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Area koi ponds will be on display through tour

Date: 5/16/2012

May 16, 2012

By Lori Szepelak

Their passion is their ponds. It was an idyllic early evening — koi were splashing in Sandy Litwin's pond and baby birds were chirping as their mom sat perched on a white picket fence close by — all the while — members of the Pioneer Valley Water Garden & Koi Club gathered to discuss logistics of its July 14 and 15 pond tour.

Litwin, of Hunt Seat Drive, Chicopee, is this year's pond tour chairperson, and noted that area residents with man-made or professional water gardens are sought for the 19th annual self-guided pond tour which is conducted rain or shine. Assisting Litwin with tour plans are Cindy Patnode, Eileen Richard, Christine Crean and Wendy Lafond.

"The deadline to have your pond included in the tour is June 4," Litwin said during an interview with Reminder Publications.

Litwin explained that the nonprofit club's main goal is to promote and expand the water garden and fish-keeping hobbies.

"We do this by informing and educating the public and club members on how to build and maintain a successful pond or water garden, and how to keep its inhabitants healthy," she said, adding the organization's most popular event is the annual pond tour.

The club was formed in 1995 and meets monthly from March through November to engage in educational and social activities related to garden ponds.

"We welcome new members and also have professional memberships available for vendors who have products to help our members with their pond needs," Litwin said.

On the evening of May 7, Litwin described her transformed quarter acre woodsy backyard as a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The professionally built 22 feet by 30 feet pond with waterfalls has a variety of fish that swim from three different ledges. Her small touches make the pond come alive, from the tulip lights and mushroom gardens to Elsie the Dragon that stands 3feet tall and 5 feet long, sitting on the top ledge looking into the pond.

Despite the hours each day Litwin spends tending to the immaculately groomed pond area accented with Goshen stone and a host of perennials, it is clear she relishes every moment.

Litwin's friends and committee members, Patnode, Lafond and Crean, echoed the sentiments of Litwin as they too shared their enthusiasm for their gardens and being a part of the upcoming tour.

Patnode, of Westfield, noted she modeled her backyard landscape on a Japanese theme with two ponds filled with fish, accented with bonsai plants, bamboo and a variety of grasses and colorful plants.

Crean, of Chicopee, noted her 15 foot by 25 foot New England-themed pond features a waterwheel in motion with a 10 foot cascading stream branching off to form two separate waterfalls. In the pond there are cattails, irises, water lilies, even chives.

Lafond, also of Chicopee, said her whimsical-themed backyard features a bridge, waterfall, and a "crazy frog collection," along with a lot of "big fish."

The women all agreed their backyard is an oasis to relax and rejuvenate oneself and to share their expertise, experiences and a love of nature with one another.

The self-guided pond tour is planned from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both July 14 and 15. The cost is $15 per car. Tickets can be purchased at area garden centers, landscaping suppliers and fish outlets, including Agway, Westfield and Palmer; Anson Flower Farm & Nursery, Southwick; A.W. Brown, East Longmeadow; Randall's Farm, Ludlow; Sixteen Acres Garden Center, Springfield, and Tarnow Nurseries, Chicopee and Enfield, Conn.

Litwin added that the local organization is a member of the Associated Koi Clubs of America, and annual membership dues are $25 per family. For more information, visit

For more information on adding your backyard pond area to the tour, contact Litwin via e-mail to or call 534-4278, or Crean at 593-5646.

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