Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

One Man's Aqueous Idyll

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

One Man's Aqueous Idyll

Article excerpt

Bob Shaw still winces when he talks about the construction of the stone bridge in his water garden.

"They dug the channel wider than they intended - and you can't put what you dig out back," he says. "So they had to bring in a bigger stone than they had anticipated. That rock is pretty massive - 6,800 pounds. They had to move it with this big hoist. I couldn't watch."

Now, however, that huge stone - and the rest of the 5,000-gallon water feature with its six cascades - is all nestled in, comfy- cozy, softened by foliage and flowers that spill over, much like the water itself.

Despite the billowing camouflage, the stone is so large that you almost wonder if it could withstand a direct nuclear strike.

"Well, no," Mr. Shaw says with a laugh. "But it's guaranteed to withstand any relatives that I have. This water feature will be here despite any storm that takes the house down."

A big retirement project

Shaw retired about five years ago and promptly set about planning the new garden on a double lot in suburban Des Moines, Iowa. His wife, Becky, who still practices medicine, gave him her blessing, and Bob set out, a man possessed.

"Taking the Master Gardener's class was No. 1 on my list," he says. "I'd never had enough time to make it work, so I was in."

Was gardening Bob's midlife crisis? The pond his flashy convertible?

"Becky probably hopes so," Bob says. "There certainly can be a lot worse things."But even for the indoctrinated, the Shaw garden seems, well, generous. Both Becky and Bob's parents instilled their love of gardening in their offspring, so you can appreciate their reaction to Bob's lagoon.

"Oh, they think it's way too much," says Becky.

Even Bob did. At first.

"The project was supposed to take five weeks, and it took five months," he says. "When we finished, all you could see was rock. But after the plants started to mature and it all filled in, I knew it was all worth it. …

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