• Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on September 5
    Today's meeting will be held in Joel and Dominique's patio and large garden in Pougny, in nearby France. We'll examine the garden's long flowing stream and meter-deep pond, half of which is above ground level. We'll also admire the much more spacious round pond, looking so natural that it doesn't seems possible to be man-made. Joel constructed both ponds himself, and they're among the most beautiful of any in the pond club. He also designed and constructed the two most elaborate pond filtering systems in the club, both of which keep his ponds' waters crystal-clear. He'll display the inside of each filter during the meeting, and explain how they work. The above-ground stream features many bog plants and several small waterfalls along its length, and splashes down into its pond in a larger waterfall. Half the pond is below ground level, and a curved brick wall creates the upper half. This design permits visitors to sit on the wall for a close-up view of the pond's small fish and blooming water lilies. The wall also keeps overly curious children from falling into the pond. A pump at the bottom of the pond sends the water all the way back up to the filter at the start of the stream, completing the circuit. The large round pond elsewhere in the garden is a full ten meters in diameter. It has three depths: 30, 100 and 150 cm deep, to accommodate the aquatic plants that need different depths of water over their roots. A wide variety of bog plants enhance the borders of the pond. Very large koi in many colors are growing still larger in the pond, along with two large black sturgeon and many goldfish. The filtering system for this pond is so large that it's enclosed in its own garden shed, also built by Joel. After seeing the system, visitors can construct a smaller filter for their own ponds using the same practical technology. This is the eighth time Joel and Dominique have hosted a meeting, second only to the record held by the pond club's co-leaders, Suzanne and Peter. The club meets in many club members' gardens so that we can admire a different pond design every time, and incorporate its best features into our own ponds. If you'd like to host a meeting chez vous to display your own pond and garden, write to the club's leaders at [masked] to reserve the ideal date for your meeting. But first please submit your RSVP above for the September meeting to let the hosts know whether you can or can't attend. These meetings are always free for everyone, so invite any interested friends to come along. Enjoy the meeting.

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on August 29
    Today we'll be seeing the newest pond to be built by any members of the pond club--so new that it's still under construction as this meeting description is being written. The pond is in the large garden of Nick and Lisbeth Smith, in the nearby French town of Cessy. The work's being done by Nick and the co-leader of the pond club, Peter Kacalanos. The underlayment and the rubber liner have been positioned in the hole, and the water has been added. The plants and fish will probably be added this Saturday, the day before the meeting. We've never before had a meeting to see a day-old pond. It won't be beautiful this Sunday, but you'll be able to see how it was constructed. We can meet here again next year, and you'll be impressed with what a change a year can make. Full details of the August 29 meeting (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/14251481) are on the web site at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/14251481). On that page you can submit your RSVP to let Nick and Lisbeth know whether you can or can't attend. Just click Yes, No, or Maybe, then click 'Submit.' Visitors are always welcome at these free meetings, so you can invite any interested friends, neighbors, and their children to come along. Please add the number of guests you're inviting when submitting your RSVP. Peter designed the pond to be L-shaped, so that it wraps around two sides of a pile of immovable boulders in the garden. The long arm of the L is about three meters wide and nine meters long. The short arm of the L is about four meters by four meters. Most of the soil and rocks dug out of the hole are being used to create a sloping berm surrounding the pond. The little wall will act as a dike, permitting the surface of the pond's water to be raised to about 30 cm above ground level. This innovation means less digging is needed to create a deeper pond, the soil and rocks won't have to be carted off to be dumped (thereby saving an unnecessary cost), and the berm will discourage little children from getting too dangerously close to the water. The outer slope of the berm all around the pond will be planted with grass and native French wildflowers. About half of the pond will be 50 cm deep for shallow-water and bog plants like lotus, and the other half will be almost a meter deep to accommodate deep-water plants like oxygenators and water lilies. The only fish to be added will be goldfish (poissons rouges) and golden orfes (ides d'or). Koi carp may be beautiful and impressive in size, but they're voracious herbivores who would eat up all the aquatic plants, so this pond will have no koi. Soon after the local wildlife discover the pond, we expect to see frogs, newts, dragonflies and other interesting wildlife move in to add their charm. During the formal portion of this meeting, one main topic of discussion will concern how to design, construct and maintain a new pond, and how to improve an established pond. Bring all your questions for the experts to answer, and offer advice to others based on your own experience. After the question-and-answer period, we'll discuss the other main topic: Who will lead the pond club after Suzanne and Peter retire this year. Then we'll all socialize as usual over snacks and drinks, and discuss everything else under the sun. It's almost Sunday, so please submit your RSVP for the August 29 meeting (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/14251481) today. We look forward to seeing you and several of the club's newest members there.

