Jan 12, 2017

Winter on Your Patio

Winter pots are beautiful!

You've packed away all the pretty Christmas decorations and suddenly outside looks blah. There's no snow, obviously no blooming plants. Wouldn't it be nice to walk up to your front door with some decorations again? It's winter but that doesn't mean we can't decorate like summer, right?

Walking through my yard and taking cuttings for an arrangement is so much fun. I do this for all seasons. The photos below are arrangements on my porch now. The crate with logs had twinkle lights for Christmas. I took those out and it can now stay all winter.


How about a winter hanging basket.

 How to Make a Winter Hanging Basket
Great "How to" from Three Dogs in a Garden

Here's another great winter pot:

 How to make a winter porch pot.
"How to" from House of Hawthornes.

So take a walk in your yard and see what you can gather up for some nice pots on your porch or patio. We would love to see your photos!

Written by Staci Wicker

Dec 30, 2016

What to Look Forward to in 2017

2017 Here We Come!

Ah, a new year! Thank you 2016 but we have a lot to look forward to in 2017.

Here are five things we are looking forward to in 2017:

Cool Ponds debut at the Indianapolis Home Show
We have had a feature garden at the Indiana Flower Show for 12 years, but the Home Show is all new to us! We are so excited to bring our beautiful water features to a whole new group of people. We hope you will visit us there -- Jan. 20-29, Indiana State Fairgrounds West Pavillion.

Our New Foreman and Designer (Sort of)
Every year Staci asks Steve, "So what do you really love about your job..." This year he's taking it and running with it. After our previous foreman moved out of state to be closer to family, Steve decided he loved installing water features and beautiful landscapes and it was time for him to get back to running our crew. Steven Jr. began taking over the design and estimating duties this past year - he is fresh and excited and designed some beautiful projects. So Steve finally had the opportunity. Talk about experience installing your water feature or other landscape project. Whoa! Steve said 50 is the new 30... and he can't wait to be 30 again! (Oh, and we call him "Pop" now to ease confusion and because he has a new grandson... awww.)

Spring in the Serenity Garden
Late last summer we opened our new Serenity Garden at our store. We are so excited to see it this spring and see all the beautiful plants start to emerge. If you haven't seen it, you must stop by! Did you see the video of it this past summer? Check it out here.

Cool Ponds New Brand
So this is super secret and we are only telling you... It's time for a change. Well kind of. Half of our projects in 2016 were landscape projects other than water features! We will always be Cool Ponds, but coming soon is a new brand of who and what we really are. Remember, you were the first to know! Included is a new website, social media, Pinterest... (Oh my love/hate relationship with Pinterest!) Coming this spring!!!

Native Plants
Last spring we had a little preview of what was to come with our Native Plant sale. This year we are expanding so that you can choose and buy native Indiana plants here at Cool Ponds ! YES! Finally! It will be a short sale, but we will have them for you this spring. Watch our newsletter for upcoming info.

So that is some of the exciting things we are looking forward to in 2017. We hope you will join in with us! Happy New Year!

Dec 8, 2016

Gardens That Take Care of Themselves

Plants That Need Little or No Watering

Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- August 2016

Nov. 30, 2016

First, let me tell you my inspiration for this post...  My thoughts this morning are on Tennessee and the Gatlinburg area in particular. I love this place. The photos coming from this area right now are devastating. My in-laws previously lived in Asheville North Carolina for close to 20 years so my family has spent lots of time in the Smokies. In recent years we've spent a lot of time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg. If you haven't been, you really should go. It's an easy 6 hour drive from Indy -- we go several times a year. I have said on many occasions that my favorite place I've ever been (and I've been fortunate to travel a lot of places all over the country) is the Cades Cove area in the park. It totally immerses you in our natural world, What a beautiful place.

Just 3 1/2 weeks ago was our most recent trip to Gatlinburg and the fires were burning in Tennesee already. We drove through smoke most of the time we were in Tennessee. On our trip we stayed in the Park Vista hotel which just two days ago was surrounded by fire so much that the guests and staff couldn't get out. (There is frightening video on the internet of this.)  Now I understand that forest fires happen naturally (update -- unfortunately this fire was man-made). It's part of nature's rejuvenation process. But the drought the south has been experiencing has literally fueled this fire.

