House up for sale - A small tribute to my garden

hostarasta(z9)April 29, 2005

Maybe you've gone through this: The heartbreak of putting your house up for sale and having to leave your beloved garden behind.

I instructed our realtor to advertise our house as a 'gardener's paradise.' Once my garden was featured in a local paper (an article on artists who put found objects (junk) in their gardens). My gardens have some history. Back in the 70's a killer tornado skipped over our backyard berm just missing the house.

My gardens looked their best about 4 years ago, so I've mounted lots of pictures from that summer on a poster titled 'Think Summer!' 3 photos placed side by side create a panoramic view of the berm out our kitchen window. Hostas, colorful perennials and green, green grass is what I see when I wash the dishes...

I have no idea where we are going to move, except that for now it will be somewhere in the northwest suburbs of Detroit. This time we want a more natural setting. Maybe a native plants garden. Less work!

I feel a little better just writing this. Thanks for listening!

Do you have some thoughts to share on leaving your garden behind?

Marlene in Michigan

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juicylucy(z5 IN)

Sorry, Marlene, no thoughts to share since I've never had to leave my garden but I DREAD the day (we will eventually move)... Are you going to divide/move some of your perennials? Good luck to you!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 9:55AM
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JuicyLucy: Thanks for responding. Actually, my brother in law lives on a farm with 20 acres of land near Lansing. He said I could move any plants I want to his property until we find a house. That's a lot of work and since I don't know where I'll be (house, condo, apt.), I'm reluctant to do it.

Thanks again!

Marlene in Michigan

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 11:01AM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

Marlene, that must be so hard for you!!! I lived in a rental for 5 years and asked the landlord if I could garden some time during year 3 (it was when I first became interested in it). He said he didn't mind as long as I left the place in good shape when I left. I told him that I would take everything with me when I left and he laughed and said he didn't care.

Well...............I moved on a Wednesday and on Thursday and Friday I dug up each and EVERY last plant that I planted there. I didn't leave one hosta, one annual, NOTHING. LOL It took me a week to get everything in the ground on the other side (in August, mind you, and probably 75 plants at least).

The first shovelful of dirt that I tried to dig at the new house, I put the shovel down, jumped on it and the shovel stayed right where it was. I started crying. LOL! I had this amazing rich soil at the rental and the new house had tragically dry and clayey soil. Being the stubborn Dutch girl that I am, I persisted and do you know that I didn't lose ONE plant??? :)

Looking back, it was SO worth the effort to bring my plants with me. I've "grown out" of many of my tastes at that time over the last 3 years but it's been so fun to have plants to give to others, split out, etc.

I would encourage you to *definitely* take the time to move as many plants as you can manage (employ the help of your friends! :). If ultimately you can't keep them all, you can have a fabulous garage-sale style plant sale or just give them away - it'll be great!

Best of luck to you and please let us know how everything goes. I'll pray for a gardening fanatic to buy your house. :)


    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 11:35AM
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Oh Marlene, I can so sympathize. On Dec.21 we sold our house in MN and all our belongings were carted off to greater Chicago, where we moved into a temporary apartment while continuing to look for a house. We finally moved into our house about 1 month ago. Given the time of year, I couldn't move any plants, unlike our prior move within MN, when I moved about 180 perennials. Yes, that was alot of work, but it was nice to start in a new house with a mature garden. Now that I have experience with both types of moves, I definitely wish I could have brought some of my garden with me this time. I am starting as Andrea did - lots of clay, dandelions and creeping charlie - I forgot to mention the 5 generic hostas, 6 daffodils and 5 tulips - that's it. I'm also finding that now that we're in a different city, where gardening centers are much more of a rare commodity due to the high price of land, prices attached with starting over are high, very high. I miss my gardens - some of those plants were with me since I started gardening and it'll sound weird, but I feel like I have ties to them. In our new house and neighborhood, I'm putting the word out to anyone who will listen that I'd be a great person to contact if one is splitting perennials this spring. Had weather permitted, knowing what I know now, I'd have dug up and moved as much as I could - even with the clay! We're having a weekend back in the Twin Cities in 2 wks, and one of the things on my to do list is go visit my old yard and gardens, another is to go to selected nurseries and plant sales (better prices). I'd recommend thinking twice about your Lansing brother's offer! Lansing and the NW suburbs of Detroit are only about 1 hr apart (I grew up in Royal Oak) - an additional transplant could ease the emotional transition of your move. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 10:55PM
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I am going to have to do this myself...right now this spring I am fixing a new spot for all my perennial divisions, and we are putting the house up for sale. I thought it might help the sale of the house. But it is labor intensive and I hope that it will be worth it.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 9:20AM
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For what it's worth - when we moved from house A to house B within the same MN city, we left the gardens alone during the house listing period, but our realtor knew and it was written into the sale contract that the gardens were going. That worked for us as it turned out the house buyer couldn't have given a hoot about gardening.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 1:59PM
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glassmouse(z5-Cent IL)

