By Cheryl Brendel

One of the many things we remember about our past at the holiday season is our Christmas tree with a train running around under it. We would spend so much time arranging the cars to go through the little villages we would create.

On a recent trip, we stopped at an outdoor exhibit by the Denver Garden Railroad Society. We are both Master Gardeners and Dave is a train enthusiast, so this was interesting to both of us! Just watching the trains go through the various areas within the display showed the amount of work involved. This was not only by the details in the “neighborhoods,” but the paths of the trains running through them.

The details of the gardening in that display also required a lot of planning. As gardeners, we realized that the plants needed to be in proportion to the staged communities. There needed to be a way of caring for them, the watering, the weeding, the nutrients and also replacing them as the annuals died. The volunteers caring for the layout needed to be able to carefully work between the tracks, houses, power sources, etc. Watching the volunteers, we realized that this kind of gardening was difficult. When watering the plants for example, she said she also needed to understand what went into running the whole layout. A little water on the outdoor track could start some rust and be detrimental to the trains. Stepping between the trains, track and other parts of the layout sometimes got a little acrobatic. The overall garden railroad was very impressive.

When we returned home, we found that there is a Pittsburgh Garden Railroad Society! One of the largest Garden Railroads is in Scottsdale, Ariz. For gardeners, it would be a little easier to maintain the plants and flowers as the climate would not change that drastically. One train engineer in Chicago has his track run so that he can turn a switch and run them into his garage for the bad weather.

But for now, as we approach the holiday, we can think about our train under the tree. If you do not have a train, you can visit the “Train Gang” holiday display at Washington Crown Center now through Dec. 23. It is free, donations are welcome. The donations cover their expenses and donations to local charities.

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, please contact the Greene County Penn State Extension Office at 724-627-3745.

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