Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2004
Regional Report

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Garden railways are fun for the entire neighborhood!

Railway Gardens

There is a huge interest in the bay area in miniature railway gardens. Some landscapers even specialize in this upcoming hobby. The "Henry's Garden" crew was lucky enough to visit one such garden, and I was amazed at what was behind the garden gate.

A Miniature World
Jack Verducci is a landscape contractor who lives right up the street from Henry. His extensive railway garden overflows into the front yard. On Halloween, neighborhood children are delighted to find G-gauge scale trains carrying carloads of candy. Following the tracks through the side yard reveals an amazing world, complete with forest, lumber mill, saw mill, theaters, saloons, neighborhoods, and even a tiny greenhouse complete with miniature potted plants.

There is a miniature round house where the locomotives are fueled and serviced. I didn't realize that steam engines were so demanding of service. The tiny trains run on butane gas instead of coal, and the water tanks must be filled frequently. The extra effort is worth it though when you hear the engine coming round the bend, steam whistle blowing and drivers clicking along the track.

Small-Scale Plants
The key to success in achieving the desired miniature effect is to use plants that have small foliage and flowers, and shrubs that resemble fully grown trees. Jack used Irish and Scotch moss on the hillsides to give the illusion of grassy meadows. A miniature pomegranate tree in full bloom was planted next to a tiny gazebo. A tiny, perfect maple tree graced the front of the grist mill. Creeping thyme was used extensively as a ground cover in sunny areas. The fact that it bloomed only enhanced the desired effect. Miniature fuchsias grew lush and rampant along the side of a Lilliputian Victorian house.

Hundreds of cedars were pruned in bonsai manner to give the effect of full-grown trees throughout the landscape. I can't imagine doing all that pruning, especially during the growing season. Jack calls it "Belly Gardening."

Jack built all of the structures in the vignette from cast resin, with the exception of the trestles, which are made of wood. He finds that the resin lasts longer than wooden structures and doesn't need as much maintenance. When he replaced the old wooden sawmill a few years ago with a new, cast resin version, he invited the neighbors over to witness the "Burning of Atlanta." Luckily, one of the neighbors was the fire chief. Jack showed me photos of the event, and it must have been very impressive.

Of course, the exquisite G-gauge trains run all through the garden, in and out of tunnels, over handmade trestles and bridges and alongside flowing rivers and rocky streams. The sawmill has a working, steam-powered saw. Logs were floated to the facility via the river.

If ever there was a hobby gone mad, this was the topper. Jack and his wife were so involved in the garden railway that every inch of their property was cultivated to accommodate the trains and structures.

The Bay Area Garden Railway Society offers monthly garden tours of railway gardens on both sides of the bay. If you are interested in more information on these beautiful masterworks, visit the Bay Area Garden Railway Society Web site:

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