Wonderful Water Garden in Woodland Hills

Seven years ago, Ellya Calig had a heart attack. When he recovered, the Woodland Hills contractor and master craftsman grabbed a shovel and began to dig up his backyard to install a water pond. “It was my way of asserting that I was still very much alive,” he recalled.
Stepping into his backyard last week, I would have to say — although I am not a physician — that the result of Calig’s efforts is just what a doctor might order to reduce stress: the calming sound of a waterfall gently cascading into a pool of giant koi, black taro, yellow iris and canna lilies.
So-called ponding has become a popular pastime of late. A pond is an antidote to the unremitting stress that fills our lives. A properly conceived pond or other water feature is distinguished by the mesmerizing sound of moving water. When you hear this sound, you are immediately cast under its spell and, in a trance, seek its source. When you find it, you just stand there, unable to move, as though transfixed by the force of a powerful magnet. If there is a chair close by, you will invariably sit down and just stare at the water and the fish for an indefinite period of time, overcome by the serenity so radically at odds with the world outside.
Ponds attract dragonflies, birds and other critters, creating an always unpredictable wildlife display. While sitting near Calig’s pond, an oriole alighted on the wooden frame that holds up shade cloth stretched overhead. “The frame and shade cloth serve three purposes,” Calig explained. “The shade cloth minimizes the pond’s sun exposure, keeping down algae growth; it also prevents birds from flying in to poach on the fish; finally, lights are attached to the shade cloth frame, illuminating the pond at night.”
Calig has a filtration system that keeps the water in his pond crystal clear. He has two medicine ball-size filters in tandem, one of sand and one of beads that trap fish waste and other extraneous organic material. He also has a special UV sterilizing filter that kills bacteria and parasites that could cause trouble for his koi.
Each June, when the moon is full, Calig’s enormous koi fish, which include fascinating yellow and butterfly types, spawn. The males push the females up against the side of the pond, forcing them to release their eggs. At the same time, the males release sperm that float amidst the eggs, leading to fertilization. Calig has a separate pond where the fertilized eggs can develop into baby fish; both males and females would otherwise eat the eggs.
“Some people think you install a pond, sit back, and let everything take care of itself.
However, there is maintenance involved,” Calig cautioned. Luckily, his daughter Jennifer has been in the pond maintenance business for 15 years and loves to share her knowledge. She loves to share her knowledge and, if you have a question about ponds, you can access her expertise at no charge by calling (818) 970-7957.
“The biggest expense involved is the electricity,” Calig noted. “Ideally, the water in a pond should recirculate three times every hour, and it should be kept recirculating all the time.
But most people shut down their system for a number of hours each day in order to reduce their electric bill.”
Calig’s water plants include black taro (Colocasia esculenta `Black Magic,’ a stunning plant with huge elephant ear leaves. For contrast, he has planted Canna `Tropicana,’ a variety with kaleidoscopic foliage and orange flowers. There is also a generous clump of yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus). Planted in the ground around the pond are lush stands of wispy leafed papyrus (Cyperus papyrus). I have never seen such healthy papyrus in the Valley; the shade cloth above gives it the significant sun protection it requires to thrive in our hot climate.
Keep in mind that certain pond plants, including water lilies, require lots of sun to flower and would be inhibited by the presence of shade cloth.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Several common plants are suitable for water gardens, including society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and horsetail (Equisetum hyemale). The containers for water plants should be at least 8 inches in diameter so that they are not easily tipped over. Soil should be heavy loam from the garden, topped off by pea gravel to keep the soil from floating to the surface.

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