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When Mary Jesch's parents passed away in the late 1980's, they left Mary and her husband the family home. Mary's dad had always loved to garden, but over time, the quarter-acre landscape around the house had become overgrown. Since Mary had grown up around an avid gardener, and her husband Francis was from a farm family, they saw the restoration of the gardens as a great opportunity for collaboration. Over the years they have transformed their yard into a showplace featuring a shade garden, a rock garden, tree and shrub borders and a huge perennial flower border. "We mixed old plantings with new, such as keeping a large peegee hydrangea and adding new plants such as Hameln fountain grass and Heritage river birch," says Mary.
In 1994, Francis and Mary turned their love of gardening into a part-time business. They started Cornucopia Gardeners as a garden design, installation and maintenance company. "We saw this as a part-time job doing something we love," says Mary. But within a few years, they had a thriving business on their hands, and found themselves with entirely new careers.
The Jesch's garden business grew by word of mouth and now serves the entire Framingham, Massachusetts area. "We design and install all kinds of gardens including Japanese gardens, herb gardens, cottage gardens, and formal perennial borders," says Mary. "We use strictly organic practices and products when gardening." By selecting the proper plants for the location, using tried and true performers such as rudbeckias, echinaceas, coreopsis, geraniums and salvias, and building the soil with additions of compost, they are able to minimize problems without using chemicals.
One product they have come to rely on is flower supports. "I generally don't like staking plants and try to place the right plant in the right location so it doesn't get leggy," says Mary. However, some plants just can't seem to stand up without some extra support. "The Grow-Through Flower Supports from Gardener's Supply help keep beefy plants such as delphiniums, peonies, monkshood, and baptisia upright while they bloom," says Mary. "The supports are strong enough to support large plants and flowers, such as peonies, but they stay hidden in the foliage so are unobtrusive". Mary places the supports over young plants in April or May so the stems will grow up through them. At the end of summer she cuts back the foliage, removes the supports and stores them away until spring.
Sometimes the Jesches take on a new garden in midsummer, and need to deal with "out of control" plants. Flexible, Y-Stake supports come to the rescue. "Y-Stakes allow us to get an overgrown plant under control. They are also handy for moving plants aside as we work in a bed", she says.
Another GSC product they enjoy is the 3-gallon sized French Blue Watering Cans. "We use them at home and on the job," says Mary. "For a large watering can they have good balance and are easy to carry."
Professional gardeners usually learn lots of time- and labor-saving tips over the years. "We've learned that to be successful you should start with easy-care plants placed in the right location," says Mary. "We also like to grow pest-resistant plants such as the Knockout rose. Sometimes you have to accept that you can't grow a certain plant in your location. For example, I'd love to grow the Himalayan blue poppy here, but it won't survive." The couple also believes in testing the soil on a regular basis, adding organic fertilizers and compost to improve fertility and tilth. They mulch flower gardens and landscape plants with a thin layer (1" thick) of bark mulch. "On our vegetable gardens we use salt marsh hay and it's great because it cools the soil, adds organic matter, allows good air flow, and doesn't have weed seeds," says Mary.
"We don't like to mix annuals in with perennials because we feel it muddies and detracts from the look and feel of the perennial flower border," says Mary. "We reserve special spots for annuals or place them in the front of the bed only," she says. "Annuals also have different watering requirements than perennials, so when you isolate them it's easier to keep them happy."
Following organic principles, Mary and Francis find they rarely need to spray for insects and diseases. The beneficial insects come in and take control of the pests," she says. "Occasionally we have to handpick Japanese beetles or spray a jet of water on aphids," she says.
With smart gardening practices and the right products, Mary and Francis are creating gardens that are healthy and beautiful, while also enjoying a livelihood perfectly suited to their interests.
Last updated: 10/24/15
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