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Man creates garden of delights

Updated:
QUINTON, Okla. (AP) -- Feeling stressed?

A trip to Russell Bray's yard may be just the thing to soothe
jangled nerves and he really wants to share it with others.

"Anybody who wants to come is welcome," Bray said of his
garden two blocks south of the football field. "It's a beautiful,
peaceful place."

So far, he said, people have come from El Reno, Midwest City and
from all over Quinton to bask in the harmony of this oasis that
looks nothing like the desolation it was during the Dust Bowl.

Bray, who retired from farming after 30 years, said he needed
something to fill his time and decided to put in a small rock-lined
pond with a three-tiered fountain he and his son built by hand. He
liked it so much he added two more ponds and a carpet of flowers.

"I like to fool with flowers," he said, walking through a
latticed archway covered in the red flower of a hummingbird vine at
the entrance of the garden.

Flowers seem to explode from the hard-packed ground, making it
hard to believe that not so long ago huge clouds of swirling dirt
made it impossible to grow anything.

"I use a lot of fertilizer," Bray said. "This old ground was
worn out and burned up."

Now dozens of butterflies, green and yellow and orange, flit
from flower to flower -- even onto people's hands. "Those
butterflies will get all over you," he laughed. "They really like
it here."

Who wouldn't?

Water flows through fountains in three different ponds, playing
melodies written by nature.

"I open my windows all night and all I can hear is the water,"
Bray said.

Lush tropical plants fill the ponds.

"I've got water hyacinths, water elephant ears, water lettuce
that floats, cattails and lilies," he said.

The water lettuce "cost about $2.59 apiece" but grows so
prolifically "I remove four or five wheelbarrows full every
week."

Goldfish weave their way through potted plants partially
submerged in the ponds, breaking the surface to get the catfish
food Bray throws to them.

Around the ponds sit four statues of little boys holding fishing
poles. Each statue's line is attached to a cork which bobs in the
water when a goldfish bumps against it.

"People think the fish are really biting," Bray laughed.

The little statues hold a special place in this grandfather's
heart. He has two sets of twin grandsons and is a twin himself.

Each of the figures is named for one of his grandsons.

"Tyler, who is seven, said `that can't be Michael because he
doesn't have any freckles,"' Bray laughed as he turned one of the
statues around to show the freckles on its face. "So we painted
some freckles on him."

The other two statues are named Collin and Dustin, for Bray's
13-year-old grandsons.

Scattered around the yard are bird feeders of all sizes. A
squirrel feeder perches on a tree in the front yard.

Banana trees -- which actually produce -- surround this prairie
oasis.

Seating areas give visitors a place to enjoy the wonder Bray has
created. Hummingbirds dart in and out of the hummingbird vines;
birds stop to nibble on sunflower heads; a pair of blue dragonflies
dance upon the air side by side.

Each morning Bray and his wife, Roberta, wake up hearing the
music of slowly falling water, pour some coffee and sit in the
garden where they are surrounded by nature's loveliness.

"I forgot the names of the flowers as soon as I planted them,"
Bray said.

Maybe that's because the garden's beauty is so overwhelming one
can only sit and gaze wordlessly.

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