The main pleasure is a wide garden spot that encompasses two water features.
In an area brimming with newer homes, yards sport newly planted grass and short young trees. The creative beginnings of gardens are evident.
In a relatively new subdivision north of the hospital, Lisa Shaw has a garden that keeps getting better and has become a beautiful garden spot in a few years.
"We've done one project a year," Shaw told me. "I kind of started it, and it snowballed."
The garden Shaw refers to originally looked like any typical lot in a tract with new construction bare, "plus one dead tree," she said. Now, a mere five years later, the garden consists of inviting garden beds at the front of the house and a merry-looking arrangement at curbside.
Both gardens soften the sun-splashed front spaces. Several hybrid poplar trees have been planted along the fence line. In a few more years they will offer plenty of shade. Behind a tall wooden fence surrounding the back yard, wonderful water gardens come into view.
Shaw and her husband, Chuck, undertook the task of making the area a place where they could relax and enjoy nature.
"We've spent five summers hauling rocks," she said. Much of the rock was scavenged from new construction sites after contacting builders.
Near the front door three different clematis vines climb up a trellis. Coneflowers and roses, columbine, bleeding heart and hostas contribute to the garden's beauty. A gorgeous wisteria vine hangs over the front entrance. A small dish filled with bird seed is placed near a sign reading "Seed for a Song."
The main pleasure of the back is a wide garden spot that encompasses two water features. One has a series of rocks that create a delightful waterfall before allowing the water to spill into a deep pond. Goldfish swim among the cattails and water lilies.
The Shaws keep a blue-and-black-marbled Japanese Shabunka fish in the pond. It serves as the litmus test.
"If the pH is too high, it becomes orange or pink around the gills," she explained. "We throw in pH balance. We never test our water."
While large stones serve as the foundation of both ponds, a walking path filled with small stones connects one pond to the other.
"We brought in river rock to fill in the holes," Shaw commented.
The second pond features an old-fashioned water pump from which water drips onto a cedar trough before making its way to the garden pool. A frog sculpture playfully sunbathes on the edge of the pond, reminiscent of live frogs that had visited the pond and laid on the lily pads.
"I love frogs," Shaw said. "We had quite a few here" until a garden snake chased them away.
Half hidden by foliage are other stone critters like turtles. Meanwhile, the sculptures of grasshoppers perch on stones and butterflies and dragonflies are frozen in a dramatic flight pose.
A bear frolics in the spray of the waterfall of the first water garden while a wooden sandpiper sits perfectly still atop a log at the edge of the second pond.
"And we live on Sandpiper Drive," Shaw said.
The most menacing of the collection is an alligator that sleeps undercover of flower and ornamental grasses by the edge of the pond.
A vast assortment of sun-loving perennials and a few annuals flutter about the ponds. Coneflowers, pussy willow bush, mums, yarrow and Russian sage compete with each other for space. Their healthy stems spread into the pathways.
Unidentified plants bask in the sunshine surrounding the pond area.
"A lot of things, I don't know the scientific name for them," Shaw acknowledged. "But I don't care. It's the beauty and the joy of it."
Butterfly bushes are evident around the ponds and in other small garden spots throughout the garden. Their long fragrant blooms burst in attractive colors.
"We have four or five different colors in the butterfly bushes," Shaw said.
True to their names, the white, purple, pink and red blooms of the butterfly bushes attract monarch butterflies.
"The plants are just filled with them during the butterfly migration," she said.
The rustier, the better
The Shaws are energetic with their gardening. Each year they have expanded the size of the gardens. Plans are in the works to enlarge the pond area to make more room along the pebble path linking the two water gardens. As it is now, plants brush against your leg as you walk. Widening the paths will eliminate that situation.
"I've been known to move things around," Shaw chuckled. "I dig them up and move them."
The gardens are decorated with unusual garden implements, most of them collected by Shaw, many of them rusty and all of them charming.
"All my little knickknacks I've picked up from different places," she said. "I started going to garage sales to get antique tools. In my sleep I come up with ways to incorporate them into my garden."
Visitors who look carefully will spot a rusting hay hook, log roller and spray painter. Tucked into flower beds are sprinkling cans of all sizes and shapes. Shaw said she collects just about anything for the garden.
"Anything," she said. "If it's rusty, it's better."
Yet, not all her garden art is rusty. Fence posts at the back of the water pond came from her father.
"He saved them for years for me 'til I figured out what I would do with them," she said.
Atop the posts sit birdfeeders and birdhouses. A country-style sign reading "Nest & Rest Inn, Breakfast Served" is tacked to one of the posts.
A sizable vegetable garden thrives near the fence along the left side.
"Chuck does the vegetable garden. That's his responsibility," Shaw said.
The family eats the vegetables, including three different kinds of squash.
"He's a very good cook, very creative," she said.
Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. You can reach her at email@example.com.