When Dr. Len Muller is not at the Bridge Club in Pikesville or visiting his grandchildren in Ellicott City, he can probably be found tending the flowerbeds he designed and planted at Bluestone Park near his condominium at Quarry Lake at Greenspring.
Since moving from his native South Africa to Baltimore eight years ago, the 72-year-old retired family physician and award-winning gardener and landscaper has been hard at work making his neighborhood beautiful.
Muller retired from medicine at 58 so he could dedicate himself to horticulture and landscaping. Much of what he knows about gardening he learned during his medical training.
“In South Africa, you do botany as part of the science curriculum in medical school,” he said. Muller’s dedication paid off. His gardens won Cape Town province’s gardening competitions for eight years straight and he earned top prize in the large garden category of South Africa’s national competition in 2007.
Despite his love of gardening, when Muller and his wife, Charmian, relocated to Baltimore to be near their children and grandchildren, they purchased a condominium with no outdoor space. Fortunately for Muller’s neighbors, his passion served as impetus for him to use his talent for the greater good.
At first, explained Muller, who is chairman of the condominium’s landscaping committee, he began doing some gardening on the grounds
surrounding his building. Soon, he discovered Bluestone Park.
“Almost everything that was planted previously had died. There was only a lawn and trees,” he said.
So Muller approached the homeowners’ association asking for its permission and funding to landscape the park on his own.
Before he began the project, Muller researched native American plants.
“The climate in South Africa is more Mediterranean, so this was all foreign to me,” he said. “I studied what grows here and brought in bees, birds and butterflies. This gets no irrigation. Everything survives because of the summer rain.”
Now the English country-style garden includes yellow, red, pink and white roses, rudbeckia, coreopsis, spider, altura, berberis and pennisitum as well as Russian sage, catmint and lavender. Appreciative neighborhood residents run, walk their dogs, birdwatch and push baby strollers through the lakeside park.
Muller weeds and maintains the park, adding new plants and flowers throughout the seasons. He does his best to keep deer and beetles at bay. He has also designed some of the area’s median strips.
“It’s my passion. I come every day to check on it and make sure it thrives,” he said. “Now, in the evenings, the park is full of people. Maybe it will inspire others to do this in public spaces. It’s a God-given gift to enjoy.”