Best small garden: Glen Stegmiller, Sykesville

2011 Garden Contest Winner

  • Glen Stegmiller, winner of the small garden category, has created a train garden in Sykesville.
Glen Stegmiller, winner of the small garden category, has created… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
July 13, 2011|By Liz Atwood, The Baltimore Sun

Glen Stegmiller has loved model trains since he was a boy and was so passionate about his hobby that eight years ago he opened a model train store, The Moose Caboose, in Sykesville/Winfield.

So it is probably not surprising that when he and his wife, Ingrid, decided five years ago to dig up a portion of their suburban yard to plant a garden, he would build a train garden.

Even before the first plants were in the ground, Stegmiller laid out the track of his G-scale train. But even that had to wait. The first step in the 40-by- 90-foot garden was the fish pond. He and friends dug the hole, lined it and placed the rocks and fountains. Next a friend with a Bobcat cleared away the grass. They laid down landscaping fabric to deter weeds and covered the area with mulch.

Stegmiller carefully plotted how he would lay out the train track. He included tunnels and bridges for the trains and built paths through the garden. When the train was running smoothly, he added the plants: sedum, creeping Jenny, pink and white spirea, bearberry, red creeping thyme, dwarf Japanese maples and dwarf twisted Hinoki cypress.

The trains stay outside in all weather, even snow. The engine can even be outfitted with a snowplow to clear the track.

"My wife and I wanted to build an area we could walk through and enjoy and relax in," Stegmiller said.

Even it though it is an established garden, Stegmiller says it isn't finished. "Every spring we introduce new plants," he says.

His most recent project is putting in low- voltage lighting to highlight pond and walkways. And there is always something that can be added to the train villages.

Stegmiller says he used to have a train garden in his basement, but he never had time to play with it. Now he can play with his trains while he's outside mowing the grass and working in the yard. He turns on the train and it chugs along the tracks while he works.

"It's very soothing," he says.

Favorite plant: Japanese umbrella pine

Tips: Do it step by step and plan carefully, considering the water and drainage. "You've got to be dedicated. It does take a lot of work to keep it maintained. The satisfaction, the gratitude afterwards, and to share it, it makes you feel so good inside," Stegmiller says.

Runner up: Sandra Waters, Charles Village

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