Building a Koi pond will add a sophisticated touch of beauty and a feeling of serenity to your backyard — and the colorful fish just might bring a little luck, too.Whether or not they are poised to replace the traditional dog or cat as the family pet, Koi fish are growing in popularity as a must-have feature in many water gardens. And with a lifespan of 80 to 100 years, Koi could be the family pet for generations to come.Koi have a rich history. Once the Emperor of Japan had a legendary prized Koi fish collection, and many still believe they bring good luck. Koi also bring great pleasure — they are colorful, playful, personable and infinitely entertaining, so it’s no wonder Koi fish are taking up residency in many ponds right here in New Hampshire.Tracy Bennett of Nashua worked along with Dave Ferris of Tamarack Landscaping to create this beautiful 16' x 12' Koi pond using hand-picked granite rather than rocks for a more formal, aesthetically pleasing effect. Fiber-optic lights and stepping stones accent the beautiful plantings and three sources of water flow into the pond in the form of waterfalls from different sides.“It’s the most relaxing thing on the planet — I can hear it from every room in the house,” says Bennett. The solid granite edges surrounding the pond are secure enough to stand on, and a small staircase leads into the pond for access or a quick cool-down on a hot day.Debating whether or not to put in a swimming pool, Bennett opted to build a Koi pond instead. The pond became the capstone that finished her home and garden renovation project.Her six-foot-deep pond allows Bennett to enjoy the best of both worlds; the depth permits the Koi to winter over, hibernating at the bottom beneath the ice, and on steamy hot summer days the pond is deep enough for her son to swim with the fishes.Bennett took an interest in Koi ponds after seeing them in the yards of several neighbors. This, explains John Cochran of the Amherst Garden Center, is typically the process most customers experience before they come into the center to learn about creating their own personal Koi pond.“It’s the slow tumbleweed effect; pond owners educate others. It’s like a clan,” says Cochran. Education is the most important recommendation he gives people anxious to begin this adventure.“There is no sales pressure — we want people to be happy. We provide lots of information and conduct pond seminars in the spring and fall. We encourage people to go home and do their own research — look at the water garden chat boards,” says Cochran.You can even write in to the Amherst Garden Center’s Web site for a site design consultation and Cochran will visit your property and provide a napkin sketch at no charge.While replicating the ideal ecosystem to support a healthy pond environment may seem daunting, Cochran assures doubters that Koi ponds “are really very easy, done right.” The garden center carries everything from pumps, filters and liners to a variety of colorful Kois in different sizes, as well as the full complement of plants from Japanese trees and shrubs to ornamental grasses and hard and tropical water lilies. In addition,Cochran has selections of granite, fountains and even tadpoles. He works closely with Peter Hedrick of Envision Waterfalls to create the perfect hardscape for your water features.“Peter is a master, a renowned expert who has done projects all over the country,” says Cochran. “Nine out of 10 times,” he adds, “people want a water garden because it’s very relaxing. After a long day at work they want to go home, get a cool drink and sit beside the pond. Listening to the water trickling in and the grasses whispering in the wind makes them feel good.”The Koi fish themselves have distinctive personalities. “My parents would put ping pong balls on the surface of their pond and the fish would pop them up in the air,” recalls Cochran. “They are very entertaining creatures.”Koi ponds are an ideal project — they’re fascinating, entertaining lesson about the balance of science and nature. Maintenance can be provided for you or you can do it yourself. The only thing that may be difficult to control is the gravitational pull of other people mesmerized by the serenity of your beautiful pond brimming with life, providing both stimulation and relaxation. NH
Seacoast resident and designer Diane Kelley is the owner of DK Interiors.
Koi FactsKoi are a hardy variety of fish and fairly easy to raise, but a carefully planned environment will ensure their health and success. First things first, consider the fact that Koi can grow up to about 12 inches in length and can live for a very long time, usually about 30 to 100 years. Invest in a quality filter system to keep the pond clean, and test the water regularly to keep your fish safe from disease.Remember that Koi are plant eaters, and it’s healthy for them to eat the algae off the sides and bottom of your pond. In addition to this, certain pellet and flake foods are beneficial to their diet.Lastly, have fun with your Koi. Watch them grow, swim and even train them to hand feed.Chester Hollow Water Gardens in Chester is another excellent place to find Koi and advice on caring for them.19 Haverhill Rd., (603) 887-7874, www.chesterhollowflowerfarm.com.
This article appears in the April 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine