Marcia Fluer's beautiful garden in Golden Valley

  • Article by: KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2013 - 8:32 AM

Marcia Fluer, of TV news fame, now gets her hands dirty in her Golden Valley garden, a collaboration with her husband, a train hobbyist.

As a TV political correspondent, Marcia Fluer learned to be tough when it was necessary.

That’s a lesson she now applies in her garden: There’s no coddling of delicate plants.

“Anything that can’t live here deserves to die,” she said. “You make it in Minnesota or you don’t.”

She says this with a charming smile, the same combination of straight talk and warmth that made Fluer a trusted and popular presence in Twin Cities living rooms during the 1970s and ’80s, as a reporter and one of the first female TV anchors in this market.

Fluer left TV news in 1988, then spent the next decade as director of public relations for the University of Minnesota. Now she stays busy as a PR consultant and keeper of a large model-railroad garden in Golden Valley.

She tends the plants. Her husband, actor Phil Ross, tends the train. It runs through an enchanted miniature landscape filled with distinctive buildings that Ross builds from scratch.

There’s a tiny replica of the Burwell house of Minnetonka, a little station from the 1800s that still stands near Minnehaha Park, and “Nim’s Bait & Boat Shop,” dubbed for Fluer’s friend and former TV colleague Dave Nimmer. “He wanted it, we built it for him, and invited him over to christen it,” Fluer said.

There’s even a miniature brothel, “Vera’s Cathouse” (named for a now deceased neighbor), tricked out with tiny “fallen women” figurines. “I told her I wanted to make a rough bar, like you see out West,” Ross said. Vera, a theater designer, created the floozy figurines.

All kinds of whimsical miniatures find their way into the garden. “The neighbor kids give us things,” Fluer said. “Like this giraffe. He really doesn’t belong. But why not?”

Fluer has long dabbled in gardening. “I started as a kid,” she said, “because neither of my parents were interested.”

Now that she’s retired, she has more time to nurture her landscape, not that she’d describe it that way. “I’m really not a very good mother to my garden,” she said. “But I’m out here all the time. I’m constantly surprised at what the plants are doing.”

‘Hostaholics’

The front-yard garden is what first attracted her to the house, which they bought more than 20 years ago. It was professionally landscaped, with a cascading waterfall visible from the street.

“I drove in the driveway and said, ‘I love this house,’ ” Fluer recalled. “Actually, I loved the water feature. Then I walked inside.” The house was less to her liking. Ditto for the back yard. “There was a cottonwood on one side. A soft maple on the other,” she recalled. “It was shady. The grass was sparse and nothing else was growing.”

But they bought the property anyway, determined to transform it.

Over the years, Fluer and Ross have hauled in rocks and added a pond, turning their back yard into a lush English cottage-style garden. “Perennials are the backbone,” Fluer said. “I love texture, color and contrast. I don’t want anything to scream at me.”

Hostas are well-represented, in a wide array of colors and sizes. “We’ve become hostaholics,” Ross said. “There’s always room for one or two more.”

While some gardeners nip the buds to focus on foliage, Fluer lets her hostas flower. “The bees like it,” she said. “Some of the flowers are pretty. Some are magnificent. A couple of late bloomers bloom fuchsia.”

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