The cascading waterfalls, deer-resistant plantings and ancient, native trees in the backyard of Wanda and Terry Nelsen in Ashland not only soothe you, they say, but will probably heal what ails you, too.

The cascading waterfalls, deer-resistant plantings and ancient, native trees in the backyard of Wanda and Terry Nelsen in Ashland not only soothe you, they say, but will probably heal what ails you, too.

The Nelsens' water garden is the crown jewel on the 12th annual, self-guided, Andreatta Waterscapes Pond Tour, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 14.

Sponsored by the North Medford Rotary, the tour will feature nine gardens stretching through Central Point, Medford, Phoenix and Ashland, with proceeds going to youth scholarships and other worthy community causes, says North Medford Rotary president Mary Hoskins.

The Nelsen water feature trickles and cascades pleasingly through two courses of local basalt rocks, surrounded by giant boulders, majestic ponderosa pines, oaks, madrones, cedars and firs, inviting you to park yourself on flat spots and slide into a soothing trance.

The yard, above Ashland's Siskiyou Boulevard, is unfenced, which invites deer to wander in but doesn't offer them much to eat.

"I love and welcome the deer," says Wanda.

"But," says husband Terry, "Deer-proof is less expensive. This is not a deer smorgasbord."

Accenting the water feature are a pair of charming, iron, heron sculptures by Diana Rassmusson of Sams Valley.

Renowned for the scores of fountains, ponds and waterfalls she has designed in the valley, Tonja Andreatta says "my canvas is my excavator." She gouges huge trenches for watercourses, often to the distress of homeowners who may not appreciate that it's all going to get filled in with rock work and look like the real thing.

"It should look like water carved its way through the earth," says Andreatta, "yet you have to sit with the terrain and rocks and the people and listen to them, and you learn where the rocks want to go and which face they want to show — but sometimes I wrestle them with my will."

After a tour of Andreatta ponds, says Wanda, "you see what she can do and you trust her."

Despite the crashed economy, business is good, says Andreatta, because many people don't have the money for travel or for buying a more expensive home, so they are working on making their home the place they want to be.

"Lots of people ... want to give it a tranquil, resort quality," she says.

Water features aren't necessarily cheap — about $20,000 for the Nelsen project — but they bring a beautiful and permanent change that increases the land's value by at least that much, says Wanda.

"You get a lot more than you pay for," she says.

The tour, which Hoskins calls "a feast of the senses," includes:

Extensive, meandering waterfalls and a pond where full advantage was taken of the natural hillside and blended with edible landscaping and flowers. A makeover of an existing 2004 feature. The falls cascade down a natural, steep incline into a koi pond nestled in a manicured lawn. The sound carries through the home, with direct views from general living spaces in the back. A water feature at an Ashland bed and breakfast that diverges from the falls and flows lazily down two streams to a koi-filled pond. The sound of a babbling brook blends with a visually relaxing setting, creating an intimate, private patio space. At one of three pondless water features on the tour, a charming waterfall is situated on a hillside property where everything in the yard serves a function, including the water feature installed for its sound. It's an excellent example of spatial planning on a steep hillside. An L-shaped deck drops directly to a koi pond in a yard located on a steep hillside with wonderful views, and the sound of the highest waterfall on the tour overrides the sounds of the freeway below. What started as a lake of overgrown junipers now offers diverse views from three decks overlooking this large waterscape. The waterfall starts at one end of the house, flows under a footbridge and ends in a pond shared by goldfish and koi. A laissez faire, or "let it be," approach to the pond and garden started in 2009 and creates a space in constant change. At one of three tour exhibits installed on level terrain, a three-foot waterfall takes gradual, dual paths to a pond below. The final stop on the tour is a showcase of ponds at Andreatta's in Central Point, with an aquaponics demonstration and information from fish specialist Steve Poet.

Tour tickets cost $15. They are available in Ashland at Northwest Nature Shop, in Medford at Best Friends Animal Clinic and Wild Birds Unlimited, in Central Point at Fidelity Quick Print or call 541-973-7826 or email

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at