Working the Land
Many Americans cherish a pampered, well-fed lawn; to Susan L. Schuler, a luxuriant patch of grass was a shameful waste of space. Over the years, Ms. Schuler gradually transformed her standard- issue, quarter-acre backyard in Allentown, N.J., into a dazzling botanical paradise. With help from her husband, Jim, she replaced most of the Kentucky bluegrass with raspberry and blackberry bushes, hordes of climbing roses and row upon row of savory vegetables.
"She was a great nurturer, and gardening was her passion," Mr. Schuler said. "She used me as a soil mover, and I was happy to do it."
A consultant to the securities industry, Ms. Schuler, 55, would put in a full day of work and then plunge into her yard, emerging with armfuls of cut flowers and the ingredients for an elaborate evening meal. On weekends, she would churn out strawberry jam, jalapeño jelly or sinus-clearing horseradish. An extra freezer held whatever produce the Schulers did not give away.
She would travel into the city most Tuesdays to see one of her clients, Sandler O'Neill, in the World Trade Center. For weeks after Sept. 11, Mr. Schuler could not bear to step into the garden, but as the air grew crisp, he knew he had a duty to fulfill. "I just couldn't let it go," he said. He has since pulled the last of the carrots, tilled the beds and blanketed the asparagus patch with a protective layer of straw.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 24, 2001.