Monday, July 13, 2009

Garden tours offer great ideas and nice surprises

Steve Tusen is a neighbor I didn’t know, not until this past Sunday that is. Steve’s Garden Railroad was one of 10 local gardens selected this year’s Garden Tour & Tea in our small city of Port Clinton on Lake Erie's south shore in Northwest Ohio.

My wife Vicky’s garden was one of the 10 selected for the Tour hosted by the local public arts council. This is the second year the council selected her garden. She was honored and she enjoys sharing her garden with friends and other visitors. But she also loves to visit other gardens. So when she, as part of the Tour, saw Steve’s Railroad Garden she hurried back to get me, knowing my love for electric trains.

Living just blocks from our home, Steve has quietly put together an incredible Railroad Garden, complete with miniature, hearty plant material. Over the years he has trained and assembled a collection of more than 50 bonsai trees and shrubs, many of which have been incorporated into his backyard, G-scale, electric train layout. While he takes the train and its rolling stock in for the winter, he leaves the track, which is brass, and the plant material in place. Both survive northern Ohio’s bitter winters nicely, he says.

Steve worked for 36 years at a nearby auto parts manufacturing facility until it closed suddenly about 3 years ago. Soon thereafter he took his skills and love for horticulture (Steve is a Master Gardener) to the Mulberry Creek Herb Farm in nearby Huron, OH. Mulberry Creek Herb Farm specializes in producing and selling certified organic herbs and miniature perennials.

He says he has been creating bonsai for about 17 years and he began building his backyard garden railroad about 13 years ago. Each year he produces more bonsai and also adds to the detail of his railroad, which is one of the biggest secrets in our small city, although Steve in a genial, generous kind of guy, and freely shares what he’s learned, both the good and the not so good, in creating miniature plants and also building an outdoor model railroad.

Even if you’re a professional landscaper (and especially if you’re a professional landscaper), don’t pass up an opportunity to tour local gardens or talk with local gardeners. My guess is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you see and learn. — Ron Hall

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