‘Wet ‘n’ Wild’ describes these gardens perfectly
My 9-year-old grandson, Sandy, was pointing through the windshield at the recently opened Clearwater Aquatic Gardens on Highway 49, (which I had intended visiting in the next few weeks) and so I swung in the driveway.
The former home of the old “BBQ and You” restaurant, which had long been closed, the building was used most recently as a staging area for Teichert Construction while widening the highway.
Then there was a banner signaling opening of an antique mall over the front door for a brief period, and now it’s Clearwater Aquatic Gardens, combining ponds, plants, goldfish, Koi, garden ornaments and some antiques as well.
The primary reason I stopped, though, was to see Sandy’s reaction to the operation.
He loved it.
“Oh, wow, look at this!” he said, pointing to a water garden in a container that looked like Merlin’s cauldron for the steam that mysteriously shrouded the surface. I thought it was dry ice, but learned it’s a negative ion ionizer/humidifier/fragrance diffuser called a “Mist Maker” that vibrates so quickly it turns water to vapor. (Indoor models sell for $30; larger outdoor types cost $100.)
Like a frog leaping from one lily pad to the next, Sandy’s attention shifted from one display garden to another: “Isn’t this NEAT?” he asked.
In the former parking lot area at the front door, there’s a large pond with its own waterfall and wide bridge: “This is what I want!” Sandy resolved, “So me and my friends can swim in it!”
Nathan Beeck, whose handsome two-story home is perched on the hillside just across the highway, is the “brains” of the operation, joined in the business by his mother, Susan, and home decor specialists John and Sharon Lee.
“It’s surprising how many adults feel about these gardens just the way your grandson does,” Nathan said. “We supply them with the installation kits (starting at $700) and information, and they supply the rocks. Almost all of our customers say, ‘Oh, we have PLENTY of rocks! All we need to do is gather them!”
The holder of a degree in landscape architecture from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Nathan worked for a notable water gardening business in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended a “Build a Pond” day where he met Greg Wittstock, founder of Aquascape Designs.
“I loved the system and was excited because it was more affordable for people of average incomes. The feeling among many people was that if you wanted a pond, you’d better have $30,000 to spend on it. This system was reasonably priced and designed for do-it-yourselfers like me!”
Nathan tried pushing the concept with his employer, but they were geared primarily to contracting installation of high-end water gardens, and didn’t think it would be profitable enough, and nixed the idea.
“So I told them, ‘I think it will work. And I’m resigning to start my own business.'” Nathan recalls.
Thus, he founded Clear Water Designs in the Bay Area, then moved to the Auburn area in 2001. Clearwater Aquatic Gardens opened about two months ago as a family business owned by Nathan and his parents.
Nodding in acknowledgment, John adds: “When Sharon and I first met Nathan, things clicked. Our company will be offering ironwork and concrete statuary in addition to a showroom of home decor.”
An amazing transformation was made on the 1.5 acre property during the past five months, and there’s more to come. Nathan visualizes a hillside waterfall and pond with a gazebo off the parking lot and John sees picnic tables under oaks for customers to relax and even picnic looking out over the neighbor’s idyllic pond.
Insofar as water plants are concerned, Nathan says he’ll be doing research to see which ones are deer resistant: “It’s funny, but I have deer in my garden every night and I never notice any significant damage to the plants. But maybe that’s because things like water hyacinths grow as fast as the deer can eat them!”
For those who are tempted by the idea of having a do-it-yourself pond, but unsure whether they’re up to installing one, here’s a solution: Buy “The Ecosystem Pond,” a new publication ($29.99, Aquascape Books) by Aquascape founder Greg Wittstock.
Subtitled, “Creating, Caring for and Loving Your Own Backyard Water Garden”, this book is easy to understand, yet is a comprehensive enough guide to virtually every aspect of pond care.
Chapter titles include, “The Meaning of Water Gardens,” “The 16 Most Problematic Myths,” “Attracting Critters to Your Pond” and “Plants for Water Gardening Enthusiasts” in addition to step-by-step tips on building and maintaining a pond.
Copies are available through Clear Water Aquatic Gardens, 24908 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn.
Dick Tracy is an award-winning garden writer and photographer, a trained master gardener and former president of the Foothills Horticulture Society. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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