An enduring attraction here at Berkeley Hort is the Koi Pond that runs along one side of the Aquatic Plants section. Built in the mid-1990’s, the original idea for the pond was to showcase aquatic plants (though, truth be told, the motivation for building the pond was to fill a large empty spot created when a creaky, old greenhouse was demolished). Pond plants remain popular, but the real draw to the Aquatic Plants section for most folks is the collection of koi fish. 

Fish Pond - Illustration by Helen Krayenhoff

Generations of customers have delighted in watching the colorful koi swim about. Curious kids and kids-at-heart can hardly resist the temptation to join them, especially on sweltering days. (But, please, don’t! Stay out of the pond and don’t touch the water, so we can protect the koi’s ecosystem. Also, we ask that you don’t climb, sit or stand on pond’s edge, for your own safety as well as that of the fish.) 

Eavesdropping from the office, I enjoy hearing adult customers chat amongst themselves as they humor their children, sharing stories from their youthful visits to the koi pond with their own parents, years ago. Sharing common histories and repeating traditions can be effective balms that soothe the inevitable scars of life. It is immensely gratifying to be part of so many peoples’ good childhood memories! And when I hear this generation of kids talking to the fish, I am assured that this tradition will continue well into the future.

Sometimes, if you arrive at the nursery early in the morning, you can catch the yard crew feeding the koi fish. Sometimes, little ones are even invited to help toss fish food pellets onto the water’s surface. The fish gulp and gobble with glee, their little mouths popping open at the surface, almost like they are giving the kids air kisses. So charming! I’ve seen kids’ eyes open almost as big as dinner-plate dahlias upon seeing the fish shoot up to the surface, mouths agape, hoping for just one more bite.

We don’t know exactly how many koi there are. There are at least 20, and maybe 35. That big fish, the white one, is thought to be at least 20 years old. Surprisingly, Berkeley Hort didn’t always have koi fish. The first ones were a donation from a customer who left the area and couldn’t keep them. The big white one may be an original from that donation!