Starting a new garden at 57

anicee(5a)August 7, 2011

When we sold our house last year I thought to myself that was the last garden I ever made. I had planted over a hundred shrubs, many trees, many flower beds, potager...I am now on my own and just sold this house after being here only 1 year and will be moving again but this time in a rural community. 2 big moves in a year.

I have bought an old but renovated farmhouse on a few acres. No garden there but a few trees: oak, beech, maple and willow and maybe some others I'll know when I move at the end of the month.

Lots of grass...the house is elevated and sits pretty on a little hill and screams to have flower beds around it and shrubs and more trees.

I will be living alone there with my pets and I'm kind of putting pressure on myself to create again a beautiful garden. I love gardening but it has to be relaxing and a nice hobby. I am in good physical shape and I think this time around I will need to be more patient with my gardening. I know trees take time to grow and if I am to stay there for a long time, chances are I'll see them big when I am in my seventies.

Would you start a big garden on a few acres in your late fifties?


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cyn427 (zone 7)

Absolutely. I am 59 and would love to be in your situation (we have only a half acre). I would start with the trees, then add the shrubs. I would lay out the desired beds and get them ready using the lasagna technique-makes life so much easier.

I hope it is a move that will bring you lots of joy. Just don't overdo it when you first move in. Look out the windows, look from outside back to the house...envision what you want and then do it! Nothing better for the psyche than getting outside and creating a garden.

After you move in, please do share pictures.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 11:20AM
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No doubt in my mind. I'm 60+ and even though I've gardened since I was a little kid, feel as though I'm still a gardening beginner. I don't think a day goes by I don't learn something new about gardening, plants, critters & Mother Earth. The goal is now and always has been doing whatever it takes to improve/enhance my little green acre. I've found ways to minimize the physical challenges so I can keep going and I mentally allow myself to take things slower. Hard to imagine what life would be like without my garden.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 11:53AM
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valree3(Nv zone 4)

YES!!!! 57 yrs. old isnt that old! Your garden will keep you young, happy and mentally healthy. Working in your garden it will also make you feel that this is your home. The farmhouse sounds wonderful. When you need help with the heavy stuff of gardening look to the 4H clubs or FFA kids in your area. They may be able to help you with some of the tougher jobs in your yard, not sure how much it will cost you but the kids I've been around love cookies and other baked goods. What a wonderful adventure you are starting on. Good luck, post pictures and keep us updated!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 1:06PM
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Speaking from age 61 here. Yes by all means build a garden. But scale it back from what you had. It is surprising how the body tells you that you are getting older each year. We have large gardens now and plan to move when I retire. That will probably be in 2-3 years. I will garden again, but not on the scale I have now. It is starting to become work instead of enjoyment. When that happens it is no longer something to look forward to. As you build your gardens, consider plants/shrubs/flowers that will be easy care.

I know I would never want to be without gardens, but on a much smaller scale than I have now.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 1:40PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Deffinately. You will get so much joy out of it. I could never be without a garden. Just start slow. Don't put pressure on yourself to get it all done quickly.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 2:59PM
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Oh, the possibilties to have with such a nice big piece of property. Perhaps consider some of it as a wildflower meaduw. Strongly second the idea of doing lasagna method for the beds. Hopefully you can easily get manure to top them with. Are you considering fruit trees?

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA
p.s. you're still really young

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 3:25PM
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I'm 57 and still gardening and rearranging the garden. If we moved again, I'd plant another garden (just not as large). I have a lot of space here that needed something because there was nothing (scraped ground after new construction). I'd just try to keep it smaller next time.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 3:28PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

Do it! I'm 74 and last year started a new Hosta garden roughly 40X20'- Had to cut down a bunch of maples and grub out roots and rocks. Take your time and take it slow.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 4:24PM
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Plant that yard and garden. You are already thinking in that direction, so go ahead and have at least something small.

Will you have close neighbors?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 4:29PM
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I've had a big garden for years, and I'm starting to wish for a smaller, easy-care garden now that in my 60s, not because I can't do the work but because I don't have the time.

My container garden on the deck is more enjoyable to me than the big garden now because it doesn't require all my weekends to keep it isn't as big a commitment.

The big garden takes an entire Saturday and some evenings during the week, and it doesn't leave time for anything else. If I was retired, I guess it would be a different story.

I'd love to see pictures of your renovated farmhouse and acreage, sounds exciting!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 4:35PM
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Congratulations on your new start! Just a few things to consider as you plan your new gardens...