If it's any consolation, even if a garden lover doesn't buy your house, they might be inspired to become a garden lover just by being there. When DH and I were looking for a house, I would get so irritated when the realtor would say, "Well, that house doesn't have much of a yard," or "This house has a great garden." Up till that point, all I wanted to see of outdoors was the view from the car to the front door, I hated getting dirty, and worms were the #1 phobia in my life. Then we went to go see the "house with the great garden," and the second I stepped into the back yard (just to be polite to the realtor--I had no interest in seeing the yard!) I was suddenly seized with the realization that, yes, it had to be this house, and this garden, and that I was obviously meant to become obsessed with gardening.

Every so often my neighbors see the PO in town, and they always tell her what I've added to her garden this year. (Although I don't think they tell her how I curse her $*%@ gooseneck loosestrife planting.)

So your garden may help inspire the next owner to become a fanatic, as well.

Good luck in your next move--and in some ways, what fun to have a whole new place to start from scratch!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 2:09PM
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tropicanarama(Chicago 5b)

I may have to do this at the end of the year. I've been struggling with it as well - I've put so much into my garden, but it's not mature yet, and now the possibility of leaving it before I see the fruits of my labors is just killing me. We don't know where we'll be either, except that we're very unlikely to have anywhere near as much space as we have now. A balcony garden is a very real possibility.

So with that in mind, I'm really focusing on as much planning as I can. I've asked friends to lend me some space in their gardens and foster my plants for a while (with the understanding that they'll keep divisions if they'd like, and probably a nice rose or something thrown in too.) I'm putting in only perennials that grow really quickly - on the grounds that I'll actually enjoy them if I don't get to stay, and that there will be plenty to divide and distribute by fall. ...As soon as my roses start to bloom (*sigh* all 13 of them, every last one not due to come into its full glory until next year), I'll be starting cuttings religiously, and I'll be saving seed and growing clematis starts. And I'm thinking of putting a few rarer, slower-growing plants in containers, to take with me no matter where I end up.

The brick path we built, the grape arbor, the huge old heirloom peonies and iris, the little shady nook with the pagoda hidden in the rose brambles... *sigh* And up til now, I always thought this garden space was kind of a PITA.

It'll be really nice, though, to start new! In lots of ways, I can't wait - I think it could be WONDERFUL. The joy of choosing a new layout and new plants, no more keeping plants out of pity or stubbornness, no more good ideas for awhile that grew out of hand... that's SO fabulous. A little corn gluten meal, a couple of choice catalogs, and a few truckloads of compost, and you'll be ready to roll in no time. :)

Do think about having your neighbor store divisions for you. And if that doesn't work - get some gardening books and start dreaming!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 8:55PM
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Bob_Zn5(Z5 WI)

I've had to do this twice. Each time, the new garden I created surpassed the one I left behind. I almost want to move so I can begin garden #4 :)

Its rough at the time you leave, but the new opportunities once you're resettled quickly make the old garden a fond memory. And think of the mistakes you won't have to make again. The whole thing is very exciting once you actually complete the moving part.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 10:00PM
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FlowersForMyFarm(WI z4)

I feel your pain. A few years ago we sold our home in the dead of winter and had to leave everything behind in the gardens. To make matters worse, the new owners weren't into gardening and ripped out many of the plants and threw them out or neglected and killed the rest. One of my old neighbors was so sick about it that she actually went through their trash and saved a couple of the plants they had thrown out and gave them to me.

It all worked out well in the end though, our new place is now being rapidly filled with gardens that are bigger and better than ever because I know what I'm doing this time and I know what plants I really enjoyed.

My advice would be to take at least a few of your favorites with you to remember your old gardens. If you decide not to use them at your new place you can always share them with friends later. Even though the couple of plants that my old neighbor salvaged for me from the trash had never been my favorites, they now have a special place in my new gardens and make me smile when I see them.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 12:39PM
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merrygardens(z5 MI)

Marlene, I sent you an email before reading all these responses. There are excellent suggestions here--hope they cheered you up!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2005 at 3:50PM
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Late last week, I received this month's Horticulture magazine. There was an article on just this subject.I think it was on the Midwest page but it was definitely near the front of the magazine. The author talked about gardening as the process - learning and doing. When she moved, the main thing she took with her to her new residence was an increased knowledge pool...and she started the process over. Very timely in the magazine.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 12:53PM
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Oswegian(Z5 IL)

We moved here to Chicago ten years ago from Arizona, which I very much did not want to leave; the upstart of that is that I got up every morning wishing I were back there, especially in winter. We moved to the city in a nice, old-tree neighborhood, but it was university housing.

