Ed Disney, a cousin of Walt Disney, has created his own magic kingdom in Bellingham.
Disney, 60, used his longtime love of landscaping and creative design to make over the outside of the family home on Alabama Hill into a soothing outdoor garden with spectacular fish.
Using pumps and pipes, along with concrete, rocks and a wide variety of foliage, he designed two waterfalls that lead to a delightful home for more than two dozen Japanese koi.
"The 'bones' are in," he says, noting that the primary construction was completed in April 2013, a week or two shy of six months, with labor supplied by Bellingham's A-1 Builders. "There is some tweaking for me to do, and other possible work for me, although it may never be entirely finished."
The result is a striking vision that's dense, hilly, and highlighted visually by the large orange-and-yellow carp.
Disney and his mother, along with their two dogs, can even enjoy the serene landscape on a chilly day because he had heaters installed in the seating area.
Disney, a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston with a degree in business, worked for 11 years at Walt Disney World in Florida in the 1980s and early '90s. Now retired, he spent nearly two decades working in the Seattle area and elsewhere for the Haggen grocery chain. He permanently moved to Bellingham a little more than three years ago.
Disney offers firm advice for anyone contemplating an outdoor makeover like his.
"Don't compromise your vision," he says. "You'll need to find a landscaper who actually understands what your vision is. You also need to understand the dollars connected to your vision. I turned down some landscapers before I found A-1."
He says he didn't design his fenced-in layout to create a more valuable property.
"I did not look at ROI (return on investment)," he says. "I totally wanted to create an environment my mother and I could enjoy."
Disney says his main challenge was to design the layout so potential predators, such as heron and raccoons, couldn't threaten the koi. He also notes that the water system can accommodate potential overflows.
"There are 46,000 pounds of rocks in the layout," he says, while ticking off decorative plants such as bamboo, exotic pine, Japanese iris, various reeds and grasses, and two varieties of tropical ginger. He took out several trees and other vegetation, but retained a Magnolia he planted in the late 1990s and fits in nicely at the top of the hill.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.