By July, summer's heat has baked the early excitement and energy right out of the season. The gentle warmth of spring has turned harsh and brittle. It's too hot for tennis and golf unless you grab a sunrise or twilight court or tee time.

Pools, lakes, rivers, sprinklers, water parks and the garden hose become the welcoming gathering spots. Squirt guns, water cannons and water balloons have taken the place of soccer balls and bats.

Relief is spelled w-a-t-e-r. And you'll find this issue ankle-deep in its joys.

Meet the Greater Cincinnati Water Garden Society members on page 24 who stay cool and serene along with their Comets and Koi in backyard water getaways colored with exotic blooms, bubbling waterfalls, rocks and visiting birds. No room for a pond? You can still enjoy the gurgle of a stream or the shimmer of falling water with the elegant pottery that Renaissance Garden Ornaments transforms into "pondless" water features in Transformations on page 6.

Imagine jumping into the power pool and spa we spotted at the Home & Garden show in the Shopping Bag on page 10. Too pricey? Then consider the misting fan or the half-umbrella for keeping cool in tight spots.

And if water doesn't work its magic, then think ahead to winter. Our Christmas in July feature, page 28, spells out the wisdom of planning — now — for the holidays. Before you know it, your sister and her brood will be on your doorstep. Is your guest room up to snuff? Does the kitchen need an update? The dining room a facelift? It's time to plan . . . preferably poolside.

Make yourself at home,

Joy W. Kraft