Retired doctor finds therapy in gardening

As a young, accomplished doctor, Montez Mutzig never thought she’d be facing her own life-altering health issues.

After she was forced into retirement following a spinal injury, the driven internal medicine physician found herself at home with nothing to do.

She turned to gardening after her partner, Myrna Moss, suggested it.

“I knew she needed to do something to keep her mind busy,” Moss said. “I wanted her to be happy and knew that she missed the patients like crazy.”

Mutzig took Moss’ advice and plunged her idle hands into the soil.

“I guess you could say gardening has been therapy for me,” Mutzig said. And it wasn’t long before she was enrolling in classes to become certified as a Master Gardener.

“The process is a very difficult one. We constantly had tests,” Mutzig said. “It was like going back to medical school.”

Her dedication has transformed her Maple Ridge property. The 1920 cottage-style home is a work of art, the landscape dotted with splashes of color from hundreds of plants and flowers.

The home, 1260 E. 27th Place, is one of five on the Master Gardeners annual Showcase Garden Tour. On Saturday and Sunday, you can peek into the personal backyards of Master Gardeners.

“Our house used to be the one on the block with all the monkey grass,” Mutzig said. “So this is inspiration for people who think they can’t do it.”

Just like Mutzig and Moss learned to maximize space in their cozy, historic home, they did so in their backyard.

“Actually, we don’t have a backyard,” Mutzig said, pointing through the gate and into a secluded spot, no bigger than a normal-sized patio. “We even share the driveway with the neighbors – we had to learn to be creative.”

Behind the patio is a one-car garage, which serves as a partial screen for traffic noise. To completely block out Peoria Avenue, a two-tiered waterfall adds a peaceful distraction. Double pergolas and a mature river birch offer shade, and potted plants and garden trinkets abound.

The front gardens, highlighted by flagstone steps and a walkway, are extensive. Lace bark elms, encased by flagstone beds create a focal point, and beds lining the front of the cottage have native flowers and perennials – from a new breed of daylilies (Kokomo Sunset) to purple Salvias and bright Indian Blankets, which are the state wildflower.

Mutzig has been able to use her love of gardening as an opportunity to once again help others. As a group, Tulsa County Master Gardeners partner with Tulsa Public Schools for workshops. Last fall alone, Mutzig said, they reached 13,000 kids.

“They get so excited and are so eager to learn,” Mutzig said. “They’ll see me walk in and say, ‘Whoa, she’s the one who brought worms last time.’ ”

Mutzig also volunteers at the Oxley Nature Center, taking people on guided walks.

“I learned that you can help people in other ways; you can choose to help people, no matter your circumstances,” she said.


Tulsa Master Gardeners: Showcase Garden Tour

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $5 advance tickets at the OSU Extension Office, 4116 E. 15th St., $10 at any stop along the tour.

In addition to Montez Mutzig’s gardens at 1260 E. 27th Place, peek into the gardens of these Master Gardeners:

5219 E. 105th St.

White picket fences and flowers line 2-acre property. Grounds are certified by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the National Wildlife Federation. Also boasts koi pond and raised vegetable beds.

7927 S. Oswego Place

Landscaped areas require minimal care due to foot traffic from children. Woodland view in back yard and large, raised vegetable garden. About 80 percent of garden waste is composted.

4020 S. Toledo

Large pin oak in front yard, which began the garden’s story more than 35 years ago. The peonies, lily of the valley and English ivy are all cuttings from the gardener’s childhood home. Crepe Myrtle, hackberry tree shade the backyard, and maintained honeysuckle rows perch on fenceline. Forest screen to block noise and limestone terracing add depth.

2121 Aster Ave., Broken Arrow

The 2007 ice storm turned a shade garden of more than 40 hostas into a sun garden. Bright perennials and shrubs provide a colorful display. Luxury spa baths for birds.

Gardening tips

Suggestions from the garden of Montez Mutzig, a Tulsa County Master Gardener:

Make the most of your space.

Reduce, reuse. Not only does composting help keep waste from land fills, but also it organically fertilizes your landscape. Mutzig has four 40-gallon waste containers and a rotating “hopper” to store compost. The key is to keep it rotated and fresh. Compost anything from leaves and grass clippings to food. “Myrna gets embarrassed that I dig through the neighbors’ trash to find lettuce, whatever I can,” Mutzig said.

Plant perennials for long-term savings. Mutzig said she wasted so much money planting annuals every year. “It seems cheaper, but when you are replenishing, it is a waste,” Mutzig said. Plant a few perennials and add to them every year. Use annuals as an accent, not as primaries.

Winterize your rain barrel Mutzig uses a rain barrel to collect rainwater for use in the garden. To keep the water from freezing and busting during the winter, she used an inexpensive cat bed heater.

– Brandi Ball, World Scene writer

Original Print Headline: Therapy found in gardening

Brandi Ball 918-581-8369

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