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on August 8
    Because so many new members want to attend the club's meetings, we now meet every Sunday instead of on just the first and third Sundays of every month. But because August 1 is Switzerland's national holiday, we're skipping the first Sunday this month. (There are four more Sunday meetings in August.) Meetings take place from 15:00 to 18:00 in various members' homes and gardens, so that we can see a wide variety of ponds during the meetings, adapting the best ideas for our own garden ponds. The August 8 meeting will be held in Joel and Dominique's patio and garden in Pougny, in nearby France. There we'll admire two of the best ponds we've seen in the club, which were constructed by Joel himself. He's one of the best sources of information for those planning to create their own ponds. That may be why so many club members keep attending meetings held here. This is the seventh event held at Joel and Dominque's (more than any other members except for long-time club leaders Suzanne and Peter), and we expect another good crowd on August 8. The first pond Joel built is partially above ground, so that visitors can sit on the supporting wall to admire the water plants and pond fish up close. The pond is one meter deep, and contains in its 10,000 liters of water some young koi, goldfish, carp, beam, and blooming water lilies. It's continually fed by a very long above-ground stream planted with mare's tail and other bog plants, whose roots help keep the water crystal-clear. The stream incorporates several waterfalls which help oxygenate the water; the resulting splashes add a pleasant music to the lovely view. Joel's second pond, just built in 2008, is round and an impressive ten meters in diameter. Its depth is 30, 100 and 150 centimeters in different areas. It's home to very large multi-colored koi that readily breed in the pond, and large specimens of other species, including two black sturgeon. Many water lilies there bloom all summer in the ideal sunny environment. A wide variety of bog plants enhance the pond's shallow border. The pond already looks totally natural, even though it's artificial and was created just two years ago. Joel is a professional contractor who built not only the two ponds, but his entire house as well. He also contoured the extensive garden, creating several level terraces from a steep property. He built an enclosure to house the first pond's extensive filtering system, and constructed an entire walk-in shed for the second pond's even bigger filter. He'll open both to show us the ingenious systems that keep the water in both ponds as clear as glass. During the formal portion of this meeting, you can ask Joel all your questions about how he designed, built, and maintains these impressive ponds. Peter and other experts can be asked further questions, and you can offer suggestions for other members' pond problems based on your own experience. Peter will also stress the importance of finding other members soon to become the club's new leaders, now that he and Suzanne are retiring after leading the club for six years. The informal part of each meeting is when we enjoy snacks, drinks and good conversations, discussing everything else under the sun. Visitors are always welcome at these free events, so invite interested friends and neighbors to come along. You (and they) can get full details about the August 8 meeting (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/11034307) on the club's web site at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/11034307). On that page you can let the hosts know whether you can or can't attend by submitting your RSVP on line. Just click Yes, No, or Maybe, then click 'Submit.' If you're inviting guests as well, be sure to add the number in your RSVP. Hosts always need to know how many visitors to expect. You can also add a note in the box marked 'Comments' to say whom you've invited, or to thank Joel and Dominique for hosting this event. We can't expect these members to host many more meetings when so many other members haven't hosted any. If you offer to have a meeting in your own home or garden, those who attend can admire your pond the way you've admired other members' ponds. Hosting involves little more than providing some refreshments for those who attend. If your place is small, we can limit in advance the number of people who can submit a Yes RSVP. We traditionally meet on Sundays, but if you prefer we can schedule your meeting for another day. To reserve your ideal date for a meeting (before some other member choses that day), write to current club leaders Suzanne and Peter at [masked]. These photos show the water features you'll see at this meeting. For dozens more photos of Joel's ponds and stream, go to their photo album (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/photos/all_photos/?photoAlbumId=685560) on the club's web site at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/photos/all_photos/?photoAlbumId=685560). Click on each small photo to enlarge it and see its details. For photo albums of the ponds of dozens of other club members, go to the web site's Photos (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/photos) section at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/photos). If you'd like to have Peter create a similar photo album showing views of your own pond, send your digital photos to him at their address above. But first please submit your RSVP for the August 8 meeting (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/11034307). We look forward to seeing you there, as well as several new members of the club. Everyone's welcome.

