When Amy and Mark Wieland bought their traditional Cape Cod nine years ago, it offered a home with many improvements already in place and a nearly half-acre blank slate for Amy to work her gardening magic.
Previously, the couple lived in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, and were unaware of Catonsville. A friend who knows that Mark is an avid mountain biker suggested they consider Catonsville because of its proximity to biking trails. After looking into the schools for the couple’s two sons and discovering the charming neighborhood with homes from various eras, they were sold.
Amy Wieland first studied interior design at George Washington University but discovered her real interest was in landscape design, so she completed a certificate program. Now, seemingly, their home shows evidence of both talents. Both she and her husband, Mark, a commercial interior photographer, share an interest in putting a creative spin on another’s castoffs. Weathered shutters given by a friend have been turned into a charming screen on the back deck thanks to Mark Wieland’s carpentry skills.
Now as owner of Amy’s Garden Design, Wieland works with clients to create small-scale garden designs—her specialty. At home, a series of eye-catching mini-gardens can be found throughout the property, each one to be encountered in a rambling naturalistic way.
She has also turned her talents to the community, creating the garden next to the , which recently earned Baywise certification, for being environmentally responsible. Most recently, she assisted in ’s creation of a , under the aegis of the school’s Environmental Club.
Catonsville Patch: What changes have you made to the interior of your home?
Amy Wieland: We haven’t done any major additions but we did open up the rear wall in the living room because the room was so dark. And my husband built the shelves surrounding the doorway to the space that we use as a work-study area.
Patch: Can you describe your decorating style?
Wieland: My grandparents had a farmhouse in Pennsylvania. We have lots of pieces that are from my grandparents. There is no one theme in this house. Most of everything we have gotten in our house [besides pieces handed down by grandparents] we have either gotten at estate sales, yard sales or Craigslist. We probably have two things that we actually bought at a store: our dining room table and chairs and that little red couch [visible in study].
Patch: What do you like about living in Catonsville?
Wieland: I love that it’s such a warm community of people. It really feels like it takes a village and this is the village that helps raise a family. It’s like a little Mayberry. You feel safe and comfortable and accepted. And, being a gardener, I appreciate how people love to garden here.
Patch: How did you make the decision about creating your landscape?
Wieland: I do plans for everybody else. Here, there is no plan, no design. It’s just as I go. It’s very free and it’s very naturalized. Other people may prefer more order.
I don’t fertilize. My garden just does what it is doing. I might water the trees when they get exceptionally dry. I don’t feed anything, other than grass clippings. I also have a composter. So, am constantly feeding with what is already here.
Patch: What is your favorite feature of your gardens?
Wieland: I love different areas. I love the deep shade of the front. I love my two ponds. I love the big open space that allows for volleyball games or football. I love the variety of plants that I have.
Patch: Have you always loved to garden?
Wieland: It’s in my blood. My grandmother was a big gardener and my mom is a big gardener. It has always been a passion. When we lived in DC, I had a little victory plot. It was a 20- by 20-ft. space from the Depression era. We lived in an apartment in Glover Park and you rented the space for $50 a year, perhaps less. You had to have mostly vegetables but you could devote 10 percent of the space to flowers. It was the way that I really got started.
Patch: What advice would you give to someone planning a landscape?
Wieland: You need to focus on priorities. It’s hard to see the big picture. It gets very overwhelming. Pick an area that bugs you the most. If it’s the curb appeal you want to work on, focus on the front first. If your budget doesn’t allow you to do the entire thing, figure out what is the thing you want done first.
Start small and do your homework on plants: consider where they are located; the conditions; the size that they will get. I have made many of my own errors. You put them in and they look tiny and cute, but they do grow up. They’re like kids.
Patch: Is there anything that you would have done differently?
Wieland: I used to have a vegetable garden but it was planted in an area near a black walnut tree. I didn’t know the effects of black walnut and I got so frustrated that my neighbors had this plethora of tomatoes and mine withered. Black walnuts produce a chemical called juglone that gets into the soil and only the fittest survive.
If you move into a new house, live with what you have for a while. If you go through the seasons, you understand how hot certain areas get. Here, I have many different climates.
I do see gardening as evolving, like a house. Things change over time. We had a swing set in the back, which is now gone and, later, a half-pipe for the boys. Now it is gone and we have a fire pit there.
Patch: You are a Master Gardener. Could you explain what that means?
Wieland: You take courses and classes in Hunt Valley [for Baltimore County’s program] once a week for six months. You learn all different aspects of gardening. Their mission is to promote and educate the public on various gardening aspects. It could be on vegetable gardening. Bay Wise is another group that promotes keeping the garden healthy by not using pesticides and fertilizers. It is an all-volunteer organization and you are required to take an exam. Once you pass, the first year you are required to do 40 hours of volunteer service.