You say you will be living alone in a relatively isolated farmhouse with acreage. Have you ever lived in a rural area before? Are you comfortable with tractors and snow plows? Do you know people in the area? Who can you call on for help with the heavy stuff? Roto-tilling beyond age 70 is not fun.

You also said that you are putting pressure on yourself to create a beautiful garden. Why? Do you think that you may be trying to recreate the one which you left behind? It sounds like what you had before was quite extensive and elaborate - is it even realistic here? Or do you have whole new ideas to try?

Are you still in the same zone with the same soil and precipitation that you are already familiar? Or will it be an additional challenge to you?
Can you afford the expense of all those new plants and structures?
As you grow older, what do you want from your garden - a destination, a purpose, a pretty scene?

I think that if I were in your shoes, I would be tempted just to lay down some sod now where needed, have a few containers on my porch, maybe plant a few trees in the fall to frame the view from my kitchen window...and then wait. Live with things as they are for a year before you commit to a whole lot of garden. Walk around your acreage and appreciate what Nature has already landscaped. Smell the air. Listen to the trees. Follow the wildlife. Watch the sky.

Then once you're more relaxed, you can develop a garden design which you can enjoy without the pressure. And if what you want then is still big - absolutely go for it!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 8:38PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

It sounds like you are getting lots of good advice. I'm 59 (hehehe almost said 57 and had to recalculate) and we built our new home 6 years ago so started all the gardens from scratch. Of course, I wanted everything to be perfect and had it in the back of my mind that I was shooting for my house to be on the Master Garden garden tour in a couple more years.

Then I realized that I was clenching my jaw when I was out gardening...feeling the pressure to get everything done and done right! That was not why I wanted to garden. I realized my garden is my sand box. It's where I go to play. I don't have to have it perfect or impress anyone else. Funny how we still have to learn these things at our age. Normally I kind of quit gardening by August because I am tired of it. But this year with my new attitude, I am still going strong.

So I guess my only advice is, enjoy whatever you decide to do. Let us know what you decide and please share pictures when you can.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 11:49PM
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b2alicia(zone 5 Westminster)

That's great!

I'm 61 (in 5 weeks) ,and I've never gardened much, because I didn't really have a good spot. But in 2006, I moved to this house with a huge yard. So I was 57 also when I first started puttering around, and I love it.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 12:30AM
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Thank you for all your good words and encouragement. Once I move and get installed, I will start taking pictures to compare in a few years the Before/After. I guess I am an impatient gardener and it's not the attitude to have even at 57.
I love this quote by May Sarton:
Everything that slows us down and forces patience.
Everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature is a help. Gardenign is an instrument of grace.

I think I was still mourning my last garden.

Adrienne: In between the house I had with the magnificent garden and the one where I am moving too, I bought a house in the Mountains in zone 3B (just stayed here 1 year), so I am going back 1400km away not too far from where I was living before but in zone 5A which is so much joyous for me than 3B. I don't know anyone there but it's a tiny rural community of 67 souls!!! I'm quite certain I will not stay anonymous long.
The soil: will have it analyzed and yes I am familiar with rural living and love it. There are ways to buy plants without spending a fortune in fancy garden centres like going to plant sales or farmers' market or plant exchange events.
Once I move there at the end of August, I will definitely just get myself organized in the house with my pets for the rest of the year and just enjoy the house and the property and observe and take note and next Spring will start with the intention of staying humble in all that vastness around me.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 10:08AM
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plantmaven(8b/9a TX)

I closed on my current house on my 64th birthday. The first thing I did was scatter columbine and larkspur seeds.
That way I knew the spring flowers would encourage me to keep going.

After really hard freezes this past winter and the drought this summer, I am ready to give up. This too shall pass. :^)

Being alone is tough. Fortunately my best friend is also a widow and lives with me.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 11:38AM
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Anicee- Congratulations! I can't wait to see pictures :)

You have a wonderful opportunity to design a garden that fits you, your pets, your land...and you can make it any kind of garden you wish. My only advice would be to have the garden fit your land, not try to do it the other way around. Find a nice shady spot and work on that first, so you have a cool, beautiful place to sit and relax, while you're working on your other garden areas.

