Miss Lilly, a bullfrog, peeks out from Dawn Bove’s pond. - Jim Craven

Water works in local yards

If you're lucky, you'll be able to see Dawn Bove's dog, Coleman, jump in her backyard pond and swim in circles with the six koi fish — but to do it, you have to get on the annual "Magic of Water" tour of Medford area gardens with water features next weekend.

The garden — "my little Shangri La," as Bove calls it — shows what grand things can be done in a modest-sized backyard, starting with a 2,000-gallon pond, some large koi fish you know personally and who have names, a tinkling waterfall and a whole lot of lovely-smelling flowers and plants.

"I love it so much. It's so peaceful. I sit on the patio for hours and do nothing but watch dragonflies, butterflies, birds and two mallards that arrive in spring," says Bove. "I put out food for them in the morning and afternoon and they nap under the tree."

There's also a frog named Miss Lily, which she got as a tadpole. The names of the fish are Casper, Ruby, Checkers, Spook and The Twins. The dog, a puffy little Bichon Frise, knows he's not supposed to swim with the fishes but does it anyway and both species are very aware of each other and swim in the same direction.

Bove's little patch of paradise is one of eight water-based wonders on the third annual Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts garden tour, organized to support original, year-round theater for youth.

The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 31, and costs $15, with tickets available at Wild Birds Unlimited in Medford and Paddington Station in Ashland. You get your tour map at Porters, 147 Front St., in Medford, and can return there between 4 and 5:30 p.m. for a free wine tasting.

Bove bought her home in 2003, when the yard was just grass and shrubs. The pond was designed in 2004 by Tonja Andreatta of Andreatta Waterscapes and turned into an English cutting garden, meaning it grows armloads of colorful perennials — including 45 rose bushes — that can be cut into November.

On a gravel path winding through the gemlike estate, you'll find oriental lilies, delphiniums, foxglove, dahlias, iris, peonies, climbing roses, daffodil, curly willow, horsetails and, of course, water lilies. From the patio hang pansies and vines.

In addition to Bove's garden, other spots on the tour include:

  • A backyard oasis with koi pond and great views that overlook Medford from Hillcrest Drive.
  • Rapid falls and a tiered waterway, with a family room facing a pond that's surround by lots of rock work.
  • An east Medford chateau from the 1940s, with wood shingles, sloping rooflines and gorgeous flower beds. The jewels of the landscape are the koi ponds.
  • A natural-looking pond, filled with fish and lily pads, in a quiet neighborhood. A screened-in porch off the deck allows summer rest near the pond. Firs, iris, many flowering shrubs with meandering stream.
  • A historic home with two ponds is a peaceful retreat with a variety of colorful foliage.
  • In west Medford, a terraced yard has a waterfall that splits into four cascades tumbling down a rocky path into a pond.
  • Also in west Medford, a beautifully landscaped dream home and hillside oasis that shows how to use steep topography to your advantage, featuring a 20-foot pond and 25-foot waterfall.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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