Randy R. Sutherland: 'Gardens are a never-ending story'

  • Hyacinth-beans-in-Randy-Sutherland-s

    Hyacinth beans in Randy Sutherland's garden in Toledo.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • Randy Sutherland in his garden.
    Randy Sutherland in his garden.

    Name: Randy R. Sutherland, visual supervisor at Kohl's, living in West Toledo.

    Garden specs: My 30-by-60-foot backyard has a large, patterned concrete patio wrapped with perennials, pots, walkways, arbors, fire pits, a small waterfall and a pond. With hidden treasures in every corner, I have the essential yard in which to party or to just enjoy.

    When did you start gardening? About 13 years ago when I bought my first home. Basically the yard was a complete empty canvas full of weeds, two half-dead trees, and two others that have since been removed. Being the creative person I am, it just took off and has been a never ending enjoyment. My mother had that effect on me. She started a garden with perennials of all kinds and pathways.

    Hyacinth beans in Randy Sutherland's garden in Toledo.
    Hyacinth beans in Randy Sutherland's garden in Toledo.

    What do you grow? The yard is wrapped with seven ornamental trees (peashrub, white dogwood, dappled willow, tricolor beech, Japanese maples), shrubs (a huge blue hydrangea), perennials, big pots of annuals for extra splashes of color such as the beautiful Contessa Burgundy bicolor ivy geranium. Under the wisteria arbor you can listen to the waterfall. I like finding the unusual tree or plant, something different that you don't see anywhere else. And I sometimes buy plants such as hostas just for their fun names.

    The fairy gardens are tucked throughout the yard. They allow me to be creative on a small scale and give the gardens a sense of nostalgia. I've got them in pots, a large plant saucer, a bird bath, and a three-foot-long curved pond liner. To make them, I fill a container with soil, plant with miniatures, add fairies and other small objects, and add a layer of fish gravel on top. Most can remain outside all year. The largest is in the black fiberglass pond liner set into a base of flat stones a neighbor gave me. It's called Fairy Village, and is planted with miniature varieties of spruce, boxwood, holly, ferns, strawberries, a ficus named Too Little, and tiny hostas called Cracker and Crumb and Cookie Crumbs. In an antique-looking birdbath, one I named Garden Party is planted with miniatures of mugo pine tree, bamboo, ornamental grass, and embellished with a tiny table and chairs. I add flat stones for paths and driftwood I collect on beach walks.

    Favorite plants: Love my Royal Frost Birch, clumping bamboo, and Sweet Autumn Clematis that I just got to climb up an old TV antenna in a new area I'm creating. Favorite annual at the moment: Stained Glassworks Trailing Plum Coleus. Gorgeous!.

    Give us a tip: Change is good, so don't be afraid to change something you don't like or that didn't grow the way you intended. I'm always changing or moving plants around. Also, buy perennials at the end of season when they go on clearance. If you can't get them planted where you want this fall, dig a hole in the ground and plant the container. In spring, you can transplant it where you want.

    Hours spend gardening: Approximately 20 hours a week, usually after work to unwind from the day. It's a great stress reliever. It also depends on what ideas pop into my head about recreating an area.

    Annual Expense: Annuals, about $100. Perennials, about $100; it varies based on what I'm doing in the garden, whether adding new plants or recreating a spot.

    Challenges: Weeds, of course, like the invasive chameleon plant. Weeds somehow grow even when we don't get rain. I'm fighting to get rid of a vigorous vine that keeps spreading.

    I'm proud of: The way my garden has matured and changed over the years. Gardens are warm and inviting. And I'm proud that I won a first place award this year for fairy gardens in the Toledo Botanical Garden's Gardens Galore Contest.

    What I get out of gardening: Gardens are a never-ending story; full of life, adventure, enjoyment, and nonstop palettes of color. It's fun to sit back and watch what happens next.