Tyler Diehl oversees the design, planting and maintenance of 22 acres of lush gardens in Monkton. The Ladew property, which is 250 acres in total, includes a nature walk and 15 “garden rooms,” each with its own theme.
While most of the design work takes place in the winter, along with seed-starting and mechanical maintenance, a typical day throughout the year involves cleaning, mulching and pruning.
How he got his start:
As a child, Diehl enjoyed playing outside, reveling in the plants of his own backyard. “Then one day somebody said, ‘You know, you can go to school for this,’ ” he says.
After earning a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from California Polytechnic State University, Diehl took an internship at Longwood Gardens, outside Philadelphia, followed by full-time work there and in Arizona. In 1999, Diehl began working as a gardener at Ladew Topiary Gardens, where he moved up the ranks to become head of gardens.
What he finds hardest/most rewarding about his job:
While Diehl says it can be tough to keep track of his staff of four full-time gardeners, seasonal gardeners and volunteers, he finds it satisfying to watch his staff develop. He also loves seeing the people who come to take pleasure in the fruits of his labor.
When he loves Ladew best:
Since he doesn’t mind the cold, Diehl prefers the winter. “I can see through the trees,” he says, “so I feel less boxed in.”
Where his favorite gardens can be found:
Besides Ladew, which he says will always be No. 1, Diehl admires Chanticleer Garden, the Morris Arboretum and Longwood Gardens, all in Pennsylvania, Dunbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., the J. Paul Getty Museum and Descanso Gardens, both in California, and the Denver Botanic Gardens.
During his travels abroad, Diehl also has toured gardens in Canada, India, Mexico and Russia.
How he gardens at home:
When he’s not trimming topiaries, Diehl keeps it simple. He turned a quarter of an acre of his property into a wildflower meadow.
What he advises for a novice topiary grower:
“You have to be patient,” Diehl says. A small topiary can take three to five years to grow to maturity. After selecting a plant with a small leaf, such as boxwood or privet, Diehl recommends letting the shrub dictate the shape it will take.
Ladew Topiary Gardens