Visit an oasis on a tour of landscaped ponds - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Visit an oasis on a tour of landscaped ponds

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Posted: Friday, May 9, 2008 8:26 pm | Updated: 10:58 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The Greater Phoenix Pond Society's annual tour isn't just a way to show off some society member's best work. It's also a recruiting drive. "That's how we get out membership," says group member Bill Reeves. "We have a half-dozen people each year that go through the tour, then join."

SLIDESHOW: See images of Bill Reeves' backyard oasis

The Greater Phoenix Pond Society's annual tour isn't just a way to show off some society member's best work. It's also a recruiting drive. "That's how we get out membership," says group member Bill Reeves. "We have a half-dozen people each year that go through the tour, then join."

SLIDESHOW: See images of Bill Reeves' backyard oasis

The tour will have 13 homes this year, including eight in the East Valley.

Reeves says people who start digging before they join the club actually end up behind: Too many strike out on their own without doing research or hire a builder without pond expertise, he says.

"People join after they build a pond and it doesn't work," he says. "At that point there's not much we can do. It's really important to do it right from the start."

Susan Smithwick of Mesa, society vice president, says people who go on the tour often come away wanting a pond but not knowing what to do.

"We've made about all the mistakes you can between all of us," Smithwick says. "People see a pond, and think about how beautiful it is, right in the middle of the desert, and they think about it but don't know where to start."

When members are desperate for help, Reeves, 79, often offers his services - but he doesn't drive, so people have to come pick him up at his home in east Mesa, and he can't do the work he once did for medical reasons, so they have to do the hands-on work. He's been taxied as far as Avondale to provide expertise.

Still, when they see his backyard, they're happy to get his help.

Hidden behind his cinder block walls in a modest development lies a wooded patch with two ponds holding 3,500 gallons of water with a dozen varieties of goldfish. It's surrounded by a fence Reeves uses to keep herons out - just one of the tricks he's learned in his years of building ponds.

"Herons won't swim, so they need to be able to walk into the water, they won't land in it to get the fish," he says. "So this fence pretty much keeps them out."

Reeves is content to keep most people out, sitting quietly by his pond disturbed only by the chirping of birds.

"This is my oasis," he says. "Nobody suspects you're here."

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