Ramsey man hopes garden can help him stay in home

A Ramsey man has transformed his backyard into a patriotic troll garden.

Steve Rundgren was a day care center director in Coon Rapids and much better off financially when he started an ambitious home garden project 12 years ago. He now works part time and may lose his Ramsey home to foreclosure, so he will open his garden for tours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, with the hopes that he can pay off delinquent mortgage payments and show the bank he is doing all he can.  Photos by Eric Hagen

Steve Rundgren was a day care center director in Coon Rapids and much better off financially when he started an ambitious home garden project 12 years ago. He now works part time and may lose his Ramsey home to foreclosure, so he will open his garden for tours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, with the hopes that he can pay off delinquent mortgage payments and show the bank he is doing all he can. Photos by Eric Hagen

Steve Rundgren has slowly built up his collection of trolls, miniature castles and lighthouses, fountains, pavers and a wishing well over the past 12 years.

Red, white and blue pavers and landscaping blocks, and U.S. flags add a patriotic touch to the garden.

Rundgren may not be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor, however, because he may lose his home to foreclosure.

To show his bank that he will not give up and to earn some money to pay delinquent bills, he is opening his garden for tours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, at 14055 Dysprosium St. NW, Ramsey. No admission will be charged, but donations will be accepted and used for past due house payments.

“I hope things work out so I can stay here,” Rundgren said. “I like the neighborhood.”

Rundgren’s name may be familiar to some people because he was the Coon Rapids Day Care Center director at the Coon Rapids United Methodist Church for 20 years. He resigned about seven years ago because he was ready for a career change. He worked at KinderCare as an intern for about a year, but never was hired for a full-time job.

“I was working four jobs at one time and still couldn’t make ends meet,” he said.

Rundgren delivered Anoka County Shopper newspapers, rang Salvation Army bells, worked at a Brooklyn Park liquor store and worked for Home Depot. He quit delivering papers and the liquor store job when gas prices became too high to justify the commutes. The Salvation Army work was not always guaranteed because it only hires bell ringers if it does not get enough volunteers.

His only employment now is 30 hours a week at Home Depot, and this is not enough for the single man to pay the mortgage and bills. He is going through bankruptcy proceedings over the next few weeks and could begin the three-month foreclosure process then and be out of his home by November.

Red, white and blue pavers and U.S. flags add a patriotic touch to this troll garden at Steve Rundgren’s home.

Red, white and blue pavers and U.S. flags add a patriotic touch to this troll garden at Steve Rundgren’s home.

Rundgren estimates he has spent about $5,000 on the garden, but said most of his things were purchased when he was still at the day care. He estimates he probably spent $300 to $400 this past year, mostly on new trolls. Some things were donated to Rundgren, such as the miniature castles and lighthouses and the large U.S. flag.

Rundgren’s love of gardening came from his mother and father. His great-great-grandfather built a well-known rock garden in Albert Lea. He remembers visiting a troll garden in the town of Starbuck where he grew up.

Rundgren recently completed the garden just after his father celebrated his 96th birthday July 12.

Guests are welcome to bring a blanket to enjoy a picnic lunch. Artist Rebecca Buchanan will be painting a portrait of the troll garden and selling paintings she already completed.

If you are unable to visit the garden Aug. 4, but would like to help Rundgren, donations can be mailed to his home address at 14055 Dysprosium St. NW, Ramsey, MN 55303.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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