A Shared Passion

What do professional horticulturists do in their leisure time? They plant a glorious garden, of course.

By Adam Levine

Photography by Helen Norman


When Dan and his first wife moved here in 1998, the property was mostly lawn with only three large trees—a pin oak in front, a linden on the north side of the house, and a Kentucky coffee tree centered in back. Out of this blank slate of mostly grass, Dan carved sweeping beds in front and back, to which he added scores more trees and shrubs, many with unusual variegated foliage. Behind the house, these plants have grown up to create a solid screen that makes visitors forget that this secluded oasis of greenery is actually a rectangular slice of suburbia, with two neighboring houses closer than a stone’s throw and an office park over the fence at the back.

Dan’s favorite woody plants could fill a book, but he has a soft spot in his heart for a cutleaf chartreuse staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina Tiger Eyes), since this is one of the plants Peggy Anne was selling for Bailey Nurseries when they first met at a trade show in 2005. He loves winterberry (Ilex verticillata) for its bright berries that birds feast on in cold weather, and has planted a number of Hinoki cypresses (Chamaecyparis obtusa), “which anchor the winter landscape,” he says, “with their richly textured evergreen foliage.”

Take a tour of Dan and Peggy Ann's garden

Among trees, Dan favors long-lived, slow-growing “legacy trees” that support a wide variety of wildlife, including the native mossycup, white, and willow oaks. “These are trees that we’ll never see reach maturity but will ultimately fill this garden and provide us shade in the autumn of our lives,” he says. To provide both stature and shade in the present, he has planted numerous specimens of two fast-growing deciduous conifers, the native bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and its Asian counterpart, dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).