Gardens and Nature

 Gardens and Nature

“Living Jewels” adorn a Yellow Springs garden

By Carol Siyahi Hicks

The centuries-old breeding of carp has produced prized, ornamental koi fish that many call “living jewels.” Fifteen of these “jewels” grace a 10,000-gallon koi pond in the heart of Keith and Linda Kinney’s Yellow Springs garden. 

The garden fills their corner, double-lot property, which fronts on the town’s busiest street. Over 39 years, they created a renovated home and barn of considerable charm, and a garden sanctuary for peaceful seclusion, art and beauty—the perfect setting for their koi pond.

Entering their garden is an experience that is a cross between a treasure hunt and a living art gallery. Every turn in their garden paths contains a surprise of artistic plantings, water gardens and even art objects hung from trees or nestled among foliage.

“My philosophy of gardening is to garden in large spaces,” Linda says. “I am always trying to recreate my memories of growing up in Eastern Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains.” It’s the variety and lushness of the foliage that captivate her and inform her plant choices. A mostly foliage garden, she creates contrast through leaf choices. She looks at her garden as a tapestry, made by interweaving greens with bronzes and purples. “I love the foliage,” she says, “and the koi are the flowers.”

“I never had a grand plan for my garden,” she muses. “I did away with grass and created paths through the plantings, as I love to walk in a garden. It just evolved as we tried to create an oasis and feeling of privacy.” 

The artfulness of their home and gardens are a natural outgrowth of their backgrounds and Linda’s copper relief artistry—capturing natural beauty by tooling koi, flowers and birds into the warm glow of copper to be sold through art shows and her business, Copper Reflections. 

Keith’s arrival to an artistic lifestyle came through his woodworking ability and the art shows he did with Linda. Then Keith, a former lead pitcher with the Miami Marlins, entered into a partnership with the owner of Oak Heritage, maker of high-quality, hand-constructed bentwood furniture sold at art shows and galleries. 

Today their life centers on working on the never-ending tapestry of their home and garden, including their collection of koi. And they think back to 20 years ago, when they installed their first water garden and bought their first koi. Through increasing involvement with Dayton Koi Club, they learned what they needed to raise high-grade koi and build their 10-by-21-foot koi pond. 

“It’s the largest room in our house,” Keith quips. It took a year for them to design and construct their old-style, gravity filtration system. They also developed the knowledge to wisely purchase pricey, high-quality koi from the growing number of breeds, giving attention to conformation, pattern and skin quality. 

“The fish should be large and powerful,” Linda says. “They should exude a presence in the pond. You constantly are trying to improve your collection. It’s an art form where you’re always learning,” which can be said of gardens as well.