My favorite type of garden is a cottage garden with lots of shrub roses and bee balm, lavender, daisies, and all kinds of flowers and shrubs that bring in bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other birds. I mix in lots of flowers, with my fruit and vegetable beds and a little woodland garden, under the trees is always fun. Enjoy your new home and future gardens!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 11:45AM
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I understand how you feel--we moved 2 years ago and I am in my early 40s but I groaned inside thinking of all the work involved in starting over. When we left our old house, I took a goodbye stroll through it, and I realized how much I had accomplished there in the previous 6 years.

I love that thought of the garden as a sand box. Our house here had no flowers, so I have been working to rectify that situation. :) BUT, most of the garden is highly visible to our neighbors and walkers (we are near trails and there are a lot of walkers out and about). I feel as though my garden should look better for all the time I am out there! But, the reality is that I mostly enjoy walking about in the flowers, up close and enjoying their beauty and trying out new plants. I love to see how things grow that I have never been able to enjoy before. I do, of course, enjoy good combinations, but for me it takes times for it all to evolve. I have to try it out to see if I like it. :)

Good wishes to you in starting your new garden. Take it easy and do the things you enjoy.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 12:09PM
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Well, you're hearing from all us sexagenarians! I did it too -- bought a house five years ago at age 59 and began gardening there after years of frustrating and anxiety-producing gardening in a community (not) garden in the city. It has been thoroughly life-affirming. I wish I had more money to buy bigger shrubs and trees, but I feel extra satisfaction at seeing the twig-like things grow and bloom. Will I live to see the apples and pears on the trees? Maybe, but for now I adore the small blossoms. It is just a slight rearrangement in your expectations. Live for the wonderful days we have now, and for next gardening season and let the distant future take care of itself. If you are a gardening soul, I don't think you will be able to keep your hands out of the dirt. My first year in the house was watching what was there and doing mostly annuals on the deck, as others have suggested. If I had a LOT of land (as you say you do), I would start near the house and move out from there. You can always expand. I have experienced the fact that I do tire more easily when I have to do heavy labor (but not all of gardening is heavy labor --cf. deadheading et al), and it does make me think I am not as young and strong as I used to be. The May Sarton quote is wonderful -- what even a small garden gives back in terms of joy and blessed-ness makes it worth it to start over in a new place. My avice -- go for it!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 7:32PM
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Your property sounds just beautiful and serene. So nice when the place you lives instills peace, and I'm sure your new garden will do just the same. As for starting when you're 57, I probably won't know what I'm doing before I'm 57, so I think you should go for it. I planted my first garden two years when I was 42! I am looking outside now at a HUGE 50' x 20' area that just got loamed due to a construction project, and I'm sure my eyes are as big as saucers. Looking at this, I think that start small advice was pretty good. It didn't seem this big when I was doing planning and prep!

Do take before and after pics because we'd love to see them. I didn't do that, and I regret it. It would make me feel pretty doggone content to see the difference all my work has made.

Way to go!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 9:09PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Three years ago I started my first real gardening adventure at the age of 56. It didn't even occur to me that I shouldn't. We started close to the house with areas we can see from inside and are working outward as time and energy allow.

Get going! The sooner you get working, the more time you'll have to enjoy it.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 10:25PM
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How exciting Anicee! I would love to start over again myself and I would def take more time to plan things out a little better. We moved to a piece of property with tons, I mean tons, of trees and have been taking down a few at a time, due to husband loving trees. Gotta have the sunshine for blooms so its a constant battle around this house. lol!! Can't wait to see your before and after pics. Your piece of property sounds so nice. Take care, Judy

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 10:33PM
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Heaven's yes! I am 67 and maintain a very large flower garden with a few veggies. It is the delight of my life. I cannot imagine not having a garden.

Plant what you like and enjoy working with. Whatever you do, don't turn gardening into a job, but allow it to be a joy by gradually growing into it.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 10:53PM
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You are still young and if in good health should be able to enjoy gardening for many years.

I started this garden 15 years ago altho the first 2 years were definitely trial and error and we had to have quite a few trees removed as it was too shady. I was 54 then and have done a lot every year. This year is the turning point for me tho as the weather has not cooperated and I finally realize there are so many other things I want to do than maintain a large garden.

I hope you enjoy your new home and will have winter months to plan. Take pics at various times of the day of different areas so you know the patterns of sun and shade to help with your planning. Start small, you can always get larger but it will be more satisfying to see completed small areas than larger unfinished ones. Hope you will post pics of your progress.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 11:38PM
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I still maintain an acre of gardens at 68. and love every minute of it (well, except for the drought this summer) and I don't think I could do without having my hands in the soil.

