Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, July 10, 2010


Homes & Property

 Mountain Views News Saturday, July 10, 2010 

One Of A Kind: Featuring unique homes & gardens and the people who create them Story and Photos By Chris Bertrand

A Passion For Ponds

 Tucked away on an unmarked plot of 
private hillside land far in the recesses 
of the Santa Monica mountains lies 
Don Hamburger’s aquatic plant nursery, 
Aquasphere. Here grows the rainbow 
hues of hardy and tropical water 
lilies, lotus, irises, papyrus, cannas, 
ornamental grasses and dozens of 
other small flowering bog plants that 
are happy to have their “feet” or roots 
permanently wet in a natural or created 

 On this steep, terraced hillside about five miles from the ocean, 
Hamburger grows almost all his own plant stock to place in water 
gardens he designs and installs. You’ll find his twenty five years of 
work across Los Angeles, literally from the ocean to the desert, in 
private, public and corporate ponds in places like the Getty, hotels, 
commercial buildings, cemeteries and high end residences.

About twenty-five ponds, eighteen inches deep hold a thousand 
gallons each, with a different plant variety in each pond. Smaller, 
500 gallon ponds contain rarer or smaller varieties, and still others 
in yet smaller ponds. Simple cold frames extend the flowering 
season and give the season a head start for the tropical water lilies.

Hamburger’s installations have been featured in numerous 
magazines including the LA Times Magazine, Interiorscape and 
Pondkeeper magazines, and received awards from the Los Angeles 
Garden Show and Landscape Architecture magazine.

 With so many high profile and private installations to his credit, 
he reflected that no installation can ever be cookie cutter. So many 
details affect the plants: the sun exposure, air and water temperature 
variances, depth of the water, wind (pond plants prefer still water) 
and whether fish will cohabitate. And that’s only the beginning of 
defining the delicate balance required for a healthy pond!

Perhaps the most extreme installation was at a desert oasis with 
a hot springs water source over 90 degrees. Add into the mix that 
the existing concrete pond was subject to flash flooding which 
would wash away or at least disrupt the client’s envisioned water 
lily collection. Hamburger chose a tropical variety with prolific 
seed production, which supplies a new crop of seedlings after the 
yearly, desert monsoon floods. The solution was “Pink Capensis”, 
an African native well accustomed to warm waters, with huge 
amounts of fertile seeds even after a storm.

In another challenging installation in an office park, the 
300’x20’ existing pond already had a hundred and fifty 
mature koi, much loved and fed by the office tenants. The 
health of Koi and pond plants living together is always a 
delicate challenge.

 The koi graze all day, searching for insects in the vulnerable 
rhizomes of newly planted water lilies. When the client 
refused a protective, bog plant barrier because he wanted to 
give the koi full access to the entire pond, Hamburger came 
up with a beautiful yet workable solution once again. He 
initially planted specimen hardy, fully rooted water lilies and 
a very fast growing native water clover for the Koi to eat. The 
Koi feasted on the clover, leaving the lilies pretty much alone.

 In a cemetery installation an approximately twenty foot 
circular pond was nearly invisible from passing cars. By 
adding the vertical element of tall red cannas, visitors’ eyes 
were drawn to the water feature, inviting mourners to stop at 
this spot as a respite.

In a private setting, Hamburger was faced with a pond site 
with only 1-2 hours of sunlight a day during the summer, 
and almost no direct sunlight at all in the winter. Backed 
up to a massive retaining wall in front of an ascending cliff, 
this was one of the trickiest installations yet. Sandwiched 
between a three story home and imposing hillside, the site 
was claustrophobic… and to be shared with the owner’s dog 

 After careful analysis of the variables, Hamburger chose a design 
of terrestrial plants maturing to six feet as a background planter to 
the retaining wall, to soften the hardscape’s impact. The pond area 
in front now includes water lilies and a bog plant design shared 
with fish that provide visual enjoyment for the human and canine 

 It’s definitely a high maintenance operation that he compared to 
the daily commitment of dairy farming, but Don Hamburger lives, 
loves and breathes aquaculture… with a quiet passion that seeps 
from his every sentence.

 For more information about Aquasphere, visit their website at or contact Don Hamburger at 310-455-

 Know of an unusual home, garden or person who helps create 
them? Send the details!

Chris Bertrand

You find a neat "fixer-upper," then learn that 
banks won't lend until the repairs are done, 
but the repairs can't be completed until the 
house is purchased! This Catch-22 scenario 
can be solved by HUD's FHA-backed 03(k) 
"rehab loan," growing in popularity because 
so many foreclosure purchases are in dire 
need of repairs.

 This loan covers the cost of the home, plus 
money for repairs up to a

maximum of $35,000! To get the ball rolling, 
you'll need funds for the 3.5% required 
downpayment, and then to find a suitable 
property. Your real estate representative 
will prepare your offer, stating that you'll be 
seeking 203(k) financing.

 Next you'll apply to an FHA-approved 
lender, including a sheet listing each 
repair and its cost. Finally, an appraisal 
is performed to determine the value of 
the home once the proposed repairs are 

 Upon approval, you'll have financed the 
home purchase plus all your

proposed repairs (there's even a 10%-20% 
"contingency reserve" included to cover 
any unforeseen improvements). At closing, 
the seller receives the purchase price, and 
the remaining funds go into escrow, to 
be disbursed to the contractor as work is 
completed (within six months).

 Real estate agents support this loan 
program because it expands

homeownership and revitalizes 
neighborhoods, but all you need to know 
is that it will get you into a very affordable 
home right now.

 Luther Tsinoglou has just been named the top producing 
sales agent in Dickson Podley Realtor's Sierra Madre 
office for 2009, making the top 10% at the company 
overall. Luther has been licensed and practicing real 
estate since 1992. He specializes in residential and 
income property in Southern California. Luther can be 
reached at his direct line (626) 695-8650 or at luther@ 

New Listing!

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: Website:

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