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Backyard botany

Bellwood couple win contest in national gardening magazine

March 15, 2008
By Jimmy Mincin,
Six months ago, George and Marilyn Broadbent entered a contest they never thought they’d win.

It entailed a lot of patience and work, and by the time they were notified, they’d forgotten they’d entered it in the first place. In February, they got a pleasant surprise.

The contest was Backyard Living magazine’s “Landscape Challenge Contest,” an annual water gardening competition designed solely for amateur gardeners. The Broadbents won the “Splashing Success” category for their self-built backyard pond, receiving a monetary prize and the opportunity to be featured in the magazine’s forthcoming issues.

“We thought when we read about it, that we might have a chance, but we never expected to win,” said George, 55, of Bellwood. “My sister subscribes to the magazine, and we hadn’t heard anything for quite a while. So, when she called my wife to tell her we’d won, my wife said, ‘What contest?’”

Out of 700 to 1,000 entries, five exemplary contestants were chosen in five different categories, George said. The categories were: “Little but Lovely” — making a small garden look big; “Limited Resources” — creating an attractive garden on a small budget; “Made in the Shade” — achieving color and brightness in dark areas; “Extreme Gardening” — growing flowers in high altitudes and extreme sun-baked climates; and getting the most of a short growing season and “Splashing Success” — creating a water garden that looks natural.

After Marilyn told George about the contest, he attended a daylong pond building seminar at Tussey Mountain Mulch and Landscape Center, Hollidayburg, read as many books on the subject as he could muster and did extensive Internet research. In April 2006, he started the building process in earnest.

‘‘Marilyn was a little skeptical at first, but I told her I was going to do this,’’ he said.

He spent more than a year gathering up small and large sandstone rocks ranging in weight from 3 pounds to 800 pounds (22 pickup loads full), while Marilyn, 50, did the planting and some rock hauling of her own with the couple’s tractor. George backed his truck’s tailgate near the banks where heavier rocks were and rolled them into the bed, then used the ceiling hoist in his garage to lift them into his tractor’s trailer.

Once they were placed near the pond, he barred them into position with a 6-foot digging pole.

The pond is 2 feet deep, 16 feet wide and 21 feet long, said Marilyn, owner of Hair Flair, Altoona. It contains koy and gold fish, a bull frog and ‘‘lots of dragonflies and butterflies,’’

‘‘We did see one snake, but the rocks are pretty well sealed up to discourage them,’’ she said. ‘‘We’ve also had three more frogs move in.’’

George, who works as a machine operator at American Eagle Paper Mill, Tyrone, had no outside help in building the pond — a stipulation of the contest. Other contest conditions included writing and submitting a 1,000-word “how-I-did-it” story detailing any shortcuts and pitfalls in the building process and submitting quality digital photos of the pond.

Tussey Mountain Mulch and Landscape Center included the Broadbents’ pond in its ‘‘2007 Pennsylvania State Pond Tour.’’

‘‘The layout is just great — the creativity, the design — it’s all there,’’ said Tussey Mountain Mulch owner Steve Martin. ‘‘It’s really a credit to the do-it-yourselfer. Hats off to the Broadbents — they did a great job.’’

The pond’s water is circulated and filtered by a 4,000-gallon-per-hour water pumping system comprising two skimmers, a 50-foot hose and a flexible, 2-inches-in-diameter PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe, he said.

Marilyn wrote the essay.

‘‘I was so excited, but nervous at the same time. I never wrote a story in my entire life,’’ she said. ‘‘Thank God for Microsoft Word — what a pain.’’

In the end, her ‘‘pain’’ was rewarded in the form of serenity, she said.

‘‘We have three acres of land, and I thought it might become just one more thing to take care of,’’ she said. ‘‘Now, I take more time to just sit down and smell the roses — relax a little bit. It’s nice to just go out, read a book and listen to the water.’’

‘‘George is even planning on building a pavilion in the yard right up against the pond by a row of hemlocks,’’ she said. ‘‘It’ll be nice to sit out there when it’s raining and put the spotlight on the pond.’’

All five winners of this year’s “Landscape Challenge Contest” are listed in the March/April issue of Backyard Living magazine (Page 58).

Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.

Article Photos

Courtesy photo
George and Marilyn Broadbent’s backyard pond, shown here in 2007, was recognized in Backyard Living magazine’s Landscape Challenge Contest. The Broadbents won the “Splashing Success” category.

Fact Box

Backyard pond building tips
- Natural-style garden ponds are built to create the illusion of a mountain stream with waterfalls. Larger boulders and flat stones can be used in combination to create the look of a naturally formed stream. The sound of falling water can be fine-tuned through the careful arrangement and placement of stone.
- To find the right submersible pump for your backyard pond, first determine your garden pond’s volume. It is recommended that you circulate your pond’s water once at least every two hours. Your pump should have a GPH (gallons per hour) rating of at least half of your pond size.
- Keep the pond water clean, especially if you have fish. There are three types of pond filtration that you should consider: mechanical, UV clarification and biological filtration.
- Let your creativity show through with as many or as few accessories as you want. Lights, spitter, plants, fish, fountains and waterfalls all can add beauty to your pond.

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