My gardens are changing as I age, however, and I find myself putting in more low-maintainence plantings, shrubs, and natives. A while back I read a post (an essay, really)in the winter garden forum that is wonderful, and I think worth reposting.

Here is a link that might be useful: winter gardening

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 5:34PM
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Here is another interesting essay by the same gardener (I like this woman!)

Here is a link that might be useful: levels of gardening

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 5:49PM
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Tnak you for all your comments. To answer some of you:
Soxxxx: No I will not have close neighbors. I am surrounded with fields and hills but I am able to see a farmer's house from my house. I have a 360 degree view and this really grabbed me when I got there and got out of my car. I turned around and couldn't believe how serene and beautiful the landscape was around me. I didn't feel isolated there. I just had a great feeling of finaly 'coming home' a bit like a stray cat who finally finds a home :-).

Kay: You write: 'Don't turn gardening into a job, but allow it to be a joy by gradually growing into it.' This is very nicely written and will have to apply this philosophy.

Lucky Gal: This is exactly what I am planning to do this winter, take the winter months to plan my gardens. I was thinking of this yesterday as I was in the middle of packing and quite exhausted, I was seeing myself with a good cup of tea at my kitchen table over there with books and a note pad and I have a woodstove in the kitchen. How nice is that?

Mosswitch: (love your 'name') Thank you so much for those links. I have read them and kept them in a file for further reference...conifer shrubs amongst your flowers beds...what a good idea. This lady who wrote all this is quite generous with all her information.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 9:06AM
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roper2008 (7b)(7b)

Not 57 yet, but if I'm in good health when I get to that age,
in another 10 years, you bet I'll still be gardening. I know
an 80 year old man that still has a large veggie garden.
Do what makes you happy and gives you joy.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 1:59PM
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gardenbear1(6 Ma.)

I'm 67 and retired last year and found garden has lowered my blood pressure, its not a job but a joy to get out and work in the garden, I would love to have a acre of land to garden on

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:58PM
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I've been on my own several times, and lived in the country. I couldn't wait to get back out into the countryside, so here I am. I loved it then and I still do. I would be so excited to have a place like that. I know how I am - I wouldn't be able to wait until I was out there in the yard gardening. It is the best therapy there is. It got me through the loss of my youngest child, two divorces and menopause. I would have lost my mind without gardening to keep me busy doing something creative.
I'm 59 and I am not in the greatest of health, but if I ever have to move again, even if I live to be a 100, I will ALWAYS be a GARDENER, and so will you. If you want lots of beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs around your new home, go for it! There's nothing to stand in your way. There is always a way to accomplish things if you have the will. Like you said - Farmer's Markets, local farmers and even neighbors. Heck! You have friends on here who can share seeds and starts of plants too. If you can afford to do so, get your foundation plants in first, which is the backbone of your garden, and then add flowers and things.
I'm having to do it the other way around because of lack of funds, but I enjoy changing things around. My gardens never look the same from year to year anyway, because I keep changing things all the time. Include something whimsical in your garden to make yourself smile and remind yourself that life is good and you are a good person. You can always pare it down later when you get to be 100, if you need to do so. ;) That's my philosophy anyway.
Enjoy your new house and make your home. It all sounds very lovely. If you're anything like me, the very first moment you stepped on that property, you envisioned what you wanted to do with it. You even said so in your initial post:
"...the house is elevated and sits pretty on a little hill and screams to have flower beds around it and shrubs and more trees."

And why not!


    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 11:57PM
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alwaysagarden(CA 9b)

Yes without a doubt! I can't imagine not having a garden I love it so. Go for it and take your time, it seems it has already been birthed in your heart or you wouldn't be thinking about it!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 5:03AM
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beautifulboy(6-Coastal MA)

I am 38 and so perhaps should not comment on being 57, yet, but just read your post to my mom, aged 68 and she told me to tell you to go for it. 57, she says, is really not that old. When your 70 you will love your trees ..and when you're in your 80s and 90s.
I also wanted to mention that my mother in law, who is 72, just decided to pull out her traditional garden and plant an edible landscape. She has removed pretty much everything over the past two years and planted blueberries, raspberries and vegetables.
In her book Animal Vegetable Miracle Barabara Kingsolvewr talks about howtardeningnis really a lobe of love, she illustrated this by planting asparagus in every house she ever lives, many of them rentals. Asparagus takes a few years to mature and so she admitted that she moved from some of these rental houses before she was able to harvest. She still kept plating asparagus beds in the new place though. I a greed with this thinking and have been doing the same sort of thing in my homes, by just puttingin work tommy garden even though I new I was going to move, for future tenants to enjoy.
Happy gardening! Inthink I am with all of these other previous posters here when I say I am a bit jealous of your new home! It sounds wonderful.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 8:48AM
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plantmaven(8b/9a TX)

