Donna Marie and Pete Reuter, of Royal Oak, stand in their backyard garden and showcase one of their heirloom tomatoes that they grow from seeds.

Donna Marie and Pete Reuter, of Royal Oak, stand in their backyard garden and showcase one of their heirloom tomatoes that they grow from seeds.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Royal Oak couple’s garden turns heads

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published September 4, 2019

 An overhead view of Donna Marie and Pete Reuter’s Royal Oak backyard captures their 20 different kinds of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

An overhead view of Donna Marie and Pete Reuter’s Royal Oak backyard captures their 20 different kinds of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Reuter and Marie sit on their garden swing, situated above decorative cement embedded  with glass stones  and blue LED lights.

Reuter and Marie sit on their garden swing, situated above decorative cement embedded with glass stones and blue LED lights.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ROYAL OAK — How many fruits, vegetables and flowers can you fit on one small Royal Oak corner lot?

Donna Marie and Pete Reuter, who live on North Altadena Avenue, have been cultivating their garden for the past two decades, and this year, it sports 20 varieties of flora, as well as whimsical yard art collected on their travels and a swing situated above decorative cement embedded with glass stones and blue LED lights.

The couple is presently growing tomatoes; cucumbers; radishes; tricolor carrots; onions; jalapeños; broccoli; red, green and orange peppers; swiss chard; spinach; purple beans; kale; snap peas; potatoes; butternut squash; cantaloupe; lettuce; red cabbage; gourmet finger carrots; and strawberries; along with 17 hanging baskets and many types of flowers.

“We live on a corner lot, so many people pass by our place on their way to Whittier Park,” Marie said. “For many years, folks have been complimenting us on our unique little garden, and many ask if they can walk through and take a closer look.”

The couple put a lot of work into maintaining their outdoor oasis.

“I do all the planting. He does all the building of the raised garden beds, some of the yard art and the swing,” Marie said. “Neighborhood dogs frequently stop by for a treat and water on their way to the park, while their owners share gardening tips.”

Other notable additions include a honeysuckle-covered arbor, a four-tier cement fountain, lights all throughout the garden, four rain barrels and glass art created by Marie.

Marie and Reuter have been together for 22 years. Both musicians, they met when Marie hired Reuter in 1994 to play piano in her band, Donna Marie & Motion.

“Over the years, we’ve learned a lot through the trial and error method,” Marie said. “We do everything naturally. We have two composters and did all that stuff before it was cool.”

The couple, she added, grows heirloom tomatoes from seeds harvested from their garden each year.

Reuter’s main job is in computer engineering, which, while not physically exhausting, is mentally exhausting, he said. 

“It’s wonderful to be able to take a break and putz around in the garden, whether it’s digging, hammering something or trying to figure something out,” he said. “It’s completely different than the computer business. It’s a great release. The garden is my tranquilizer.”

He said he enjoys the task of finding, as well as making, humorous garden art. 

“Our tomatoes are our primary thing, but this year, I got swiss chard at one of the nursery sales on a limb, and it’s just been a wonderful vegetable,” Reuter said. “(The garden) definitely impacts our grocery bill in a good way. It does dictate the menu for the day.”

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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