Water Garden Tour
By Jill Draper
Shamu, Nessie, Mr. Peabody and Popeye. These are just some of the 72 koi fish that swim among lotus blossoms and water lilies in the gardens of Michael and Linda Harwood.
“Yes, they all have names,” says Linda, who calls her Shawnee backyard a “staycation paradise.” It’s one of 47 sites on the 25th Annual Water Garden Society of Greater Kansas City Tour during the weekend of July 7-8. Tickets are $10 a person and are good for both days of the self-driving event—one of the nation’s largest, according to the society.
Many of the sites have never been on tour before and are decorated with working trains, fairy gardens and sculptures as well as water features. They range from DIY ponds and small bubbler rocks to elaborate cascading waterfalls that cost thousands of dollars.
The Harwoods’ yard, located near 75th & Pflumm, is one of the more elaborate sites. They started with a seven-level waterfall for an erosion-prone area that drops 24 feet. Later they added two more water features, a custom-made gate, a mosaic patio, hand-carved limestone and marble tiki stools and a double bubbler rock that weighs 1,600 pounds. In addition to koi fish and goldfish, the ponds attract dragonflies and thousands of little toads that eat all the slugs and bugs that attack garden plants, Linda says.
“We go outside almost every night. Our favorite thing is the peace that comes from being close to nature. It’s our own zen time.”
She says the water garden society has about 500 local members and the annual tour is their main fundraiser for educational projects. The society has installed water features at various nonprofits and schools such as Hope Faith Ministries, Scuola Vita Nuova, Kansas School for the Deaf and Kansas School for the Blind. Some of these places are part of the tour.
New this year is an emphasis on the arts. More than a dozen tour sites will include artists painting, drawing, carving rock and making henna designs, while one site will have a jazz band performing from 1-3 p.m. Nine sites will feature G-scale model trains through a partnership with Union Station.
Visitors can pick up ideas for designing their own water gardens (there will be builders at sponsored ponds), get advice on protecting fish from blue herons and raccoons, and learn about the society’s koi rescue team. Many of the Harwoods’ koi are rescue fish, obtained from people who can no longer care for them.
“Goldfish and koi carp are invasive. You can’t just throw them into a river or lake,” Linda explains, adding that people fall in love with them and want them to have a good home. “They’ll tell me, ‘This is my favorite fish, but I can’t keep it anymore. Would you adopt it?’”
Tickets for the tour can be purchased at Hen House, Westlake Hardware and area garden centers such as Suburban Lawn & Garden, Rosehill Gardens and Soil Service. Ages 13 and under are free with an adult. For groups and bus tours, go to kcwatergardens.com or call 816-305-5963.
Water gardens on tour in the readership area include:
5 E. Bridlespur (Alice in Wonderland theme), Kansas City
12401 Delmar, Leawood
4464 W. 130 Terr., Leawood
15824 Horton Ct, (130th & Roe), Leawood
9854 Sagamore, Leawood (off 103rd & State Line)
To see the complete list of gardens on tour, check out the online brochure.