So to get to my point, this got me thinking... do you remember our drought of 2012?  What did we learn from it? Of course most of us never need to worry about the loss of life and property that comes from forest fires, but we are all affected by drought. We can at least protect the investment we've made in our yards.

Here are some ways you can drought proof your yard:

Native coneflower and black-eyed Susan
Plants that need little water
So when you read that, do you think of cacti and other plants of the Southwest? That's not what I'm referring to! I'm taking about good ole' native Indiana plants. They bloom and thrive without any additional watering from us and are prepared for the occasional drought. They may go dormant for awhile but will survive. There are so many beautiful native plants! And think about it this way, even in normal conditions many plants need supplemental water from us -- native plants do not and actually save us from using water!

The blooming plants in the foreground of this photo are planted
in a bog garden.
Plants that water themselves
From our native plants that use little water, let's talk about plants that grow in water. During the drought of 2012, we still had beautiful plantings in our ponds! They bloom and grow no matter how much rainfall we have. Our yard at home has an area that is particularly sandy for whatever reason -- not normal for our area which is usually hard clay. So we have trouble getting anything to grow consistently even natives in this area.  Becasue of the sand, any water drains though quickly whereas clay soil holds water. We're considering installing a bog garden in this area. What's a bog garden? For this purpose we will dig a shallow area, line it with pond liner, fill it with river rock and water and plant aquatic plants in it. Problem solved -- no watering and no excess draining!

Remove lawn
WHAT?! Yep, I said it. Grass is a water hog. We senselessly water it. We mow it with lawn mowers that put more emissions in the air than our cars. We use chemicals on it. And it serves no biological purpose -- plants feed wildlife critters and insects (which also feed the critters.) Typical lawn doesn't feed anything. Don't worry, it doesn't have to be removed all at once! Remove a little at a time for planting areas, rain gardens, bog gardens, or prairie plantings. All more beautiful that lawn. (Coming from someone who hasn't had any lawn for many, many years!)

Think about it... what can you do to prepare for the next drought we experience in our area? Let's be proactive instead of re-active. Start making plans now to have a more ecologically friendly and drought resistant yard.It's good for you and it's good for our environment.

For now my thoughts and prayers are with the people of all the fire damaged and drought affected areas of our country. And let's hope for rain for them! (Update: It rained!).

For more on our drought in 2012, you might want to read our previous articles written by Steve.
The Drought's Almost Over, Now What Part I
The Drought's Almost Over, Now What Part II
The Drought's Almost Over, Now What Part III

Written by Staci Wicker
Cool Ponds co-owner

Oct 6, 2016

Favorite Fall Products for Your Water Feature

Fall Netting "Domed" Over Pond
Over the years we've complied a list of the products we feel everyone needs for their ponds for fall and into winter. Of course these are all available both in our store and from our online store. You can click on each item for more information and a photo.

Extremely important if you have trees in your yard. Keeping leaves out of your water feature is you number one priority during fall. Make sure to get staples to attach the net to the ground. Also as you can see in the photo above, the net should be "domed" over the pond. Use small pieces of rebar hammered into the ground and then over the rebar place pieces of pvc or conduit to make the "dome." Rebar and conduit can be purchased at any hardware store.

Your second most important item for fall. This beneficial bacteria breaks down any debris in the pond and lessens the chance of it becoming algae food. It also keeps the water cleaner and healthier for your fish. It's much like our BioClear and Clean, but Spring and Fall Prep can be used even when the water temperature gets down to 35 degrees! Start using Spring and Fall Prep in early fall.

You will need to know the water temperature so that you can switch the type of benefical bacteria you are using and the type of fish food you are using. 

When the water starts to cool off in early October, it's time to switch to Low Temp Fish Food. Low Temp food digests quicker and helps fish prepare for winter.

Speaking of fish... You want to keep them safe and healthy all winter, right? So they will need an opening in the ice on your pond for oxygen to get in and carbon dioxide to get out. Using an aerator is the easiest and most cost effective method for keeping a hole for gas exchange. If you already have an aerator, just make sure you bring those air stones or air plate up to the water surface.You don't want to disturb the warm water at the bottom of the pond. Or even better, buy a winter airline kit. Leave your current air stones where they are, disconnect them from the aerator, and add the new stones just for winter. Don't forget to cover the aerator to keep it protected from the weather with something like a faux rock.