Then we moved into this place in the far west burbs four years ago, and for the first time in my life, I had a garden. Now I actually have a chance to move back to Arizona if I want to, but I don't like the idea of leaving all my little friends in the yard. So I told my husband we'd just stay here and work toward getting a condo out there, too.

That's how much I don't want to leave my plant buddies, even though I am no great gardener and just have easy types. They have worked incredibly hard for us and given us a lot of pleasure. I can't just leave them. We planted a nice oak tree, and we'd really enjoy seeing what it looks like in 20 years.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 12:14AM
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motria(z6 Chicago)

You may find it easier to let go when you consider that, legally, the landscaping is part of the property you're selling. I'm not a lawyer, but I read somewhere that if the buyer were to move in and see that you've made of with portions of the flower beds then that could be some sort of breach of the sale agreement. If you intend to dig up a dozen rose bushes, for example, you'd have to negotiate that up front.. otherwise you're running a "bait and switch".

So comfort yourself with the hope that your home will go to a garden lover.. and that by letting go you are avoiding jail time! :-) Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 12:30AM
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I left mine last year. I had just redone my entire front yard, had spread the last bag of mulch and the next day, my DH came to me and said "what would you think about moving to Saint Louis?"


I was heartbroken. Lived in the area my entire life. Family, friends, and now my roses too? :(

I gave a few of my containers away to friends with love notes written in sharpie. I ran out of time to take a cutting from my favorite climber, and I still regret that. Moving from a happy gardening place to what felt like the 7th level of hell in August didn't help any. Having my first long winter that didn't include gardening, didn't help any. Losing four zones of planting possibilities, didn't help any...Buying a lot of books and learning about my new zone and getting ideas as to what I wanted to do, did help some.

What did I get that was positive? A lot more space to garden in which was a first. The excitement of seeing things come up in the spring that belonged to the previous owner without having a clue at first as to what they are and mostly being happily surprised. Learning about an entirely new style of gardening...And yes, also learning from my mistakes in texture and color from my first attempts. Really getting the point of imagining a mature plant, not being taken in by sales of small plants. Not overdoing particular colors...

Went back on vacation this spring and saw my old front yard. They hadn't killed anything, but damn that stuff needed pruning! LOL I told DH "that place would look really nice if they GAVE IT A HAIRCUT!" One good thing about an apathetic gardener is that they're less likely to do something criminal like rip out that 13 year old wisteria over the back pergola. Seeing it look similiar but scruffy made me feel better about it all.

If I had it to do over again, I would have physically worked faster to get involved in my new gardening space immediately, beyond just the boxes. Having lots of stuff come up in the spring that was MINE, would have helped me more. I did do some bulbs, and had I not done that, I would have still felt like it wasn't 'my place' at all...I would have brought some plants with me that were MINE too. A handful of my old friends would have helped with the homesickness.

Btw, regarding selling and taking plants, et al: The prospective buyer wanted ALL of my stuff. But when it came to containers, I made sure that immediately the point was made through my agent that the container roses were NOT staying. Included in this were plants that my children had planted which were going to their grandmother. I did not change the 'landscaping'. This was a good compromise and it worked fine.

What might help with this is when showing the house, put some small signs on the items that are 'going' so that there is no misunderstanding, right from the get go. And if there are any plants that would be physically removed from the landscaping that this part would be in writing so that nothing comes back on you.

I do not think that one needs to take an entire garden or even large parts of it unless the new owner doesn't care at all about it. I think that when we live in a house and create a beautiful space, that stuff belongs to the space. It's like the house numbers that we purchased on our honeymoon. They belonged to the house, kwim? And it's a charming thing to tell a new owner "I bought those on the Island of Capri"...and when she sells, she can pass on the trivia...a legacy of this home for others in the future.

Leaving a garden behind does bring with it homesickness. But there is also the excitement of doing something completely new. I do have some 'homey touches'. In my old place, I had massive MW geranium plantings. I foudn two of them here and planted them in containers on my back porch. On our vacation, I brought home some CA poppies in my tote bag (now THAT was an effort with all of the kid junk I had with me to not kill them). They're thriving in the heat here! I also ordered and planted some bareroots, my children's favorites. Add that to new things and it's starting to feel like home in my flower beds.

So jump in with both feet and get something going when you first move, that's my best advice. Make your mark on the gardens, even if it's not about implementing a full plan. You can always change your mind later. That's one of the great things about gardens.

Good luck with your move and your patience in reading this. Obviously you struck a nerve.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 10:52AM
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Ahri(z5 IN)

Oh, do I know what this is like! I grew up gardening with my mother, and each time we moved house (frequently when I was young), most things were left behind and we'd have to start all over again. It was heartbreaking, because more often than not whoever took over when my family left mowed everything down or ripped it all up. As if it's criminal to have anything growing in your yard!