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on July 18
    A Japanese garden in Switzerland? Mais oui! We'll see a really beautiful one in Versoix when the club will meet on July 18 beside the lovely pond of new club members Eva and Markus. The extensive garden features neatly trimmed topiary shrubs, ancient-looking tiny bonsai trees, and flowers blooming everywhere. The large pond itself is spectacular, enhanced with a variety of aquatic plants like flowering water lilies and stately mare's tails. Its residents include goldfish (poissons rouge) and golden orfes (ides d'or), although a local heron seems determined to diminish the population. A rushing waterfall provides a sparkling sound as it oxygenates the water. Around the border of the pond we'll admire the gigantic leaves of Gunnera, the powder-puff flowers of a large smoke tree, water iris, delicate ferns, many bog plants, and a Japanese stone lantern on a pebble beach. At this meeting you'll learn of Eva's trial-and-error experiences with a fiberglass pond formed in situ with resin, utilizing the same techniques used to build fiberglass boats. The impressive features of the garden and pond should inspire many club members to incorporate some of these ideas on their own property. The location and full details of the free meeting on July 18 (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/13839017) are on the club's web site at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/13839017). On that page you can let Eva and Markus know if you will or won't attend by submitting your RSVP on line. Just click Yes, Maybe, or No, then click Submit. There you can also see which other club members have already submitted their RSVPs. Club members (only) can click on the blue link showing the hosts' names to get road maps and travel directions to their home. You'll know you've arrived at the right place when you see a bright green 600-liter container in their hedge, along with a green letterbox sporting their name. On Sundays cars can park along the street in the spaces marked with white lines. Visitors are always welcome at these free meetings, so you can invite interested friends and neighbors to come along. When submitting your RSVP, please include where indicated the number of guests you've invited. In that way the hosts will know how many snacks and drinks to prepare for those who attend. You can also add a note in the box marked 'Comments' to list whom you've invited, or any other information about yourselves or the meeting. You might also want to thank Eva and Markus there for offering to host this event in their home and garden. Ever since the club was founded in 2004, various club members have volunteered to host club meetings in their own place. These are our most valuable members, for without them the club couldn't continue. Because we've had meetings in so many different gardens, club members have been able to examine a wide variety of ponds, ranging from tiny water features to impressive expanses of water. If you'd like your own pond to be admired, we can schedule a meeting in your own home and garden. We traditionally have meetings on the first and third Sundays of every month, but you can choose any day of the month to host a meeting chez vous. To reserve your ideal meeting date, just write to current club leaders Suzanne and Peter at [masked]. They always help the hosts before and during each event. You can see more pictures of Eva and Markus's pond in their album on our web site's Photos (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/photos) page at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/photos). There you'll also find albums of dozens of other club members' ponds. Click on each album's title to open it, then click on each small photo to enlarge it. If you'd like photos of your own pond on the club's web site, just send them by e-mail to Peter at the above address, and he'll create a new album for you. If you also submit a written description of the details for each photo, it'll be used as the photo's caption. That's another way for all our club members to admire the many different styles of garden ponds. But first please submit your RSVP for the July 18 meeting in Versoix. We look forward to seeing you there. For dozens of photos of the rest of Eva and Markus's garden, go to their MobileMe gallery (http://gallery.me.com/eva.markus#100173) at http://gallery.me.com... (http://gallery.me.com/eva.markus#100173). It displays overviews and closeups of their beautifully shaped topiaries, bonsai trees, striking flowers and colorful plantings. It's among the most beautiful Japanese gardens in Switzerland. C'est vrai!

