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A serene water garden

Beams of light shimmer on the surface, illuminating exotic blooms. Elaborate or simple, a calming water garden can be yours -- with tips from these experts
Decorative glass balls along with tropical and hardy water lilies dot the surface of one of the ponds.
Marilyn Kenney, watering her borders, is a Master Gardener.

It's all in the details

A dragonfly dive-bombs the mirrorlike surface of one of Tom and Marilyn Kenney's four water gardens. Nearby, a lavender tropical water lily unfurls its delicate petals in barely discernible movements. Murphy, an orange tabby cat, flicks his tail as he spies a goldfish floating like an orange bloom just beneath the surface of the pond.

Every detail is worth noticing here at Skycrest Gardens just north of Ames, Iowa. Tom's soothing water gardens and Marilyn's lavish flower borders create a lush oasis in what once was a barren 3/4-acre yard.

Tom, a retired utility worker, started water gardening about 10 years ago. "There wasn't that much information about water gardening and very few supplies," he says. "I found out firsthand how hard it was to get quality plants."

Marilyn, a former cosmetologist, became an Extension Service Master Gardener about the time Tom started water gardening. Now, their hobby has become a business. They sell water garden supplies and perennial plants on weekends from their ranch home.

In the summer, Tom and Marilyn together devote as many as 200 hours a week to keep the yard groomed like a showplace. "We have to remind one another about a favorite plant that's blooming or we'll miss it," Tom says.

Despite a hectic pace, the Kenneys try to sneak a few moments in the evenings to relax on a bench beside a pond. With some of their 18 cats, they smell sweet night-blooming plants and listen to comforting sounds of rippling water as moonlight glistens on the surface.

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