Rod Kiel’s garden once was a steep slope plunging away from the modest brick home he shares with his wife, Carol. But since 1966, Kiel’s ingenuity and sweat have transformed the site into a series of terraces supported by tons of rock.

Tall and fit, with white hair and blue eyes, Kiel at 76 radiates the energy of a much younger man. Trained as a watchmaker and goldsmith in his native Germany, he worked as a jewelry designer and now is retired. Kiel often spends eight hours at a time in his 100-by-100-foot garden.

As we stroll through the garden on a chilly March morning, an evergreen clematis is opening white, star-shaped flowers. It’s climbing a dead filbert tree that Kiel left in place as a trellis.

Similarly, when he had to cut down a deodar cedar, Kiel left part of the trunk in the ground to support a trumpet vine.

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