When Ken and Barbara Nieman moved into this Point Loma, California, home in 1994, the neglected 1-acre lot had nothing but old scrubby bushes, a patchy lawn, and a large dirt play area where a child’s swing set once stood. The Niemans, who are now retired and have no children living at home, envisioned creating a different sort of play area, one that fish and local wildlife could enjoy.

The various aquatic plants in the pond add beauty, but were primarily chosen for functional purposes. The spreading leaves of the water lilies provide shade and cover for the fish, while water hyacinths help with purification. In the center of the pond, tall flag iris-sitting on a submerged flagstone shelf-aid with natural filtration.

“This 15,000-gallon ornamental koi pond came about as a way to make over the yard,” says the Niemans’ daughter Julie Marker. “My parents imagined creating a “meadow lake” in this area, so they had the pond built with the lawn going right up to its edges, and planted a few white-barked Jacquemontii birch trees around the pond to add to the meadow feel.”

Although the yard’s old swing set and play equipment is long gone, it’s still a friendly environment for children, with a footbridge and yellow playhouse at the far end flanked by large, tropical tree ferns.

The pond was also designed to provide an ideal environment for koi and other aquatic life. The site was excavated to a depth of only 2 feet, but its reinforced concrete walls are covered with a black waterproof coating to create the illusion of deeper water. An underground drain pipe system leads to a filter and an above-ground mechanical pump hidden by a cinder block wall covered with vines. To help move and oxygenate the water, the Niemans installed a rock waterfall and other water statuary, which work in unison with the pump system to maintain good water quality for the pond’s many visitors. “The pond has attracted a few turtles that seem to appear out of nowhere, as well as frogs and birds of all kinds—herons, hawks, wild ducks, and even the small, green wild parrots (red-crowned Amazons) that live in this area of Point Loma,” says Marker.

Another area of the grounds offers a pleasant excursion for adults and children alike, with a flagstone walkway that winds its way past a stone bench, rocking chair, and bed of lily of the Nile and ending near a wishing well banked by a variety of fruit trees.

In addition to installing the pond, the Niemans have planted a fruit-plate assortment of trees in the yard, including banana, peach, plum, avocado, and orange. They have also come up with a clever, conservational approach to watering them. “One great feature is that when the pond’s filter needs to be backflushed, the pump can direct the nutrient-rich water through a pipe to empty out by the fruit trees, providing them with water and a sort of natural fertilizer,” says Marker.

For flower lovers, a charming white-picketed garden area shows off raised beds full of colorful wildflowers, perennials, and annuals, including nasturtiums, cosmos, Peruvian lilies, snapdragons, daisy’s, delphiniums, and calla lilies. “Something is always in bloom, providing color all year round in the sunny San Diego climate,” says Marker.

A garden sign that insinuates dragons are nearby is one of the many whimsical items in the yard, added for the delight of visiting grandchildren, says Marker.

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