A joke of having a camel in the yard turned into reality. Now the couple also has Cecil the camel, a topiary in the front of their house.
THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
Name: Garry Mulkey, kitchen and facilities manager at COMPASS Corporation Recovery Services, living in Maumee.
Garden specs: About a ¼-acre on a corner lot. I also help with some landscaping at COMPASS in the Old West End in my free time.
When did you start gardening? At the age of 12 I began cutting grass in the old South end and by 16 I had 50 customers, also doing a little garden maintenance, and tree and bush planting for them. I loved being outdoors. I liked the flowers in my parents' garden and loved my grandfather's roses. I saved enough money from mowing lawns to buy a house the summer after I graduated from Bowsher High School (1976).
For my Eagle project in Scouts, I called the city and asked what kind of project I could do in the neighborhood. They suggested I fortify a steep hill banking down to the road at the public boat launch next to Walbridge Park. I submitted a plan, they approved it, and then I terraced, built retaining walls with railroad ties, and planted perennials such as coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and even geraniums. Some other scouts and their fathers helped. It held up for five or six years.
What do you grow? Roses, perennials, annuals, and shrubs. There's a tulip tree in the front that blooms with big yellow flowers twice a year. Surrounding a large fountain on the lawn is a Victorian-style garden: four triangles of low-growing boxwoods, and inside the triangles are roses.
Favorite plant: Roses. I buy Jackson & Perkins roses. The hardiest have been Chicago, Queen Elizabeth, Mr. Lincoln, and Perfume.
Give us a tip: When I get fish remains from people I know who fish, I bury them in two-foot-deep holes I dig next to the roses. I also place egg shells and coffee grounds around them. As a result, the leaves look shinier, blooms are bigger, and I don't get a lot of Japanese beetles and aphids.
When we travel to different countries and states, Carol (my wife) says, "Here we go to a rose garden." My favorites are at the Biltmore in Asheville and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London.
Hours spent gardening: 15 hours a week.
Annual expense: About $600. I add bulbs to my collection of tulips and daffodils every year. I replace several rose bushes that haven't done well, and add more perennials and shrubs.
Challenges: Keeping all the weeds out. And shaping the spiraled Alberta spruces in front of the house, which takes about an hour per bush. I wrap string around the bushes as a guide and trim with small clippers. Nevertheless, Gardening is how I unwind from work, it's good therapy. In the summer, I call my wife Carol a garden widow because I'm outdoors everyday for hours and sometimes until dark.
I'm proud when people drive by my home real slow and point at my fountain area. Also when people stop by and ring our door bell and ask if they can take a closer look at our yard. The neighbors often compliment on how beautiful it is. It has six water features. This year a friend encouraged me to enter the Toledo Botanical Garden's Galore Contest and I won first place for Water Feature Garden.
Tell us an anecdote: A few years ago, things turned ugly. We had always joked about putting a camel in the front yard. Carol [who is of Lebanese descent] has an extensive camel collection.
Garry: As a gift to Carol for our 25th anniversary I ordered a camel topiary (a juniper bush) from a company in Portland, Ore. I watched its slow growth online over the three years it took to grow to the size I wanted. Each of the four legs is a separate bush (with a large root ball), the trunks are slanted and trimmed to look as if the two-humped camel is walking. It was shipped cross country on a flatbed and planted on our front lawn while we were on vacation in April 2010. We got home that morning at 5 a.m. and saw it on the front lawn. It was the biggest thrill. We were going to take pictures for our Christmas cards.
But that night, someone vandalized our very expensive topiary by pulling it out of the ground, dragging it into the street, and cutting its head off. We were devastated! [Carol: When Garry saw it, he let out a blood-curdling scream. He cried like a baby.]
Garry: I went out in the street and tried to drag it back but it was very heavy. A neighbor driving by stopped and helped me move it, stand it up, and replant it. I called every landscape and gardening place in town to restore his head, but no one was even willing to look at it. We even thought about adapting the head of an outdoor lawn reindeer.
We finally found a creative young gal named Tara Williams who has her own company, Dig In Design in Gibsonburg. She was a true miracle worker, rebuilding his head from chicken wire and fishing line and weaving the existing shrubbery into the newly formed head. She continues her care by stopping by, checking on its growth and weaving it through the wire, and giving him an occasional haircut. It now looks wonderful and we owe her our gratitude.
By the way, we've named our camel Cecil.