“When we moved in here in 1972, we needed to make Northern Parkway go away,” says Vicki Kloze. “The racetrack was very busy then.”After the city purchased the vacant lot next door to their Mount Washington home, Vicki and Larry Kloze installed a fence then added tiny holly, white pines and arborvitae trees. Even more crucially, they added a vegetable garden.
“I wanted a homestead existence where we grew our own food, did our own preserving of food, our own painting and building,” says Larry, a longtime master gardener who has chaired the Baltimore City Community Gardens program and supervised community gardens citywide. With guidance and plans from the public television show “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” Larry built raised vegetable beds, double-dug the soil, started a composting area and planted a vegetable garden behind the house.
In the early 1980s, as the Kloze children were growing up, Vicki, a former art major, took a free course in garden design at Cylburn Arboretum and set about landscaping the areas around the vegetable garden and property perimeter. “She was very good at curving the borders, coming out into the lawn, knowing about texture, doing bubbles of plantings in groups of threes, fives and sevens,” says Larry. Vicki grew most of the plants either by seed, division or cuttings.
By the late ’80s, the addition of a door to the backyard and a deck prompted further garden expansion. Vicki widened her borders, while Larry added pavers to the shady south side, where the tiny trees had grown up, and built a patio off the back deck. At the center of the garden, he designed, dug and built a large pond, (continued on page 110) with a rock and flagstone coping plus a rock garden with a natural waterfall. The addition of water drew wildlife.
These days, birds flock to a Victorian urn-turned-birdbath and to a homemade feeding station off the deck. Frogs and goldfish fill the pond and foxes and rabbits frequent the garden. “By creating [plant-filled] borders you create safety for animals,” explains Larry.
CONCEPT: Extend the living space by transforming an urban, rectangular lot into an artistic and productive garden. Over 36 years, the couple has, on a limited budget, created a horticulturally sophisticated garden and wildlife sanctuary. “I have the shade, and Larry has the sun,” says Vicki. Larry also likes large groups of singular plants and sheered hedges, while Vicki prefers a less manicured, cottage garden look.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Reducing the amount of lawn that has to be mowed. Installing their patio, which eliminated a good portion of grass, was their last, almost back-breaking, project. Maintenance, of course, continues to be a lot of work.
GARDENTIME: Since both Larry and Vicki are retired, they spend a lot of time in the garden. They eat breakfast and lunch outside every day in good weather— but not dinner because Larry is allergic to mosquito bites. Vicki, however, often stays on the patio till 11 p.m., listening to the frogs.
GARDENTHERAPY: “I always say, ‘If you want to learn about yourself, pick a row of beans,’” says Larry, who has learned he has a bad back but also patience. After two heart attacks he also appreciates the exercise, the meditative and calming aspects of gardening and “the wonderful opportunity to be generous. It’s not easy to be generous,” he adds. “But gardening makes you generous. You share. You can be generous with your vegetables.” Just as he says this, a neighbor returns a half-dozen empty buckets that Larry had filled with about $500 worth of waterlilies for his neighbor’s new pond.
TIPS: 1. Do a lot of thought and preparation. “We are not impulsive,” says Larry, who advocates thorough research and deep digging as well as amending the soil so plants will grow well and be healthy. 2. Compost. “It’s a miracle,” says Vicki, who uses lots of the compost Larry frequently turns and monitors. It’s also a lot cheaper than Leaf Gro. 3. Stay on top of garden maintenance.
Potting soil, vegetable and flower seeds: Meyer Seed Co., 600 S. Caroline St., 410-342-4224
Woody plants, shrubs and trees: Sun Nurseries, 14790 Bushy Park Road, Woodbine, 410-442-2090,
Flower seeds: Park Seed: 800-213-0076, http://www.ParkSeed.com
Pavers: Jones’ Quarries, Marriottsville Road, Randallstown, 410-461-7199