Secret Garden expansion OK’d

       Recent approvals by Colorado Springs Planning Commission have allowed Westsider Steve Muzzipapa to nearly double the size of his Secret Garden off Sheldon Avenue and 19th Street. ABOVE: Steve Muzzipapa stands with a fountain he’s installed and greenery he’s planted on his recently acquired lot at 19th 
and Sheldon.
Westside Pioneer photo       The one-man business schedules weddings and other events amid a bountifully planted nursery that he started in 1988 just north of Fountain Creek on a parcel about a quarter the size of his current 1 ½ acres.
       “You could say I'm a plantaholic and that's what happened,” laughed Muzzipapa in a recent interview.
       Specializing in unusual plant types, he estimates his main nursery at 420 S. 19th Street has more than 1,000 types of bushes and trees - trained along walkways and around internal ponds, fountains, gazebos and open areas. Part of that area (which is just west of 19th's deadend at the creek), was a junkyard when the former Mitchell High graduate began his efforts.
       Lately he's been getting started on two recent property acquisitions, a former vacant lot at the corner of 19th and Sheldon that will have its own plantings and be used for ceremonies, and a house and property (opposite the current garden) that will be available as a guest cottage and off-street parking for about 30 cars.
       He needed a conditional use and five variances from the city to work out the details of his expanded plan. There was no neighborhood opposition. The only complaints he'd ever received, he explained, were from an old house adjacent to where music sometimes plays during Secret Garden events. And he solved that problem in the past year by buying that property.
       “Other people are OK with it,” he said. “They hear the music, quaff a beer and enjoy it.”
       A garden-lover since age 9, Muzzipapa spent some of his younger years travelling the world to study great gardens. He especially likes the “old-world” European look. He takes heart in compliments, such as when a visitor told him an English-styled area of the nursery was like “being home,” and he tries to shrug off snubs - such as the snobby types who have set appointments with him only to make u-turns and drive off upon seeing the low-key appearance of his nursery from the outside.
       He never thinks the garden is perfect. “I keep thinking about what I can do to make it better,” he said. And he does all the work himself. “I'm too hands-on” to hire anyone, he explained.
       About the only thing that could stop the Secret Garden, it seems, is the state-proposed Highway 24 expansion, which would turn his property into pavement or possibly a publicly owned greenway. Muzzipapa is not pleased at the thought. “I got my own greenway,” he commented. “I hope they leave me alone.”

Westside Pioneer article