So you need to sell your garden ? (and, oh yeah, the house too)

February 2, 2006

Well, I had expected to post a thread like this way back last summer. But then my life exploded, and now I am finally getting back to picking up the pieces (more on that maybe later...). I had been posting here for several years, and had asked for advice about selling a garden, since I bought a new property and was building a new house, moving for the first time in 20 years.

Thoughts were all over the map at the time about how easy or hard it would be to sell a house with a complex garden. Many people thought it would be relatively hard, some easier, and the rationale varied too.

We listed out house in late March or early April I think, planning to move in late June. Many realtors recommended we start earlier, given a slow market. But I knew, with 3 kids and a dog still at home, that keeping the house showable would be very hard. Also that I wanted the garden to show at its best.

Many people coming through the house (which is beautiful, and would be considered 'high end' in our market), thought the garden was just too complicated and too much work. There were clearly some, however, who were excited about the garden, which is well known in this area, having been on lots of tours and partially well visualized from the street. The garden has lots of good hardscaping, which I think is critical for the garden to really be an asset to the house. The unfortunate thing is that the best season of the garden for most of us (May through July, mine maybe into September), is somewhat later than the best season for the real estate market (February through April or May). And in really northern gardens, March is often the peak of the real estate market and is a rather ugly, bare time in gardens with a lot of planting space devoted to perennials.

When the comps are done, which is the basis for appraisals and sales prices, gardens really don't seem to count for much except for "patios" and "ponds". Of course, they may well make an individual buyer fall in love. But ultimately, they probably won't add much if anything to the sales price of your house, which is mostly going to be based on the house. And the garden may be a liability if people see it as too much work. It can clearly limit the buyer pool.

There can also be major problems selling to another "gardener", which we did. In fact, a couple from Chicago who looked at the house the first weekend it was on the market, ultimately bought the house and the garden within 6 weeks. They were attracted to the garden and the lady was an "avid gardener". One of the things that I wanted to do was to move plants. I had a complex garden, probaly with 1000s of plants, including lots of rarities. Like any gardener, some of these were my babies I was not going to part with. Most of them I moved the previous fall, but a few not till that spring. We did end up moving some plants after the people first looked at the house -- most of these were completely dormant. The realtor told me to just go ahead and do it, it wouldn;t be a problem. But when the couple came back, the lady was ballistic that any plants at all had been moved from the garden. Ultimately I had to appease her by leaving some garden benches and by drawing a "map" of everything that I had removed. What a sham -- I have never had a map of my garden. She insited that she knew what every plant I removed was (they were dormant perennials mind you, "oh brother"). Overall, what a fiasco. Though we did sell the house fairly quickly.

We did live in the house through late June last year. It was very, very sad for me. The garden, still lovely then, was a ghost of its former luxurious self. The bones were still there, any visitor who had not seen it before would never know that 100s of plants had been removed. But the large clematis were all gone, the hellebores, geraniums, some specimen trees (though because they were so packed in, the woodies were probably of appropriate density). I think it was one of the saddest experiences of my life. And on the final day I left that garden, I cried for hours.

I drove by the garden a couple of times last summer. The garden was mostly a weedy mess. In fact, the "avid gardener" who knew everything I removed I suspect did not know a lot of weeds, since some were growing like specimen perennials. Weeds did that in my wonderful soil. I doubt I will go back again.

So, overall advice --

*Good hardscape and basic good bones probably do enhance a property and make it sell better, but may not add that much to the sales price

*Extremely complicated gardens definitely limit your market.

*If you are moving plants, do it All BEFORE you start to sell.

*Better to sell to a nongardener who likes gardens than someone who is a "gardener". They may not really be, and if they are hyper, they can make your life difficult.

*It may well be better to consider the word "garden" as a VERB and not a noun. Gardens are about gardening, the making of them, more than anything. There was a great editorial in Horticulture last year by Lauren Springer, to that point exactly. It may well be better to walk away from your old garden, as it is, without moving a thing (well, maybe one plant), and to really start afresh on a new place. It depends on scale. I actually spent a fair amount of money on moving plants, lost quite a few, created a huge amount of work for myself in doing so

The biggest revelation of all for me was that moving to a new place may completely change the way you feel about gardening. The kinds of plants which do well may be different. The amount of time and energy you may want to devote to it may change dramatically too.

I think Lauren was actually right, that it is better, easier, and maybe cheaper to really start from scratch.

When I can finally re-find my pictures from the old place, maybe I will post a couple of pictures of my garden as it looked on its very last days in my hands.

So what have your experiences been like, selling a garden?

Comments (107)

  • david_5311

    Well, I have just one brief followup to this thread that might be of interest. Spring is now full underway, even in the north, with plants popping out all over.

    And the great benefit for me is that, all over my new garden, in places I had stored plants in holding beds, there are plants coming to life everywhere. Geraniums by the dozen, my prize hellebores in full bloom, hostas crowning out. And best of all, out of about 30 cleamtis that I moved in total, 25 are showing abundant new growth coming out of the ground. And this, despite them looking completely dead in the heat and drought of last August, in a holding bed where the weeds were 7' tall and completely carpeted the ground. Even my mature plant of Huldine (the best white clematis) which I moved last July into a new bed and never showed any growth at all, has buds popping out everywhere.

