Mini pond tour shows potential when water, plants, fish come together

May 18, 2018
  • By Carolyn Lindell
  • Special to the American-Statesman
Dr. Mark and Debi Akin love the pond on their property. “Most have never seen anything quite like it. I feel bad that, day after day, that beauty is there and no one sees it,” he says. Carolyn Lindell for American-Statesman

When he isn’t busy delivering babies, Dr. Mark Akin enjoys sitting with his wife, Debi Akin, by a pond on their property.

“It’s so peaceful to watch the fish swim and look at the beauty of all of it,” says Akin, 66, whose 3 acres in the West Lake Hills area has two ponds. One pond has 166,000 gallons of water “for collection of water for irrigation,” he says, while the second pond, with 40,000 gallons, is “my lily pond. It’s my show pond.”

This property is one of three that will be on the Westlake Pond Tour, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 3; two are in the West Lake Hills area and one is in the Lost Creek neighborhood, says B.J. Jenkins, who is handling publicity for the tour. As well, one of the properties will be shown that night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The tour is free to the public.

“Having a pond adds another dimension to the garden as a whole,” Jenkins says. “It adds sounds. It adds wildlife. Then you have the beautiful appearance of a pond.”

On the tour, the ponds are not the only features for visitors to see.

At Akin’s property, for example, “I have eight grandkids, so I built a pirate ship on the back part of my lot. (It’s) 42 feet long and 18 feet high,” he says. As well, there is a maze that spells “Love” — in gratitude to his wife.

“I had kidney failure, and my wife gave me one of hers,” he says.

Among pond enthusiasts, Akin’s property might be familiar. It has been seen on a KLRU show, and it has been included “about eight times over the last 20 years” on annual public tours by the Austin Pond Society, Akin says.

Though preparing for a tour can be a lot of work, Akin says, he likes sharing the loveliness of the ponds in addition to the rest of the property.

“Most have never seen anything quite like it. I feel bad that, day after day, that beauty is there and no one sees it. …. I also hope that other people will take an interest. I think it is emotionally helpful,” he says.

(This tour is not affiliated with the Austin Pond Society. For the first time in more than 20 years, the Austin Pond Society will not be having its annual public tour, said society president Jeannie Ferrier; however, the society plans to have a tour again in 2019, she said.)

The other properties on the tour have lots of treasures to show off, as well. The tour website says the features for one property include “a large double koi pond.”

The description for the third property reads, “There’s a lot to see on this five-acre property, including a koi pond, a pouring-vase water feature, a floating granite sphere water feature and three recirculating water-plant ponds.”

This property will be open to visitors at night, too, offering a different perspective, Jenkins says. “Ponds look so different with lighting at night than they do in the daytime.”

The tour can offer plenty of landscape and pond ideas to visitors, that “may be something you can (apply) to your own garden,” Jenkins says; as well, two properties on the tour have been on the market of late, which Jenkins said “for me creates a sense of urgency because this might be the last time that these ponds will be available for visits by the public.”

For more information, check westlakepondtour.com.

Sometimes plants wear their seed coats a bit too well

A few sunflower seeds, planted hastily in the early spring, sprouted up out of the ground with a bit of a surprise attached. In several instances, atop a green leaf was a seed coat (something that this writer had not previously seen.)

However, it is not a rare occurrence, said Daphne Richards, county extension agent in horticulture at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

In this example, she wrote in an email, “The seed coat is still attached to the cotyledons (seed leaves). Usually it would be pushed to the side and left underground.”

There is no particular reason this happens, she wrote, but “it would depend on the orientation of the seed when planted. Water is taken up by the seed, at which point the cotyledons inside expand and the seed coat opens along the natural line for it to do so.”

She added, “Some seeds have a thin seed coat that softens along with the cotyledons inside once the seed takes up water and the seed begins to expand, and other seeds have a hard shell of a seed coat that doesn’t soften during the seedling expansion process. That is the case here. The testa (seed coat) on a sunflower seed doesn’t soften. So it simply stayed caught on the edge of the cotyledons (seed leaves) as the seedling pushed above ground.”

In this case, the seed coat eventually fell off onto the ground as the plant grew bigger.