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Woman turns gardening into a career

July 06, 1999

Crane's gardenBy ERIN HEATH / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




BOONSBORO - Laurie Crane gets excited about colors.

The career gardener's enthusiasm was evident last week as she showed off her favorite plant, acaphyla, which has thick heart-shaped leaves in shades of green and pink.

Acaphyla shouldn't stand alone, she said, and in a flash paired it with a pink geranium, a chartreuse plant and a dark sweet potato vine.

Crane owns The Gardens, a wholesale and retail company in Boonsboro that specializes in unusual plants and topiary. She works at her home at 19223 Manor Church Road, which has six greenhouses and 11 theme gardens.

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Crane's love of color shows in the detail she puts into her gardens. Her newest garden has more hues than three packs of crayons, and all are shades of green.

"I wanted to do something different so I came up with a green garden," she said. "There are 27 or 28 different shades of green."

In addition to the green garden, Crane has a conifer garden, a shade garden, a grass garden, a perennial border, a vegetable garden, an herb garden, a bulb garden in a stone wall and a garden along a creek path. She even has a rock garden and a garden made up of plants of different textures.

The plants on Crane's 65 acres vary in color and size, from the low, green plants that thrive in the shade garden to the dwarf evergreen trees surrounded by lavender plants in the conifer garden.

The greenhouses are unique, because she and her staff grow the plants themselves, Crane said.

The Gardens sells exotic plants from around the globe, with species from North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia.

The greenhouses also have a large selection of topiary plants, which are plants cut into certain shapes. Many of them grow up along a stick and are trimmed or wrapped to make different geometric forms.

Another popular feature of The Gardens is the miniature gardens, which look like real gardens but are small enough to carry and put anywhere.

Miniature gardens need to be trimmed and taken care of just like regular gardens, and are good for beginners or those with busy schedules, Crane said.

Crane was inspired to work with plants by her father, who loved to garden as a hobby. Seventeen years ago, Crane started a business in downtown Boonsboro called Mountainside Gardens with her husband, Larry. After her husband died two years ago, Crane sold the business in town and moved the operation to her home, where she already had some greenhouses and gardens. Now she estimates she has more than 600 types of plants.

"I grew up doing it," she said. "I'm just really fortunate that I could make a career out of it. It's been a lot of clearing and planting and investing, but it's my love."

In addition to her plant sale business, Crane gives lectures on gardening and does landscaping, including at Fountain Head County Club in Hagerstown.

Crane's latest project involves people as well as plants. After struggling to communicate with a deaf person who was interested in her gardens, Crane decided to learn sign language.

"I want to teach deaf children how to garden," she said.

Summer hours for The Gardens are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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