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on July 4
    Maintaining garden ponds is easy in mild climates and low altitudes, but what if your garden is in the cooler mountains, at a higher elevation? Many pond club members have to cope with the special problems inherent in such situations, and some have come up with creative solutions. The hosts of the July 4 meeting, Peter and Sue Daniel, had to adapt their ponding techniques when they moved from England to the mountains of Switzerland. At this event they'll explain what adaptations are necessary to maintain their pond in Arzier, at an altitude of 850 meters above sea level. These photos show how their pond looked soon after the Daniels created it last year. The water is still crystal-clear today, filtered and aerated by a pond pump and sparkling fountain, and is now enhanced by the beautiful aquatic plants that have matured since then. Of course the appearance is quite different in winter, when a thick layer of ice covers the surface of the pond, as it covers any pond at the higher altitudes. If a pond's entire surface is covered, that precludes the pond from 'breathing,' which could be very detrimental to its inhabitants. If the carbon dioxide generated by the pond fish and decaying aquatic plants can't escape, and if fresh oxygen can't be absorbed by the pond water, the fish will suffocate and die. At this meeting you'll learn the many ways to prevent such a tragedy. For instance, keeping at least one hole in the ice open would be sufficient to permit the necessary exchange of gases. The worst way to create the hole would be to use a hammer, because the shock of the sudden pressure could burst the fishes' swim bladders. The least expensive way to create the hole would be to rest a pot of very hot water on the ice until the pot melts its way through the ice. It's wise to attach a cord to the pot handle in case you have to pull it out of the water. The most practical way to create the hole is to install a simple electric de-icing device. You can make your own by attaching an aquarium heater to a block of sagex to keep the heater floating just below the water's surface, and plugging the cord into a main. The heater's adjustable thermostat will automatically turn on the heat when the water's temperature approaches freezing, creating a circle of open water sufficient for the necessary gas exchange. Commercially made de-icers are available at pond-supply stores like the Eau et Nature section of the Botanic garden center in Saint-Genis. Ice is just one of the problems faced by those who have ponds at higher altitudes. Other problems will be discussed and solutions offered at the July 4 meeting in Arzier. Full details of this event are on the club's web site at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/13748038). On that page you can let the hosts know whether you will or won't attend this event by submitting your RSVP on line. Just click Yes, Maybe, or No, then click Submit. There you can also see which other club members have already submitted their RSVPs. You're welcome to bring along any interested friends or neighbors. All our free meetings are social as well as educational, and include plenty of snacks and drinks to encourage lively conversations. We look forward to seeing another large group of pond lovers at this event.

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on June 6
    Today's meeting will be held in Joel and Dominique's home and garden in Pougny, in nearby France. We'll examine their long flowing stream and meter-deep pond, only 40 cm of which is below ground level. In its 10,000 liters of water we'll see many koi, carp, bream, and one lonely sturgeon. We'll also admire their much more spacious round pond, already looking so natural that it seems not to have been constructed just last year. Additional photos of these ponds, plus full details of this meeting, will be posted soon. Watch this space.

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on May 2
    Today's meeting will be held in Joel and Dominique's home and garden in Pougny, in nearby France. We'll examine their long flowing stream and meter-deep pond, only 40 cm of which is below ground level. In its 10,000 liters of water we'll see many koi, carp, bream, and one lonely sturgeon. We'll also admire their much more spacious round pond, already looking so natural that it seems not to have been constructed just last year. Additional photos of these ponds, plus full details of this meeting, will be posted soon. Watch this space.

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on April 4
    Today's meeting will be held in Joel and Dominique's home and garden in Pougny, in nearby France. We'll examine their long flowing stream and meter-deep pond, only 40 cm of which is below ground level. In its 10,000 liters of water we'll see many koi, carp, bream, and one lonely sturgeon. We'll also admire their much more spacious round pond, already looking so natural that it seems not to have been constructed just last year. Additional photos of these ponds, plus full details of this meeting, will be posted soon. Watch this space.

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free mid-winter meeting on January 17
    The pond club schedules several meetings per month in spring, summer and autumn, but our garden ponds, pond fish and pond plants go into hibernation every winter. Some pond owners stop thinking about water gardening in winter, and seem to go into hibernation as well. But the rest of us--especially those who have made very close friendships in the pond club over the years--don't want to wait until spring to see one another. We don't want simply to ponder about other ponders. We want to keep in touch with them, even in winter. The January 17 meeting is your ideal opportunity to get together with other local pond owners to discuss water gardening advice, where you vacationed over the holidays, new changes in your family or career, and every other topic under the sun. This mid-winter meeting will be held in the home of Peter and Sue Daniel up in Arzier. These photos show how their pond looked this summer. At this meeting we'll chat and snack, and see how their pond looks in winter. It's at a high altitude, so it's covered with ice much of the time. You'll learn what precautions the Daniels make to prepare their pond before freezing weather, how to keep a hole in the ice to permit carbon dioxide to escape and oxygen to enter, and what to do to prepare the pond for spring again. Please submit your RSVP now to let them know who is and who isn't coming.

