Cutting Corners


In 1999, when investment adviser Diana Jacquot moved to her house in Homeland, she found privet, pea gravel, railroad ties, rectangular lawns, struggling roses, old lilacs and lots of acuba. It was the exact opposite of what she wanted: “raised beds, ponds, a patio and no straight lines.”

That first summer, with the aid of two moonlighting landscapers, Joel Harner and Mike Schertzer, Jacquot shaped garden beds, killed grass and reused bluestone squares from a path to form curved borders around the back lawn. The landscapers dug the pea gravel into the soil, built a patio, a goldfish pond and a drystone wall with raised beds, which Jacquot filled with plants from her previous garden. She then proceeded to develop a lush shade garden under a canopy of a large Norway spruce, a red maple and a dense Bradford pear tree, adding a crape myrtle, a smoke tree, a red bud, a Kerria japonica and an espaliered pyracantha.

Over the years, Jacquot lost the original tree canopy to age and wind. Now an original crabapple and the small new trees— a yellowwood, a paper bark maple and assorted conifers— are her largest trees and her once shady garden is in full sun. The two landscapers, who now have their own company, Harvest Moon Landscaping, recently helped Jacquot plant more young trees such as crape myrtles, a magnolia and a styrax japonica.

“It’s a mini-arboretum. I would say that my small trees are the prize plantings in my garden— headed by the Japanese white pine,” she says. “The Japanese maples, crape myrtles, chamaecyparis and dwarf conifers, plus a tricolor beech, provide structure to a spring and summer garden and the focus of interest in fall and winter.”

In nine years Jacquot has transformed every inch of her rectangular one-third-acre lot into a multi-layered, intricately planted tapestry that was recently featured on the garden tour of the Horticultural Society of Maryland.

CONCEPT: “It’s not that big, but it’s an excessive garden,” says Jacquot. “I’ve always said I’ve never met a plant I didn’t like.” Curved paths surround the house, patio, drystone walls, bird feeders and goldfish pond. Curved beds showcase fine plantings so numerous that Jacquot’s mid-sized garden rivals in plant numbers and diversity many of the city’s largest and best gardens. “Even though they are small, I wanted garden rooms,” Jacquot says of the distinct corridors and areas around her yellow brick house filled, in English style, with layers of trees, shrubbery, vines, perennials and annuals with year-round texture and color. Without Jacquot’s artistic flair and meticulous neatness, a garden this densely planted could easily look like a jumble rather than a work of art.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Adapting her garden to so much new sun. “It used to be 75 percent shade, now it’s 15 percent.” Another challenge is “keeping it going” throughout the spring, summer and fall. This garden begins blooming in March and doesn’t finish until frost. By diligently giving spent plants “haircuts” and deadheading, Jacquot ensures it looks good in between great flourishes of blooms.

BIGGEST SATISFACTION: “Gardening, if you give yourself over to it, guides the time of year and attunes you to the seasons,” says Jacquot. “I listen for the sound of the first frog— this year it was March 13…You are in tune with the cycle of life. … A whole universe, and an environment for birds, insects and fish, will happen if you have enough diversity.”

GARDEN TIME: “It is the center of my life,” says this accomplished gardener who has never taken a gardening course. She gardens before work and again after work until sunset. “It is my passion … Other people call it an obsession!”

In winter Jacquot reads extensively and looks at catalogs. “Someone once said, ‘The garden is most perfect in February, when you’re dreaming of it.’” In spring she cleans up winter debris, prunes and feeds the roses. Instead of letting bulb foliage die back, she cuts it down, leaving a little bit and feeding it. She cuts down irises and peonies after blooming then plants unusual annuals, like pale yellow impatiens, and containers of vines. In summer she fills a few empty spots with new roses and perennials acquired in travels with other gardeners. She deadheads and shears plants like Coreopsis to promote second and third blooms. Because everything is so densely planted, Jacquot has few weeds. In fall she slowly cuts down spent plants, transplants and divides perennials and mlches leaves for garden beds. And in all seasons she keeps a notebook of ideas and spots that need work.

GARDEN THERAPY: “It is an antidote to sadness and a full contact sport.  I do Pilates. I am passionate about skiing. I hike. But nothing takes more out of my body than gardening,” she says. “At the same time, it tunes you into a place in yourself. It’s a retreat, a sanctuary, a silent place with the processes of nature and wonder around you. It is very personal, yet it involves a lot of friendship, too. I love the people I’ve met through gardening.”

TIPS: 1) You need good earth, not clay. You have to prepare the soil with compost. 2) Read labels to find out what conditions the plant requires. Day lilies, monarda, rudbeckia do well here in summer. 3) Embrace the idea of change. If things get too big or die, if the weather or your tastes change, do something new. When something dies, I say, “Oh great. Now I can plant something else.” 4) Edit all the time. Take things out you don’t like and give them to a friend. Don’t be afraid to move things around.

Harvest Moon Landscaping, 410-399-2000
Cavano’s Perennnials Inc., a wholesale nursery open to the public Saturdays April to June, 6845 Sunshine Ave., Kingsville, 410-592-8077
Valley View Farms, 11035 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-527-0700
Carroll Gardens, 444 E. Main St., Westminster, 410-848-5422
Highland Gardens,  423 S. 18th St., Camp Hill, Pa., 717-737-8633
Joy Creek Nursery, clematis
Chamblee’s Rose Nursery
Seneca Hill Perennials
John Scheepers Inc., bulbs

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