If you’re thinking of putting in a water garden, it might help to see what other people have done with their properties.

About half the people who show up for the Seacoast Water Garden Club’s annual tour of water gardens in Maine and New Hampshire are there because they are considering installing their own and are looking for ideas, according to Bonnie Curtain of Fremont, N.H., one of the organizers of the tour.

“The people who come are really involved and are really curious and really interested to talk with the owners,” Curtain said. “They have a lot of sharing of ideas, and that’s really terrific.”

The water garden tour is one of the many garden tours that take place in Maine every summer, attracting serious gardeners as well as people who just like to see the fruits of other homeowners’ creativity. From Belfast to Kittery, amateur gardeners open the gates to their gardens and let the public in, usually for a nominal fee that benefits a good cause.

This is the seventh year of the Seacoast Water Garden Club tour, which benefits the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick. Admission to each garden is $2.50.

When the tour first started, everything was crammed into one day. Now the garden club opens gardens from noon to 4 p.m. every Sunday from June 24 through Aug. 12, and only one or two are highlighted each week. That means people have more time to linger, ask questions and just enjoy themselves.

This year, the gardens range from “small backyard sanctuaries” to a large property with more than a dozen ponds and granite waterfalls between them.

“One of our members has 14 ponds,” Curtain said. “He has made them out of a huge drained and ditched meadow into a more natural water feature. Those are all natural, and you can just wander between one and another. The geese are there in the springtime.”

Water gardens are peaceful and calming, and they’re not difficult to start, Curtain said. They add a reflective element and focus to a garden that wasn’t there before.

A water garden has plants either in or around it, and there are many plants that can thrive in the Northeast.

“Some are hardy and some are tropical, especially the water lilies that we see,” Curtain said. “The blue water lilies (and) the purple water lilies are tropical usually, and the pinks and the yellows are really more hardy, and they stay in the pond all winter. The tropical ones have to be pulled out.”

Water lettuce, water lilies and water hyacinth can provide shade and shelter from the heat of the day for the creatures who live in and around a pond. Native plants that like moist environments, such as iris and trillium, add color.

“Or you can have something that is more zen and it’s more open,” Curtain said. “We do have one of our members who has a zen garden, and it’s really quite lovely.”

A water garden can be as small as a simple bowl with a faucet that drips water, overflows and then recirculates.

No matter how simple or complex, they attract wildlife and add soothing sound to a yardscape.

Curtain’s own water garden, which will be on the tour, was fashioned from a large granite outcropping that had wild daylilies all around it. It’s about 10 feet across and 2 to 3 feet deep, and has two small waterfalls.

It’s a small enough area that Curtain can swap out the plants with the seasons and experiment a little. She has planted evergreens and Japanese maples there, as well as some herbs.

“I have a thyme that cascades down over the rocks, and it looks very natural,” she said.

Curtain’s pond attracts frogs — four live there now, but there have been as many as 15 — as well as birds. Bluebirds are nesting nearby, and scarlet tanagers fly through, stopping to bathe in a shallow upper pond.

“We have never looked back,” Curtain said. “We have just been crazy for it.”

Three Maine water gardens will be featured on the tour. One is in North Berwick on July 15; another is at Braveboat Harbor Farm, a seaside estate in York, on July 22; and one is in Ogunquit on Aug. 5 that features lovely statuary.

The full tour schedule, along with water garden descriptions, is available at seacoastwatergarden.org. For more information, call Curtain at (603) 557-2606.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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