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Betty’s Pond

A tribute to love

Dennis turner built this elaborate pond in memory of his wife, Betty Clara Turner.

Dennis turner built this elaborate pond in memory of his wife, Betty Clara Turner.

“I think she’d be proud of the result,” Dennis says.

“I think she’d be proud of the result,” Dennis says.

What does a man do when the love of his life leaves him for another realm way before her time?

Dennis Turner built a pond – not just any run-of-the-mill pond, but a serious backyard water feature that reflects his love and dedication to Betty, the woman he married as a mere slip of a girl back in 1956.

The pond fills, almost overflows, the back yard which was formerly a bit of a forlorn space, occupied by dead and dying grass and the scattered remains of a former small water feature, a long-gone dream.

Now the yard is teeming with life – koi in the water, birds dipping here and there, small animals and amphibians finding a safe home. There is a brick wall at the back that creates a private little world, a secret garden with its own microclimate; judging from the front street, you would never know it was here. However, if you should take a detour to the back, windows built into the wall allow a safe peek by youngsters and neighbours

Music from the six waterfalls creates a white noise to shut out the world beyond the garden. The waterfalls are constructed so that water is allowed to cascade over natural rock down three levels from the place where its comes slipping, sometimes bubbling, from mysterious unseen sources. In other places it seeps and trickles to the pond below.

The rock that forms the waterfalls and colonizes the beaches is weathered and well placed – it looks as though it has always been there. The plants, too, appear to have sprung up naturally around the margins of the pond. The water is crystal clear, a testament to the skill Dennis has in populating his pond with the right mix of plants: the submerged plants that grow underwater serve as oxygenators, the floaters such as water lilies and water hyacinth, for shade to keep algae down and to protect fish, and the emergent plants such as Iris pseudacorus that are rooted underwater at the margins, providing food and shelter for the fish and helping to regulate water temperature.

The pond is a joyful place for the koi – there are underwater caves to explore and to escape to in case of a visit from a marauding bird or animal or to just slip away from the heat of the sun. The pond basin has been dug in a variety of depths to accommodate the various plants but also adding dimension that affects the perception of the viewer.

Bits of driftwood on the shores assist the illusion that this is a great body of water. The truth, though, is that this water wonder has been constructed over the past three years – Betty passed away in October of 2010.

If she were still here, chances are the pond would not have been built – the money Dennis spent on it might have been put to more practical use or for more of the travel they enjoyed together after Dennis retired, but if she did come back now, Dennis told the Hamilton Spectator, “I think she’d be proud of the result.”

The pond has become an integral part of Dennis’ lifestyle. He can look out his patio doors and see the water gleaming in the sunlight. He can stroll around its margins and see how the fish are doing or gaze at the teeming life in the water. There is a little humpbacked bridge at one end which he can cross to a small “island”, featuring a Japanese maple and a single red rose. Here he can pause, surrounded by water, and contemplate the next improvement. Some of these inspirations have been realized. Dennis is an amateur woodworker and Betty’s brother is a carpenter. They put their talents together and built a beautiful cedar gazebo by the pond and a pergola at the back of the house.

Dennis shows of his emerging gardening talent in the plants that occupy the edges of the yard. He has planted greenery that moves him: shrubs and ivy, a few hostas, some sedum – he even has some lichen growing on a well-weathered boulder and moss has taken up residence on a few of the rocks.

It’s a magical tribute to a life well spent together. In a well-chosen spot, there is a dedication to Betty. Carved in polished granite are the words “Betty’s Pond”, followed by an inscription dedicated to “Betty Clara Turner, nee Clayton”. She spent her final three weeks at a hospice, passing away on Oct 21, 2010.

Unassuming view from the street.

Unassuming view from the street.

Dennis worked with Betty’s brother to build a cedar gazebo for quiet contemplation.

Dennis worked with Betty’s brother to build a cedar gazebo for quiet contemplation.

A granite memorial to Betty; the inspiration behind this garden.

A granite memorial to Betty; the inspiration behind this garden.

A well-weathered boulder features lichen and other native plants.

A well-weathered boulder features lichen and other native plants.

The bridge provides passage to a small island.

The bridge provides passage to a small island.

Music from the six waterfalls shuts out the world beyond the garden.

Music from the six waterfalls shuts out the world beyond the garden.

 A Japanese maple and red rose occupy the island.

A Japanese maple and red rose occupy the island.

Featured in Ontario Gardener Annual 2014 issue

 

*Click photos for larger images.