Master Your Garden: Get ready for spring at the Master Gardeners' expo

Master Your Garden: Get ready for spring at the Master Gardeners' expo

April 5th, 2014 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Patsy and Charlie Moss combined her love of gardening with his model railroading hobby to build a garden railroad at their Virginia home. Instead of buying the houses specifically sold for garden railroading, she started building villages with ceramic cookie jars in order to save money. Their Sugarland Express now includes 100 feet of track winding among 75 cookie jars.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Patsy Moss landscaped with Lenten roses, Albert spruce, hostas, deutzia and moss.

Patsy Moss landscaped with Lenten roses, Albert spruce,...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

At the Master Your Garden Expo, Patsy Moss will teach a seminar Saturday afternoon on how to build a garden railroad and plants that work well in landscaping them. Miniature crape myrtles add color to the railroad's greenhouse setting.

At the Master Your Garden Expo, Patsy Moss...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.


* What: Master Your Garden expo.

* When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, April 12-13.

* Where: Camp Jordan Arena in East Ridge.

* Admission: $5 ages 13 and older, ticket good both days.


Saturday, April 12

10:30 a.m.: Mark Issenberg - Succulents

Noon: Linda Fraser - Art in the Garden

1:30 p.m.: Clayton Beaty, Fertilizers for a Great Garden

3 p.m.: Patsy Moss of Yorktown, Va., Garden Railroading

Sunday, April 13

10:30 a.m.: Karen Webster - Miniature and Fairy Gardens

Noon: Tina Jennings - Heirloom Roses

1:30 p.m.: Pat Stewart - Herbs

Yard Smart

The expo also will include the first half of a six-hour workshop on Tennessee Smart Yards. "From 3 to 6 p.m on Sunday, Part I will cover landscape design, water conservation, mulching and more. This workshop requires preregistration and there is a small fee," says Master Gardener Sue Henley. Part 2 will be held at a later date. To register for the Smart Yard session, call the UT Extension Office, 423-855-6113.

For 40 years, Patsy Moss studied human cells on weekdays, then focused on plants over the weekend.

"My husband is a great model train enthusiast," the former Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., resident says in a phone interview from her home in Yorktown, Va. "'I went with him to a train shop and saw a magazine on garden railroading and I said, "Honey, we're going outside!"

And did they ever.

The couple collaborated on a backyard model railroad layout, nicknamed Sugar Lands RR, that has been featured in Virginia newspapers and several Tidewater area train shows. More than 100 feet of stationary track winds through a town, tunnel and over a pond in a layout that is 40 feet long and 13 feet wide.

Moss is one of six speakers who will present seminars Saturday and Sunday, April 12-13, at the Master Your Garden expo presented by the Hamilton County Master Gardeners. The event, set for Camp Jordan in East Ridge, will include 70 vendors/exhibitors, live demonstrations, gardening lectures, even a children's corner to plant the seeds of interest in youngsters under age 12.

"The Master Gardeners will be giving demonstrations on raised bed gardening, how to make and use rain barrels, composting and the do's and don'ts of mulching," says Master Gardener Sue Henley.

And all lecturers will also be vendors in the expo, she adds.

Whether visitors are garden novices or pros, raising flowers or vegetables, expo organizers have tried to make sure there is something to interest everyone, she says.

Moss says she will be teaching how to start a garden railroad in her Saturday seminar, since they are not as common in the South and East as they are on the West Coast. As with any hobby, she explains, there are products such as houses, people and other accessories specifically for garden railroad hobbyists.

"But that can get expensive buying those houses, so I decided to use cookie jars," she says. "I must have 75. I have a grocery, bakery, antique store, toy shop, bank, hotel, factory and greenhouse. People started giving them to me. I put them out about mid-April and they stay out through October. The copper alloy track is out there permanently."

At the expo, she'll offer suggestions on live plantings to add vegetation to garden railroads.

"The miniature Alberta Spruce is the No. 1 choice. They only get about 3 feet tall and have small needles so they look realistic. Mini are the No. 2 choice in plants for garden railroads. They grow about 8 inches high," she describes.

She has also incorporated Lenten roses, Mexican heather, miniature crepe myrtles and deutzia with "white flowers that looks just like a dogwood blossoming."

She used her imagination to "bonzai pine trees" and sweetgums. "I just keep cutting their tops off, cutting them short to fit the layout."

Another workshop leader, Linda Fraser , will lead a discussion on Art in the Garden. The Atlanta artist specializes in native plants of the Southeast.

After moving to Atlanta, she began collecting specimens of plants on her property for a herbarium. She decided the best way to learn the plants' features in order to recognize them was to draw them, according to her website.

She now has 85 watercolor and pencil drawings of these plants, many incorporating native insects or woodland creatures. She's been featured on Georgia Public Television, and her work has been shown in exhibitions from Gatlinburg, Tenn., to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.