Do-it-yourself water features, worm composting and loquat jelly

Make your life more relaxing and less wasteful

“Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.” —Chinese Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu

Coolness in the garden
As summer approaches, ready yourself by staking out an area of your yard in which to create your own little (or big), relaxing oasis in the form of a water feature.

Magnolia Gift & Garden (1367 East Ave.) is fast becoming the go-to place for DIY water features—ponds, fountains and simple, attractive basins filled with floating water plants. Seek out Magnolia’s horticultural manager, Jim Belles. Both Belles and nursery co-owner Chris Hunter are on hand to walk you through the process of picking out “all the pieces,” as Belles put it recently—such as ceramic bowls, spheres and “water drums,” pumps, tubing, recycled-glass rocks and plants—that you need to create a water feature that meets your individual needs and budget. And Magnolia has a huge number of “pieces” of all shapes and sizes to choose from.

A small water-drum fountain plus pump and tubing will run you from $85 to $90, said Belles. Another simple, fairly inexpensive option is a collection of water reeds in a ceramic bowl—“no moving water.”

“We start with [desired] aesthetics, and then we go by budget,” offered Belles. “Starting at $85 would get you some water in the garden, but you could also get quite elaborate.”

Check out Magnolia’s demonstration pond, filled and edged with water-loving plants such as canna lilies, elephant ears and irises, to see just how elaborate you can get.

Because sound is so often an important aspect of a water feature, Belles advises going around to each of the numerous fountains on display at Magnolia to “have a listen” before making a decision on what to buy.

“The fall of the water determines how loud they are,” advised Belles. “A small feature is not going to have the same sound as a big one.”

If you’re planning on a pond, don’t forget to pick up a free supply of mosquito fish (gambusia affinis), which Magnolia keeps in stock. They’re crucial if you are going to have a body of still water in your garden, since a single mosquito fish is able to devour more than 200 mosquito larvae in one hour.

An assortment of birdbaths, birdhouses and wind chimes—to round out the peacefulness of your garden’s water-feature location—is also available at the nursery.

Call 894-5410 for more info, or visit

Keep your table scraps out of the landfill
The Worm Farm in Durham is hosting its once-a-month Build Your Own Bin Workshop on Saturday, June 5, starting at 10 a.m. Learn “more than you ever thought you would need to know about worms and composting,” as the Worm Farm’s website ( puts it. And come away with your own “worm bin” and a pound of worms eager to eat your biodegradable kitchen garbage. Cost of the two-to-three-hour workshop is $50. Call 894-1276 for more details.

what to do with all those loquats ripening on your tree
For some reason, in this country, loquats—those small, tasty, orange-yellow fruits with the big, shiny, brown seeds—are allowed for the most part to fall on the ground, unpicked and unwanted. In other countries, such as China, Spain, Portugal, Lebanon and Japan, the early-ripening loquat is prized for its sweet, vitamin-packed deliciousness. Expand your fruit horizons: Eat as many loquats as you can straight off the tree, and gather the rest to make loquat jelly. Loquat World, a website dedicated to the glories of the underappreciated loquat, has an easy recipe: