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


“This sounds terribly clichéd,” Peggy Anne says, “but I think what I did was put the finishing touches—the woman’s touch—on things.” She added rectangular granite paving stones to the gravel garden; took a group of nine metal fiddlehead sculptures that Dan had collected and “planted” them outside the kitchen door, where they provide the common denominator in that ferny, shady part of the garden. She tied the areas of the front garden together with large pots, provided a table and chairs for outdoor dining, conceived of the fire pit as a focal point (both visually and for entertaining), and added more herbaceous perennials to bring the colors and textures of Dan’s woody plant collection right down to earth.

Take a tour of Dan and Peggy Ann's garden

“It’s all about the details,” she says. “The garden had great bones and a unique collection of plants, but it might not have been what you call cozy. You can put furniture in a room, but it’s the details that make it a home.”

One new direction Peggy Anne has taken the garden is to share it widely—with horticultural organizations and tour groups, but mostly with friends. She and Dan entertain in the garden often, fending off mosquitoes with citronella torches and sprays, wining and dining in the midst of the greenery, conversation and laughter accompanied by the insect buzz and birdsong as the sunlight fades. Such openness was not Dan’s instinct before—perhaps working so many years in a public garden made him crave a little solitude at home—but he has wholeheartedly embraced Peggy Anne’s need to share the beautiful place they both love so much.

Sharing the wealth is Peggy Anne’s way—not just the garden but good food and ideas, intimate thoughts, a beautiful view. Two sets of eyes looking at it, two minds thinking about it, two hearts loving it—“I really believe that everything in life is better if it’s shared,” she says. Every day they can, she and Dan end their day with a stroll around the garden, two 50-year-old soul mates holding hands, seeing what there is to see, and talking about what is to come.

Originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, December 2013/January 2014