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All aboard! It’s Train Day at Maple Rock Gardens

The trains will be running at Maple Rock Gardens on Saturday. (Courtesy Maple Rock Gardens)

Whimsical railway comes to life at famous gardens

When Scott Paris bought Maple Rock Gardens, the unique Penryn property came with one especially whimsical feature: About 1,000 feet of miniature train tracks.

Miniature trains were a hobby of the gardens’ original owners, Frank and Ruby Andrews. Besides its famous formal gardens and working farm, Maple Rock Gardens boasts one of the largest garden railroads in Northern California.

The little rails wind through several of the terraced garden “rooms,” past forests of bonsai trees, around boulders and over meandering streams. The magic of this Lilliputian railway system really comes to life when trains are running. Saturday, Sept. 15, see them in action during “Train Day at Maple Rock Gardens.”

Presented by the Sacramento Valley Garden Railway Society, Train Day will feature live steam engines on the little track as well as its radio-controlled Maple Rock Railway special.

According to the railway society, the current aluminum track layout was built by Earl Martin. “The era is 1930s in California’s Gold Country and represents a small narrow gauge railway serving a gold mine, a logging operation, two visually separated small towns and a mountain lodge,” the society said in its Maple Rock snapshot.

Paris, owner of High Hand Nursery and Conservatory, made several improvements along the rail line to make viewing better and more comfortable for guests. That included adding 30 tons of rock and more dwarf landscaping. The railway is adjacent to picnic areas and overlooks Maple Rock’s massive lavender fields, orchards and farm crops.

Guests are invited to picnic on site as well as tour the rest of Maple Rock Gardens and enjoy live music while train watching. Food and drink will be available for purchase.

Wear comfortable shoes and stroll through the terraced property, considered among the finest private gardens in Northern California.

Train Day is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $10; children age 12 and under admitted free. Maple Rock Gardens is located at 100 Clark Tunnel Road, Penryn. Tickets are available online at .


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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