Lake Highlands resident Donna Lane considers her backyard a transformation miracle.


Where once was only a pool, hot tub and a few plants now resides a serene Japanese-style oasis with the requisite water, rocks and green of an oriental garden.


An admirer of the East, Lane decided on an oriental water garden after a trip to China last year: “I love the art, the culture. The people are friendly and polite.”


Michael O’Keefe, owner of Aquatic Landscapes, was chosen to do Lane’s design work. With the help of a jackhammer, the hot tub soon became a pond edged in stones.


 To bridge the pond with the rest of the yard, Lane and O’Keefe agreed on a “mountain range” on the opposite side of the yard, using 12 tons of boulders and a 135-ton crane.


“Because the crane operator could not see the backyard, we used two-way radios to navigate the unimaginable,” says O’Keefe. “Donna, not to mention the rest of the neighborhood, looked on with amazement and maybe a little apprehension as we carefully orchestrated the placement of each boulder.”


Lane added personal touches, like the original sculpture by Rob Haynes gracing the wooden wall alongside the pond and a life-size statue from China.


“He came from a replica of one of the Terra Cotta warrior and is called “Kneeling Archer,” she reports.


Lane has even given each fish its own name.


“They are all named after great lovers,” she says with a smile.


Swimming happily around are Bonnie and Clyde, Scarlet and Rhett, Evie and DJ (after Ms. Lane’s parents), and the confirmed bachelor in the group – Big Guy.


“I think it is the most peaceful and restful thing,” says Lane of her garden pond. “It is so relaxing.”


Hitting the right note

On the other hand, if you have ever wondered where musical instruments go when their days of making melodies are but a memory, a stroll through Carolyn Bush’s Lake Highlands garden will provide the answer. There you will find ponds, flowers, birds and butterflies … and 15 assorted musical instruments that have found their final resting home.


“I grew up with music,” says Bush. “My father was very musical and my mom played the organ.”


The innovative gardener first collected string instruments, all secured cheaply from flea markets and relegated inside.


Then she saw the tuba.


“There is something about the shape of a tuba that made me think of a flower,” says Bush. “There was no room for it inside the house so I put it in the garden. It kind of grew from there.” 


Nestled among the ferns now sits a long silent trumpet while a trombone stands tall among a clump of bush honeysuckle. A tuba perches next to the pond while another sits across the garden.


“I think it was so cleverly done,” says Mary Frances Stevens, a visitor who saw Bush’s garden on a recent tour hosted by the North Texas Water Garden Society. “It is surprising to step into the backyard —it is like another world.”


Sally Wasowski designed the gardens for Bush in the late 1980s.


“Sally said that in the front, we would make it look like the rest of the neighborhood. In back, you can do whatever you want to,” says Bush. “I like the way she designed it — it encourages you to wander.”


A small pond was added followed by a second larger complete with a small fountain and a bugle – rising out of the water and hinting of long ago concerts.


The design has worked well – the garden is certified as a Texas Wildscape and by the Dallas Horticultural Center as a Butterfly Habitat.


“There is something about being able to focus on gardening instead of your problems,” says Ms. Bush. “It really gets into your blood.”