Growing with guidance

Photo by Peggy Fusco

Gardening is always an iffy proposition. You plant tomatoes in one spot, and they drown from the sogginess of the soil. You try a special tulip bulb, only to realize months later when every other tulip is blooming that this one was eaten by underground critters. One year you get a bumper crop of winter squash that seems to take over your veggie garden like the giant plant in Little Shop of Horrors. The next year — that same seed yields nada. Still, we persist in trying to paint our little plots of earth a certain variegation of color and hope we’ll have something to show for all our efforts.

Gardening Angels of Woodstock has been designing, installing and maintaining gardens in and around the area since 1982. “We do all organic gardening,” says owner Peggy Fusco, “and the people that I work with are experienced gardeners, some have been with me for 17 years.” With her stalwart team, she oversees the installation and maintenance of properties in Pine Bush, Catskill, Kingston, Boiceville, High Falls and, of course, her home base of Woodstock. “My furthest client is in Chicago — I work with her by phone, and even find people to do the work there.”

With a strong belief in the gifts of nature and in the value of spending time outdoors, Fusco and her team strive to create exterior spaces that enhance that experience, while also working with the environment in a healthy and helpful way. “Everybody wants as low maintenance as they can possibly have. We can plant grasses that only get six or eight inches tall, for example. You mow it a couple times to thicken it up, and then let it go wild. It’s good for places where a lawnmower can’t get to. Any empty spot of ground — something is going to grow there. To keep maintenance down, you need to make a decision about what grows there.”


A graduate of the New York Botanical Garden with a degree in landscape design, Fusco moved to Woodstock as a stained glass artist. Her love of digging around in the dirt and creating a garden gradually pulled her away from the studio, and her business sort of grew organically. After completing school, she had a family — which compelled her to start out slowly. Over the seasons, Gardening Angels has established itself as a conscientious company, operating with great integrity. That standard has remained, but some things change, and as someone who is close to the ground on a daily basis, Fusco is well aware of the climactic shifts and wobbles. She says “all bets are off” when it comes to the weather these days.

With 30 years of experience in landscaping and tending gardens in the area, she has a solid basis for her observation. “It used to be we’d have wet springs, dry summers, and wet falls. You could count on that. You could plant grass in the fall and know it’s going to get rain. Our worse drought last year was in the spring.” She also says that the tastebuds of the local deer population has changed. “They never used to eat forsythia and rhododendrons. Now, no one will even say ‘they won’t eat this’ any more. And the amazing thing about deer is that they have different tastes. One herd will eat astilbes and another won’t.” Fusco also notes that zoning laws in and around Woodstock have gotten much stiffer. “People used to do whatever they wanted — put up sheds, take down trees, put up fences. Now you have to go to the building department and get permission.”