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STYLE / GARDENS : The Portable Pond

June 11, 1995|SUSAN HEEGER

Water animates the most ordinary landscapes, but in Los Angeles, where not everyone is lucky enough to enjoy an ocean view, people tend to choose a pool they can swim in instead of a pond brimming with aquatic plants. And those who can't afford a pool often forgo water in the garden altogether, never dreaming how simple it is to add to the landscape.

Landscape designer Carolyn Mitchell has more than eight tiny ponds arranged around her Malibu garden. She made them herself, using shallow, round pots without drain holes, a bit of soil, a couple of bulbs, some oxygenating grasses and mosquitofish. These water bowls--placed beside lounge chairs and amid drought-tolerant plantings--showcase aquatic lilies, hyacinths and hawthornes with season-spanning blooms. Two are sunk into Mitchell's flower beds. One, fitted with a recirculating pump, fills a patio with spilling music.

Though Mitchell has had conventional ponds for more than a decade (she maintains four currently), her passion for miniature portables started three years ago, when she suddenly longed for the sound of water outdoors. She made her first tub garden from a ceramic cachepot but soon discovered the perfect watertight solution--inexpensive, lightweight plastic pots available at local nurseries--and her collection began to grow.

The low-maintenance and very versatile ponds, she says, "work in any landscape, large or small, in sun or shade. Wherever you put them, they create their own little oasis."

Carolyn Mitchell's tub gardens will be on view during a public open house from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 25. The address is 6749 Wildlife Road on Point Dume in Malibu.

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