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Pfaffman Florida Water Garden

Waterlilies bloom in great abundance in this pond even in December and continue to bloom all winter long, though summer is their best season.

Steve and Yriska Pfaffman have a unique home and a quite a story about how they came to have it. Many Florida homes are in a development and have a pool and a spa in a screened enclosure that is the focal point of the home. The Pfaffman home is at the end of a development and has a large open space beside it. The screened area that encloses their pool and patio also has a small Japanese garden and a fairly large koi pond exploding with water lilies for a touch of tropic splendor.

The oriental garden is adjacent to the house but has its own screen enclosure. Beyond it is the highlight of the entire garden, the pond that is all but covered with large and lush water lilies, both day and night blooming. "In the morning they are like many suns and I sit out here with my coffee. It lifts up one's spirits," says Yriska.

"When we have people in, we put tables around the pool and I pass the food out that window from the kitchen and put on soft music and lights. We build a little fire in the chimenea and it is so beautiful out here," Yriska says. "I can't believe God has given me all this."

The pond holds many black minnows. "They've been there since we came and have multiplied greatly. There are two large algae eaters each about a foot long, and nine koi," Yriska says. They have a sand filter and back flush as often as three or four times a week so nitrates won't back up and kill the fish. But they never have to clear the whole pond.

She pushes Miracle Gro fertilizer sticks down into the soil in the pots that hold the water lily bulbs. The leaves are up to 18" long and variegated, the flowers huge and many, and the buds like towers of promise. "I've given many lily bulbs away," Yriska says.

On Thanksgiving Day 11 years ago, she and Steve were driving along when they noticed a yard overflowing with flowers. "There were exotic flowers climbing over the wall and on the screen over the pool," Yriska says.

"We have a little time. Do you want to drive in there and see it?" Steve asked.

When the found the house there was a "For Sale By Owner Sign" on it. They went to the door, smelled turkey, and asked if dinner was ready.

"Come on in," the owners said.

The lady who lived there was from Thailand and had many unusual plants. It turned out there were already two offers on the house. The Pfaffman's had been looking at another place nearby, but the made an offer as well. And the people were just waiting for someone who would appreciate the plants.

"It felt like we had won the lottery when we got this house," says Yriska, who is originally from Venezuela, but who has lived in New England and experienced cold winters. "I am the richest person in the world to be able to enjoy this piece of God."

They also bought a second lot, so they will always have open land beside them and a pond in view beyond where as many as fifty ducks sometimes swim up and then waddle into their yard.. They also enjoy the sound of the frogs.

Flamboyant foliage is used well in these beds. The pond and open area beyond gives the Pfaffman yard additional privacy and wonderful wildlife.

So now, although the traffic whizzes past on the other side of their garden wall, their bit of the world is peaceful, productive, and beautiful. They have orange and lemon trees and a mango tree that produces great amounts of very sweet and juicy fruit every summer. "I make mango chicken and salmon and mango milkshakes, and come home from school and sit out here and eat them fresh picked from the tree." There is one picnic table in the front and another in the back and they have good views of both sunrise and sunset.

There is also a fairly small pineapple patch that once gave 10 fruits at once, so they had a party and gave them all away. An annato grows in memory of her uncle. A good stand of edible ginger supplies Yriska for cooking and two small mamom trees promise more exotic fruit.

Around the rest of the house she has three kinds of jasmine and loves the fragrances, though they had to get rid of the night blooming jasmine because it caused flare-ups of Steve's asthma. That is one plant with an almost overpowering scent even to people who love most fragrances.

She also has several plumerias and some small jacaranda tree seedlings that she started from seeds she brought back from one of their trips, a bird of paradise, and some of the healthiest geraniums you'd ever see.

Best of all, both Pfaffmans enjoy the garden to the fullest. Mrs. Pfaffman (Yriska) teaches 10th grade biology at Riverview High and Mr. Pfaffman is music director at Progress Village. He also writes music for marching bands, including the program for the band at Ohio State's halftime show.

Now's the time to...

  • Consider combining plants very close together or even in the same hole. Yriska has combined red hibiscus with one of the white flowered jasmines for a striking effect. The jasmine also adds fragrance to the scene.