About the Plants

Horticulture in the Railway Garden

An overview of plants in the Railway Garden

The Taltree Railway Garden is the largest and most intensively developed garden at Taltree. Because of its meticulous development and care, the exhibit offers many opportunities to increase the varieties of plants in Taltree’s collections. The hills and valleys, rocky banks and watercourses that we create allow the use of constructed soils and small microclimates that are unavailable anywhere else at Taltree.

One of many of the miniature and dwarf conifers in the Taltree Railway Garden

Plant Selection Criteria

One important horticultural goal is to balance the desire to increase the plant collection’s rare and unusual species with the functional and budgetary needs of the garden. To meet this goal, we have established certain criteria for the selection of garden plants:

For large areas of monotypic coverage we will use plants that are easily and inexpensively obtained or can be propagated by Taltree staff.

Rare and unusual or expensive plants are used in small discrete areas that are easily observed by visitors– these plants may have educational documentation associated with them.

Plants that cannot be grown elsewhere in the arboretum because of limiting soil or climate conditions are used in the Taltree Railway Garden in specially created habitats that arise from the construction of the garden.

Plant Types

The scale of the railroad elements in the garden will require extensive use of fine-textured groundcovers. Some examples are low-growing sedums, thymes, veronica, phlox, etc. In addition, we will use plants that are rarely used or have special qualities that make them desirable from a collections standpoint as well as meet functional needs of the garden.

  • Ericaceous Plants – The soils of the arboretum are unsuitable for ericaceous plants, which prefer acid soils. The model railway garden is the perfect opportunity to create the habitats they require. This is a great opportunity to bring in a family of plants that we could not otherwise grow at Taltree.
  • Ferns and Club Mosses – The scale of the garden is perfect for the use of club mosses. These once giant, ancient plants now are rarely more than a foot tall. They are not often found in most parks and gardens. Their inclusion at Taltree will be the beginnings of a collection of some very uncommon plants.
  • Wetland and Bog Plants – The water features in the Taltree Railway Garden allow us to create a bog environment on a small scale. We can use the bog habitat for plants we would have trouble growing elsewhere at Taltree. The scale of the garden makes creation and maintenance much simpler than would the creation of a larger bog elsewhere on the property.
  • Dwarf Conifers and Bonsai – The Taltree Railway Garden will contain a large part of the dwarf conifer collection at Taltree. The rocky, dry mountainous sections of the garden will be a perfect location for the plants. We will also experiment with creating dwarf plants, both conifers and deciduous, through control of nutrients and pruning (Bonsai). We anticipate the creation of a miniature pine or spruce forest on a large scale—something that is very uncommon.

Landscape and Education

Annual Lobelias add color to the Railway Garden’s plant palette.

The broad range of landscape ecosystems represented in the garden, from bogs and prairies to alpine meadows, will give us the opportunity to incorporate an ecosystem education component into the vignettes and at other points around the garden. By interpreting the built landscape and the micro-niches that allow certain kinds of plants to grow, we will aim to increase understanding of the habitats of plants and the ongoing dynamic between human cultures and the natural world. At the same time, interpretation can provide insights and encouragement for visitors wanting to plan their own landscapes or increase their garden diversity.