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  • Geneva Area Pond Club's free meeting on October 25
    New club member Penelope Haccius has generously offered to host a pond club meeting in her home and garden, even though she hasn't yet attended her first club meeting. We'll be able to admire her garden pond, which she's redesigning and converting to a biotope to attract frogs and other wild creatures. The current pond is made of concrete, measures 120 cm by 260 cm, and is only 17 cm deep. Luckily the microclimate in Penelope's garden is surprisingly warm, so ice practically never forms on the water's surface. Such a shallow pond at a higher altitude could freeze right down to the bottom, making it an unsafe environment for fish. Penelope says, 'What I'd like to do is wait until mid-winter, then empty the pond, borrow my husband's jackhammer (marteau-piqueur), rip out the cement bottom, dig down another 20 cm or so, then put in a pond liner.' Ponds should be designed to be safe for fish, for plants and for children, which is why the main topic of discussion at this meeting will be pond design. A beginning water gardener's first consideration when planning a pond is to determine the best location for it. The sunniest spot in the garden would be ideal, so that the water lilies and other aquatic plants would produce the most impressive display of flowers all summer long. A spot with some shade is acceptable if constant blooms are less important to you, as long as it's not near a deciduous tree. Tree leaves falling into the pond could sink and decay at the bottom, creating noxious methane gas which could be fatal to your fish. If your pond is already in such a location, you should regularly net out all the leaves to keep that gas from suffocating the fish. Weeping willow trees look beautifully serene reflected in a pond, but their leaves contain a poison that could harm your fish even more than the methane gas. Ideally your pond should be positioned where you can enjoy it most. You might want it where it can easily be seen through your home's windows, or beside your gazebo or patio, or wherever you spend time relaxing or dining in your garden. Adding a bench or two facing the pond can give you and your visitors many hours of viewing opportunities and aesthetic pleasure. Installing a fountain or small waterfall to help circulate the water in the pond can add the pleasure of hearing the cheerful musical splashing. The sight of running water invariably attracts more songbirds into your garden, because they love to bathe in fresh water. The shape of your pond can make it seem either natural or formal, according to your preference. A formal pond, typically a perfect circle or rectangle, can add a touch of elegance to your garden. Such ponds are typically bordered with regularly cut paving stones or bricks. The look can be enhanced with classical statuary or a formal fountain. If you want your pond to look like one in nature instead, it should have an irregular contour, such as a kidney shape or an asymmetrical oval. The border can be created with stones of various sizes and shapes, logs, grass or other natural materials. For your convenience in maintaining the pond, the bottom should be perfectly flat to permit you to wade in when necessary. Some club members' ponds, including those made by professional pond-construction companies, have bottoms that are bowl-shaped instead of flat. That makes entering it very difficult--even dangerous--because you're likely to slip on the slanted surface. Assuming all your aquatic plants are planted in tubs, as they should be, the tubs will all slip to the center if the pond bottom is bowl-shaped. Taking a little extra time to make the bottom flat when first digging a pond will prove well worth the trouble. When club leader Peter Kacalanos dug his large pond, he created a 'shelf' around the entire perimeter of the hole. When lined with EPDM rubber and filled with water, the shelf was 25 cm deep and the rest of the pond was 50 cm deep. He affixed rocks to the inner edge of the shelf, filled the shelf space with soil to above the water line, and planted bog plants within that space. The result is a very natural looking border around the pond. That beautiful border also creates an unobtrusive barrier that keeps visiting children from getting too close to the water. Finding ways to keep kids from drowning is an important component of pond design. As Peter explained at one of the club meetings, pond owners must always be vigilant to keep children from falling into the water. He went on to say the kids' bodies tend to decay at the bottom of the pond and turn the water black, necessitating a complete time-consuming change of water. It took a few seconds for everyone at the meeting to notice the twinkle in his eye. Many other recommendations for pond design will be discussed at this meeting. The conversations should be informative for those water gardeners who want to modify their ponds, and truly educational for gardeners who haven't yet installed their ponds. As usual, many other pond-related subjects will be discussed at this meeting, so bring your questions for others to answer, and contribute advice based on your own experiences. Visitors are always welcome at these free meetings, so invite interested friends and neighbors to come along. Many visitors who attended in the past were inspired to create a pond in their own garden. They also learned that everyone interested in ponds can join the club for free, with no obligation. Let them know they can learn all about the Geneva Area Pond Club (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/about) on its web site at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/about). If they like what they read, they can instantly join the club by clicking the blue link to sign up. But first please submit your RSVP for this event to let Penelope know whether you can or can't attend. Log on to the description of the free meeting on October 25 (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/11535637) at http://meetup.com/Gen... (http://meetup.com/GenevaPond/calendar/11535637), and simply click Yes, Maybe, or No. We look forward to meeting many other new members at this event. Everyone's welcome.

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