It's always a good idea to have Vanish dechlorinator on hand all year long. There will be times when you need to top off your pond especially in the depths of winter when ice is forming and "wicking" the water right out of the pond. And to be honest, we've all put the hose in the pond and forgotten about it -- yikes! Keep your fish safe by keeping the chlorine out of the water.

These are not one my favorite pond items to be perfectly honest, but they are effective! Even though Great Blue Herons migrate, we still have some here for winter too. With no plant cover, your bright, beautiful koi look mighty good to a hungry Heron. The floating alligator looks so real as he slithers in the water it will deter the Heron from staying to eat. 

Sometimes leaves do get in our ponds and they cause the water to turn dark colored. When this happens we recommend using Polish AC to get the color back out of the water. 

So there you go... eight items we think everyone with a pond needs for fall and winter. Please let us know if you have questions about fall, winter or any time of year with your water feature. We are here to help. Also check out our class schedule for any upcoming Fall and Winter Classes.

Happy Fall!

Written by Staci Wicker
Cool Ponds Co-Owner

Love Your Yard This Autumn Season

It's Okay, Go Ahead... Have a Little Fun!

What an awesome season fall is here in Indiana! Now if you are thinking "yeah, but I have to rake all those leaves..." then we need to work on your attitude. Give yourself permission to have some fun, enjoy life and be grateful for the beauty nature gives us at the end of each year!

Here are some ideas to get outside into your yard and participate in real life...

I'm not talking about Halloween decorations that you'll just have to take down in a few weeks. I mean fall decorations. Get some mums, pumpkins, cornstalks. Sit them in areas where you sit and can enjoy them. Often times we get caught up decorating the front of our houses for others to see. Decorate the backyard where we usually spend more time. You add flowers in spring, right? Now add some fall plants too!

Add a Fire pit
If you don't have a fire pit and you spend any time outside, you seriously need to consider getting one. I don't remember not having a fire pit. On weekends Steve will go out early in the morning start a fire and keep it stoked all weekend just in case we go out there. We also do a lot of cooking over the fire --- yum! What a great place to sit with family and fiends or by yourself even and just take in the change of seasons.

Go Camping... At Home
I think for a lot of people who don't camp regularly, camping sounds great but too much work. Packing, setting up camp, preparing for whatever, and tearing down. It's so much easier in your backyard. You're still outside, but with all the modern conveniences close by (not talking about your iPhone 7 here.) Try it... loads of fun!

Create a Living Room... Outside
Have you done this yet? I'm not talking about a couple deck chairs sitting on your patio... I mean an actual living space. What does that entail -- privacy, multiple seats, tables, lighting, decorations. You most likely wouldn't have just a couple chairs and a tv in your actual living room would you?

Host a Cookout
There's nothing better than a get together to motivate us to spruce up our yards and finish summer projects! You have a great back yard... so share it with others! After you have that new fire pit of course. Don't forget to roast some marshmallows over that fire pit too! Check out these great campfire recipes from KOA.

Light Up the Night
In addition to your really cool fire pit, install some low-voltage landscape lighting. It creates an unbelievable effect. I love looking out my kitchen window at night seeing all the yard... well the important parts of the yard, illuminated. So I can enjoy my backyard at night even when I'm not out there. Plus this is the time of year when you really get to enjoy evenings outside with sunset being earlier.

Get Ready for Bird Watching Season
So, if you aren't into bird watching then you can skip this but according to the U.S. census there are nearly 60 million American birdwatchers. Whoa! So get those feeders cleaned, stock up on some quality bird food, and maybe investigate ways to bring new birds to your yard. Migration has begun... who knows what you might see!

Give Yourself a Break and Quit Raking Leaves
That's right I said quit -- mulch them instead. Just chop them up with your lawn mower into dime size pieces and they will fertilize your lawn. Stop cursing your trees and thank them. At our home where we have no lawn, we do rake some of them from around the ponds and then spread them around other places for birds to forage and beneficial insects to live. Check out this article about how important leaf litter is for pollinators, butterflies and more!

Do yourself a favor and get outside this weekend or heck, this evening maybe. I know we are going to be out there for sure! 

Remember Cool Ponds can help you make your backyard a special place. Stop in and see us -- we're always happy to share our backyard with you!

Written by Staci Wicker
Cool Ponds Co-Owner


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