Whether he’s precisely pruning trees at Oldani Landscape Nurseries or perfecting a model truck in his workshop, Norb Oldani has an obsession for detail.
He takes pride in both his nursery business and his hobby of restoring and rebuilding trucks, cranes and other models, where details matter.
“I get over the top on these things,” he says. “When I’m trimming spruce, if I see one branch out of the way, I have to get down and cut that. I like things done in detail.”
Norb’s attention to detail was apparent when he was a high school freshman and created a history project—a model of the Notre-Dame Cathedral built out of toothpicks, a structure he still has. For a history project the next year, he built a detailed, 4-foot-long Mississippi paddleboat steamer with working parts.
Norb discovered another passion when he was just a youngster—plants.
“While all the other guys wanted to go play baseball—which I did, but I wasn’t crazy about it—I was pruning roses,” he says with a laugh.
He and his wife, Delia, bought a farm in 1978 in North Branch, Mich., to start a nursery.
“We never looked back. We moved from the hustle and bustle of the suburban Detroit area,” he says. Today, their daughter, Ellen, is part of the nursery business, while their son, Norb Jr., lives in North Carolina. Oldani Landscape Nurseries is one of the few Midwestern nurseries that does its own grafting of rare and dwarf woody ornamentals. Norb has propagated more than 300 rare and dwarf conifer varieties using the grafting method
During the summers, Norb meticulously prunes each branch of the 62 acres of trees at the nursery. But when winter arrives, he puts away the pruning tools and spends more time in his workshop, meticulously building models.
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by Luann Dart