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Valley garden and pond tour slated for July

Date: 6/19/2015

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Life – and love – can be expressed in many ways – and Barbara Braem-Jensen and Bob Jensen on Bugbee Road in Southwick have found that perfect combination in their backyard oasis.

“Our land is our little Shangri-La,” said Bob Jensen during a recent late afternoon interview with Reminder Publications.

The couple are among more than a dozen area residents participating in the 22nd annual Pioneer Valley Water Garden and Koi Club Pond Tour, slated for July 11 and 12. The nonprofit group, with membership in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, focuses on bringing together individuals to share expertise, experiences, and a love of nature.

“A water garden can take on many appearances,” Eileen Richard, president of the club, said. “Some have fountains, others have waterfalls or winding streams. All abound with plant life, fish, frogs, and attract backyard wildlife including butterflies and birds.”

For the Jensens, their backyard paradise and the vernal pools adjacent to their driveway are teeming with wildlife.

“We chose a five-level waterfall instead of a pond with koi since we have snapping turtles in our yard,” Braem-Jensen said.

On a walking tour around their home, attention to detail abounds. There are Lady Slippers prettily fenced off, driftwood displayed in all shapes and sizes, sculptures scattered throughout the grounds, all created by Jensen, and a water pump from the Granville farm that Barbara Braem-Jensen grew up on.

What visitors will also quickly notice are the intricate birdhouses that dot the idyllic landscape.

Jensen, a carpenter and sculptor who has worked the land most of his life on his farm, most enjoys the time spent creating gifts for his family. His birdhouses are an extension of that passion.

“He made me this custom condo birdhouse,” Braem-Jensen said, pointing out a staggered, colorful five-unit complex perched on a mound halfway up their driveway.

From perennials aplenty to dogwood in full bloom, visitors will be treated to a plethora of ideas for one’s own backyard oasis.

“We love the ocean so we also have seashells from our travels,” Braem-Jensen said.

The couple, who first dated in their teens, then moved on to create families of their own, found each other after both being widowed for many years. In July, they will be celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary. A pretty stone with hearts woven together with their anniversary date greets visitors to the waterfall. This is only one of the many delights visitors can expect to find as they peruse their beautifully manicured grounds.

Before visitors move on to another site on the pond tour, the Jensens will also provide punch, iced tea and cookies under their deck.

Tickets are $20 per car for the tour and can be purchased at locations including Dave’s Soda and Pet City, with locations in Agawam and Springfield, Anson’s Flower Farm & Nursery, Southwick, Fields of Flowers, Westfield Home and Garden, and Picture Perfect Ponds, all in Westfield, and A.W. Brown’s in East Longmeadow.

For more information on the pond tour and a complete list of locations to purchase tickets, visit

Area residents also opening up their backyards to the tour include: Peter and Barbara Langmore of Blandford; Lesley and Joanne LeFebvre, Cindy and Richard Patnode, and Jeff and Ruth Paquette, all of Westfield; Russ and Shari Wall of Southampton; Peter and Elaine Stassen of Feeding Hills; Ed and Kris Champigny of Agawam; Doug and Karen Parsons of Suffield, Conn.; Gary and Darlene Smith of West Springfield; Stephen A. Roberts, Wendy LaFond and Tom Blazejowski, and Chet and Irene Ratkiewicz, all of Chicopee; Steve and Cathy Knowles of South Hadley; Mickey and Ronnie Mathews of Belchertown; Greg and Gina Dauplaise of East Longmeadow, and Sue and Ken Gilbert of Palmer.