You could say that when Sande and Don Riesett purchased their heavily wooded Brooklandville property in 1999, they were green to the world of gardening.
“Before buying this house, we were both city people,” explains Sande, creative director for Outlaw Advertising. “We were living in central London, and before that, we were living in the city in Baltimore. When we bought this house, people said, ‘Do you know how much work it is going to be?’ And we said, ‘What work? It’s a forest.’ There was no grass to cut. We figured, how much maintenance could there be?”
But shortly after moving in, the couple realized the error of their assumptions: They would, in fact, need to toil in the soil, especially given the fact that their half-acre property (which backs onto seven additional acres of protected land) was situated in a floodplain near a tributary to the Jones Falls River. With a front lawn that was nothing more than a soggy mud puddle, and water coming into the basement of their four-bedroom country home—not to mention trees that had been swallowed by a massive tangle of brambles, vines, and overgrowth—the couple needed a crash course in landscaping.
Luckily, they had a secret weapon: Sande’s father, Tom.
“Her dad loved to work in the yard,” says Don, a former CEO of Doner International. “He would get the overgrowth off everything and tidy things up, and that helped us get started.”
A decade after moving in (and with formal assistance from Carter Wornom of Landscaping Creative Ways), the Riesetts’ property is now a sight to behold, featuring steppingstones, woodchip trails, and intricate stone paths that wend their way through the natural woodland setting. Turns out, Sande did have a source of inspiration: her grandparents’ farm in Denver, PA. “The land had these little paths,” she recalls. “And the paths would take you to a log cabin, or they would go off in one direction or another, and Don and I would always talk about that.”
In their own garden, an element of surprise delights the eyes at every turn, from a magnificent hollow tulip poplar tree (“You can literally stand inside and see the sky,” marvels Don) to a headstone memorializing Sande’s late sister Patricia Lohm, to an artfully positioned armillary sphere and sundial.
Today, the one-time city slickers get tremendous pleasure from their garden. “Even on the days when I just weed and trim my little herb garden,” says Sande, “it gives me a sense of accomplishment to see what I’ve done.” Agrees Don, “I love looking out over the garden and seeing the work I’ve done. I get more pleasure looking out and seeing what I’ve done when I’m inside than when I am out there working.”