In 1996 we built our dream home on 1/2 acre. That seemed huge after always had town lots. I was so overwhelmed. I had a vietnamese friend that gardened and her only child, a son, had just died suddenly. I asked her to come out there with me. It was really to help her make it through another day.
I remember sitting on the porch and telling her I was overwhelmed. She began picking up building scraps and looked at me and said," Litty bit one time".
I will always remember that when something seems too big of a job..
My DH passed away and I no longer live in that house and started from scratch in this house. I used the lasagna method and had a beautiful garden in lest than a year.


After about 9 months:

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 2:07PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

I've loved hearing from everyone. I'm still in my 40s and hope to garden into my 90s, like my grandma. Nice to hear all of you still gardening in your later years.


When I moved here it was a blank slate. I've planted hundreds of trees the past 8 years and it has been so rewarding. Some trees grow quickly and even at 5 years they are past the stick stage and now making a presence and establishing structure. The beauty of trees is that you spend time the first year keeping them watered, to help them establish. But after that there is almost no maintenance. No cutting back, weeding, mulching etc. So they are a fair bit of work at first, but then you can enjoy at your leisure.

Shrubs are similar, depending on which variety. Many shrubs have a beautiful natural shape and don't need pruning. Those are the ones I recommend :-)

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 7:15AM
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Listen to the wisdom and experience of 'gottaggarden'
She is a woman who knows.

Best wishes for a bright new beginning in your new home.

and Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 12:03PM
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I know people at 50, 60 even 80 who are very strong and active. My friend at 55 is a competitive bicylist, swimmer and jogger. Another at 70 who has had double hip replacement surgery is back at what he does best, exploration of mountains and rockeries -- all off the beaten path I said.

the point is, don't settle down. Dig, dig, dig. the more our muscles are exercised, the better for our physical and mental wellbeing.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 11:11AM
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I posted something for you on my "Get-up-and-Go" topic. (The last thing I posted just now.

((HUGS Little Girl))

You are a master gardener and a wonder! No matter how many times I look at your Before and After photos, I am totally in awe! That was not just lasagna gardening that transformed that yard into a garden - it was an artist! Hats off to you and Dianne, girl friends! What an amazing transformation!


    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 12:29PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

Although living here since 1965, my current garden came into being about 25 years ago, I was around 50 then. At 74 next month I've been in the redoing mode these last 2 years, my get up and go went to visit somebody else so it's been a slow go. Some things will change some will stay the same.
It seems 'get up and go' has decided to come home for awhile so I've put it to work :). My hope is I can garden until I drop, even if I have to crawl I'll be out there playing in the dirt :).


    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 1:09PM
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You are so cute! You are so inspiring! Love you my friend.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 3:38PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Billie's garden was originally posted on the Texas forum and this is a great spot to share it here.

I hope that visitors find me working in the garden at 89 years young!

Here is a link that might be useful: Billie's Rockport Garden

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 5:30PM
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Me too. Me too!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 5:53PM
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roper2008 (7b)(7b)

Enjoyed looking at Billie's garden. Thank you for posting it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 10:24AM
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Thank you all for your nice posts. Here I am at my new house..moved on the 21st of August and I couldn't resist last week stopping at a garden centre where everything was half price and I started my new garden. I bought a Colorado Blue Spruce and an Austrian Black Pine. Bought 12 Thuya Occidentalis (cedars) 'Brandon' and 6 Thuya Occidentalis Smaragd. When I got to my new house there was a ninebark 'diabolo' and a Hydrangea Annabelle, some lilies and a Sedum Autumn Joy on the back steps (gifts from a friend). Very exciting to dig in the dirt again.

Sweetannie: I smiled when I read your suggestion: "Include something whimsical in your garden to make yourself smile and remind yourself that life is good and you are a good person." Actually I deliberatly choosed an Austrian Black Pine that was a crooked because I know they get very big and it will make quite a statement on the front of my property and life is not perfect and I don't really like perfect gardens and I know he will grow into a beautiful specimen.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 10:13PM
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