Gardener Story: Zvonimir Mirceta aka Alex

Detroit Shoreway

The house at 1329 West 65 street was built by a carpenter for his family in 1900. In 1942 the Isabella family bought the house for $5,231.00. Mr Isabella was a baker and he and his wife raised 9 children in the house. Ann Isabella, a daughter, described it as" a happy house", when she sold it to the present owner on Christmas Day in 1989. Alex remembered that day, ”My cousin, Branko, with whom I grew up in the former Yugoslavia, was present.  He took a photograph of me holding the key to the house.  It was my first house, at the age of 40...”

The neighborhood was rugged, loud and uncertain.The surrounding houses were occupied by transient tenants, coming and going, leaving their unwanted wounds on the tree lawn behind them. 

Alex continues, ”Buying an old house has its charm, but like an older person, requires special care .It is second nature for me to care for things and people. I took the challenge and after many years and a lot of money I  made it into my home, and fulfilled my dream by allowing me to establish my roots.”

There was a two-lot property adjacent to the north of the house, owned by a lawyer who planned to build a house someday but he was uneasy about the neighborhood.  It took some discussion (and money) to eventually convince him to sell.  And, in 1992 Alex bought the adjacent property.

“My first plan was to fence the property and establish privacy, but also keep the multitude of dog owners from bringing their pets by. The lot was vacant, no garden, just four foot weeds. Slowly, the work began to create the garden”. “I remember reading about the artist, Claude Monet, when he bought the property at Giverney said, "It took me 40 years to cultivate a garden". I am by nature a patient man which is fortunate as it has taken about 18 years to get the garden to the state it is in today. Every plant, tree, or shrub in the garden has been planted by me. Some of the native plants have been a gift from the birds that visit the garden.  Some of the plants were gifts to me.  I don't own my garden as I believe that plants  cannot be “owned”.They have chosen to be on this piece of land. The soul of a garden is an expression of its guardian. Long ago, I learned the necessity of knowing each plant as an individual in order to help it grow, and when I needed more plants, I had to discover more about them. I had to become aware of the way plants work, and their place in the world.  I learned this through my work as a psychotherapist.”

“I'm just a humble person with occasional delusions of grandeur. I continue to toil, taking care of my plants, not stopping to "smell the roses", but cleaning up the flower beds, pruning the barberry bush that scratches me every time I pass through that narrow path, cleaning the filter of the koi pond every few day. It is in the doing that I get most of my rewards...When I work in the garden, my mind stops, it's white, it's as if all time stands still...”