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Man's labor of love is part of 2014 Soroptimist garden tour

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Man's labor of love is part of 2014 Soroptimist garden tour

It wasn’t long after Nelson and Marcia Austin started their backyard flower garden that Marcia fell
Man's labor of love is part of 2014 Soroptimist garden tour
Marilyn Knarvik's home in Niskayuna was among those featured on last year's Soroptimist tour.

It wasn’t long after Nelson and Marcia Austin started their backyard flower garden that Marcia fell ill.

“We had discussed plans of what we wanted to do and we did a little bit, but it was no great project at that point,” Nelson Austin recalled.

After his wife of 47 years passed away in January 2006, Austin decided to finish the garden they had started and dedicate it to her memory. The result will be on display during Soroptimist International of Schenectady’s 11th Annual Garden Tour, which will be held rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 14.

The show will feature five gardens in Niskayuna, one in Schenectady and three in Scotia.

Austin’s Scotia garden now fills his back and side yards. It includes a small goldfish pond, Southwestern accents and a riot of flowers ranging from ageratum to petunias.

“It’s not huge, but it’s very lovely with flowers. He has a lot next door and has flowers over there too,” said garden tour co-chair Frieda Tanski.

Creating the living tribute to his wife has been a challenge for Austin, since he has macular degeneration in both eyes and is legally blind.

“I can see, but I have to get up very close to it,” he explained. “I have been know to pull out flowers rather than weeds.”

The 79-year-old has been assisted by a number of friends and now has a gardener who works with him in his yard.

“He says, ‘Nelson, you come out and I’ll show you what to do,’ but he says, ‘You’re not pulling anything,’ ” Austin recounted with a laugh.

Austin works on cultivating and keeps the garden well watered. With a little assistance, he does some transplanting, too.

“I go out and get some exercise and I guess I talk more than I do things,” he joked. “I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and the garden. Every house we had, we had flowers and we both enjoyed working with them. It was always something that Marcia and I both enjoyed doing and now I do what I can do. The best thing now, at my age and being retired, once the garden starts, I can just sit on the deck and enjoy it.”

Austin recalled some of his wife’s favorite flowers: carnations, roses, pink geraniums and miniature bluebells. Many of them will be found blooming in his garden this summer.

“I know she’s up there looking down saying, ‘Oh, it’s just gorgeous,’ ” he said.

This year’s Soroptimist garden tour will include many highlights, Tanski said.

“There’s the cutest garden in Scotia, on Knickerbocker. They have the most unusual lawn art in very bright primary colors. It’s a very small garden, but beautiful flowers. This is a standout because of the art that’s exhibited,” she said.

Another featured garden is mainly vegetables — an oddity on the typically flower-focused tour.

On display will also be a garden that features a combination of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers.

Proceeds from the self-guided tour will be used to help fund Soroptimist programs that improve the lives of women and girls through social and economic empowerment. Last year, the organization donated about $7,000 to those programs.

Soroptimist International of Schenectady’s 11th annual Garden Tour

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 14

Where: Five gardens in Niskayuna, one in Schenectady and three in Scotia.

What: Self-guided tour

Tickets: $15 in advance and $18 the day of the event. For more information, go to soroptimistofschenectady.org

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