Well, eventually all the travelling came to an end and we settled into a house for many years. I still consider that my 'childhood home' since it's where I spent the most time when growing up. Over time the yard and garden, which had once been dying grass and bare patches of dirt grew into a much loved, well-tended bit of wilderness. My mother is not a 'neat' gardener, preferring to let things get a bit wild here and there so it looks more natural. We would call it our 'faerie garden' because with the trees and flowers and shrubs that we planted, it looked like a place you find yourself in when wandering deep within a forest -- a place where faeries would play.

Needless to say, when I got engaged and my mother made the decision to move to Florida, walking out into the backyard and looking over all of our earth-bouund friends was very painful. When you've put so much of yourself into a garden, it's almost as if a bit of your soul gets tucked into the blooms. We cried!

There wasn't much for it but to take cuttings and spread the wealth of flowering beauty between us and friends. Many plants got dug up and given away; we chose our favourites to take along and felt pity and woe for what would remain. And there was a lot that remained. We're all sure that the yard has been torn up and mowed into submission by now, and though I could drive up to the house in a day's time I haven't yet had the heart to see what it looks like now.

It's funny, I was talking with my mother the other day and the subject naturally turned to our gardens. I have a tiny apartment patio that, thankfully, includes a bit of dirt and enough room that I could plant the flowers I brought with and still have room for a good container veggie garden. My mother's new house has a huge yard and she has been working hard to turn it into a little private jungle. She has a few plants in her new garden from the old house, and her sister (who lives a block from her) has several of the plants we dug up and gave away.

I noted then that the garden at the old house will live on anyway, even if the original is neglected and torn down. We, and several of our friends hold a bit of that magical garden in our yards, but more importantly, in our hearts as well. In all the years in that house, and with all the plants that we have nurtured and cared for, we have ourselves grown and stretched out our roots to carry the legacy forward. There will be other gardens, of course... but they will be all the stronger because WE are stronger from what we learned and shared in that little 'faerie garden' of my childhood home.

Take some plants with you, and give some away if you can. Even if you have to limit yourself to a few varieties you can only grow in containers on a balcony, it will be well worth it. It's best not to start a new garden with regrets of the old; far better to stick a few old friends in there and have them share that energy and love you poured into them with their new friends. :)

Good luck, and take care!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2005 at 5:46PM
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When and if I ever move, I'm taking everything I can possibly take... I'll leave the trees. :)

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 3:33PM
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Here's a question...How do you do that if you have to move a long distance?

We moved from CA to MO. Four days across country with two small kids. Not much room in the van for plants, considering we had to have things to use to live in a short stay place until we could buy a house, plus any precious things that I didn't trust the movers to not lose like kid's pictures and family videos, etc. I didn't have room for a single plant.

Now if I was moving across town or to a nearby city, I could swing multiple trips back and forth. Out of state? I have no idea how I could have done it.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2005 at 1:12PM
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butterbeanbaby(z5 MO)

Smom40... we moved from CA to MO in 1995. No small kids at the time, just two cats.

To move plants from one state to another, I believe you have to get certifications on them (to do this legally at least). This is so you don't bring any diseases or pests with you that aren't indigenous to the area. If you did all the paperwork and everything, you'd still have to deal with finding a way to move everything and, to tell the truth, the few slips I smuggled over from my mom's plants (all indoor) didn't make the move.

That said, when my mom followed us eight years later, she had to leave behind tons and tons of stuff, mostly orchids, but she left them with her best friend so that was kind of nice.

This entire issue is why I've been reluctant to leave our current house, even though it's too small. The house is 37 years old. I am the only gardener that has ever lived here, so the entire place is MINE, all nine years of gardening. When we moved in we had a couple of dead bushes and a lot of dog runs, seven half dead poplars, two huge ash in desperate need of pruning and a lot of landscape rock. Now we have a flourishing flower garden, several good sized trees and a huge connection to our little plot of earth. Lots of sweat and tears and even blood as I am a bit accident prone.

Not an easy decision to make, nor an easy way to come up with any kind of compromise.

Good luck Marlene.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 10:39AM
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" flourishing flower garden, several good sized trees and a huge connection to our little plot of earth. Lots of sweat and tears and even blood"

No kidding. I completely understand. So many hours, so much work and so many memories...

When we went back for a visit last April, my best friend drove me around the area to show me all of the blooming wisteria. I missed it so much. I live in a subdivision and it's ball-bush city. No gingkos, no roses just some daylillies in this joint. :(

And I would NOT have left had we had another option. Our house was too small and that drove me nuts, but between the gardens and our family and friends, it pretty much took a nuclear warhead of life to get me to leave.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 10:47AM
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its upto you to sale whether you want to sale your garden or make your mind before selling something

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 6:02AM
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