The way Lloyd Rossnagel tells it, his roadside garden came about because he needed better light for his garden than his front yard, with its towering shade trees, could provide.
So the Brookswood resident built rolling planters that he could wheel out to the side of road during the day, bringing them back on his property at night.
Then he discovered he didn’t have to roll them back.
“I talked to the Township and they said I could do it out at the road, as long as it was all movable, and not solid in the ground,” Rossnagel recounted.
“If they ever want to come and do any work, I had to be able to remove it all.”
Since that conversation a few years ago, Rossnagel’s strawberry plants have been thriving, positioned right up to the very edge of the road that runs by his home.
Now 65, Rossnagel said he took up gardening for something to do after a 2001 accident that put him in a wheelchair.
“I had a construction company. I fell off a roof and I was paralyzed,” he said.
“I wanted something to do. My wife is a really great gardener, she works in the shade, because we have no sun in our yard.”
Rossnagel has his plants growing on raised platforms for ease of access and a wheelchair accessible ramp running through the garden.
Currently, he estimates he has eight different kinds of strawberries growing.
Because he enjoys them on pancakes, he maintained.
“I just really like the strawberries.”
Over the last three years, however, he’s been getting into other types of plants, such as the huge trumpet flowers that release a wonderful scent late in the afternoon every day.
He’s happy to have people sample his berries, saying because he lives on a street where everyone knows everyone else and keeps an eye out, he’s never had a problem with theft.
“I’ve never had anyone steal,” he said.
He explained the difference between the type of strawberries he cultivates.
Some are June bearing and they produce a lot at the end of that month, and they’re pretty much done. Others are ever-bearing and they start producing berries around June but they continue until roughly mid-September.
There’s also alpine strawberries that grow in areas on the mountains where there isn’t a lot of sunshine and are a good choice for the often-cloudy west coast climate, Rossnagel advised.
Neighbour Bruce Thomson called Rossnagel a “true landmark” who is known in his neighbourhood as the “strawberry guy.”
“I’ve come to know and admire [him] from walking my dogs by his house over the years,” Thomson said.
“He’s quite the guy.”
“It’s a special place he’s built, one that helps bring this community together, all grounded and nice, of fresh air, sun, strawberries and magic, for family and friends, right here in the heart of Brookswood,” Thomson added.
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