they realize the sound of Interstate 5 interfered with their enjoyment of the hillside home. A small fountain on their deck was insufficient to mask the noise of the highway and plans to install a larger water feature began. Investigating how other pond owners felt about their decision, Sabina recognized a universal theme: bigger is better. Now, the couple enjoys a fully "water-scaped" backyard. At the highest point, a small waterfall splashes into a little pool which then drains into a long, winding cascade, and ends in a large pool with koi and goldfish. And the highway noise? Well, two 4,500 gallon-per-hour pumps make short order of that.

Fifty-three tons of rocks were used in the creation of this stellar landscape, which took three weeks to construct in the sloped yard. "[Andreatta Waterscapes] studied each rock before they placed it in the pond," says Udo. "They have to place them very carefully, to protect the plastic lining." Staying close to the early construction process paid off in a design bonus. As a pile of earth was mounded during excavation, Sabina was inspired to ask for an island in her cascade.

The pond holds three large koi (Otto, Valdemaria and Lipstick) and other goldfish and koi, including offspring of the original fish. The couple enjoys feeding their "school" sitting on the stone steps leading down to the pond (the amphitheater) sipping tea and conversing. "I never thought it would be so relaxing to have a pond in the garden," says Sabina. After a heron began enjoying their pond for other reasons, Udo used fishing line to discourage the big (5-foot wingspan) bird. Fishing line is strung over the pond, using the deck and trees as anchor points. This series of lines interferes with the heron's landing and their fish are safer. "Caves" built into the sides of the pond are refuge for winter hibernation and protection from raccoons.

Sabina likes to interplant vegetables and flowers throughout the garden, but she also has designated beds for vegetables near the house. Because she didn't want the "farm" look, the rock beds are built in the shape of a crescent and circle, for the moon and the sun. A flagstone path circles the water feature and leads to the numerous seating areas around the pond. Some are intimate areas just for two, including one shady space especially useful on the hottest days. A large patio holds a table large big enough for guests. All the hardscaping uses the same mottled brown and orange rock, quarried in Jackson County, and is built to accommodate wheelbarrows and wheelchairs, says Sabina.

There are several areas which don't require irrigation, and even with TID water rights, Sabina conserves. Many of the plantings are drought tolerant, including many of the herbs and small plants in the front yard. Most of these are "deer-resistant" plantings: herbs, heather, native shrubs. Occasionally the bolder deer (does Ashland have any other type?) will munch the rose blossoms next to the house.

The front yard's unusual hardscape feature is a spiral path leading to a gong. As the spiral path circles inward it rises in elevation, so the center is higher and has more importance in the landscape. Sabina is "always surprised at how long it takes to walk the spiral" but the resonant ring of the repurposed oxygen tank "gong" is a singular event. The return walk from the center is made special by the changing sound of the gong as you circle it, she says.

The garden is so enticing that the couple extended the home's second story deck. Now, breakfast is a regular event there and as the weather warms, lemon, Meyer lemon and orange trees are wheeled from the sunroom to locations outside. The garden, expansive as it is, takes the couple about 2 to 3 hours of maintenance weekly. It seems a small price to pay for so much joy.

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