    Yes, I lost a lot of trees that I moved. Yes, it was a lot of work, and expense. Yes, I partially gutted my old garden.

    BUT now I have mature plants, that came from the old garden and bring some sense of continuity to the new, to act as anchor plants. Most of the clematis would take several years to get to their current sizes.

    So maybe moving all those plants was NOT in vain. Right now I am glad I did it. And I suspect I may be even more so in July.

    Amazing what rejuvenation comes with spring -- of the garden, and the gardener.

  • stacyp9

    I must say that if I had been in your buyer's position I would have also been furious. You said she bought the house because she loved the garden and it sounds like you gutted it by taking out the best parts of it. Landscaping, all of it, is included in the purchase price. If you want to take special plants, a wise seller makes sure they are listed in the contract. Trust me, this nearly came to litgation on our block.

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  • Sue W (CT zone 6a)

    So David, when do we get to see some pictures of the new digs?


  • david_5311

    Well Stacy, most of the plants were moved long before the house ever hit the market. So they weren't an issue. I won't go into the story again, but the buyer was pretty unreasonable -- there were 1000s of plants left in that garden. In fact, when we left in June, most people really could not tell that much had been taken out. Let's leave it at that.

    And Sue, there will be some pictures coming, especially as the plants get a bit farther a long and there is actually something to see.

    Assuming I can find my camera. Must be in some box somewhere, yet to be unpacked.......But next week I get 100 yeards of fine pine bark mulch, and woodchips. More paths in the making and a lot of bed space to mulch. A Bobcat to rent. Maybe after that.........

  • gardenbug

    Good to hear your news! This is the best April I have experienced in the garden. Seems to be true for you too! The bloodroot, hepaticas and hellebores are beautiful and the clematis are doing very well too. Why, I've even finished pruning and fertilizing them ! There are kingfishers, snapping turtles and nesting geese. Charlotte is outside studying a raccoon napping in a tree.

    New paths? Ah yes, for you and the garden both! Anxious for those photos. :-)

  • ljrmiller

    I didn't get to sell my house (with a garden that was just beginning to look really good), because I ran away from the house and the husband in it. Sometimes you just have to act, and this was one of those times. Of course I mourned my photosynthesizing friends, but I had the chance to start creating a whole new garden once I got settled again.

    I'd be devastated to leave my current garden EXCEPT that I know I'd get to start a whole NEW one! I would hope the new owners/occupants liked to garden, but I wouldn't count on it. I love the process of making a garden and watching it develop as much as I enjoy it once it's matured.


  • PattiOH

    David I'm so glad to hear that your beloved plants are making a comeback and that "maybe moving all those plants was NOT in vain".

    I've started potting mine up for the move to Massachusetts and you've given me hope that it will indeed be worth it in the end!

  • gardengirl_17

    That's wonderful news about the plants you moved David. I'm glad that you are feeling renewed after what has undoubtedly been a tumultous Winter. Mixed with the sadness and trepidation over the changes you must be feeling some peace and joy having now made the leap to start the next phase of your life. I wish you all the best!

    I'm looking forward to your pictures. I still have bookmarked the photos from your old garden because it looks like absolute gardening nirvana to me! :) Largely because of your photos and the advice of folks on the Clematis forum, I purchased several Viticellas last year including Betty Corning. They are taking off like mad this Spring and I can't help but think of that photo of you standing in front of your Betty Corning. And to think I read in a catalog recently that it grows to only 6'. Right!

  • janetr

    My story adds a new twist to this theme. We were tenants in a townhouse, but I had decided to restart gardening for the first time in years anyway. The garden was really starting to come into its own (the neighbourhood children called me the flower lady) when we were able to purchase our own townhouse. It was a rental conversion, meaning we bought a thirty-year old home from a developer and got it renovated top to bottom according to our specifications. The yard would be a blank slate for all practical intents and purposes. The salesman assured me there would be no problem with parking my plants in the back yard after the contract was signed. So I dug up some of my favourites, put them in pots and my SIL and I moved them to the new house, insulated them well with piles of leaves and covered with garbage bags to keep the leaves in place. It was late autumn and too late to be digging. A couple of weeks later I checked in and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM WAS GONE! Somehow word hadn't filtered down to the workmen and they indignantly believed that some neighbour had used the patio to dump their yard waste.

    I mourned those plants. They gave me some financial restitution, but it just ain't the same. Mind you, poring over catalogues deciding where to spend the money eased the pain a bit... ;o) But I still miss my Helleborus niger.

  • ronda_in_carolina

    I recently went through a divorce. In the years prior to the divorce my life was so painful mentally that the only solace I could find was in my garden. It healed me and gave me a reason to go on.

    When the marriage did end, I remained in the home for a time. It was an older home and it became clear that it was too much for me to maintain on my own. I needed to move. I began potting and when I moved to my new house I had a U-Haul worth of plants. I had left plenty behind so it was actually hard to tell I had taken anything.

    My ex-husband moved back into the property. He had no idea how to care for the yard so at one point he hired some 'crew' to come weed the beds. I received a call from him about 3 weeks later accusing me of taking a Jap maple. It was not a mature specimen but it was in a conspicuous place. Of course I had not removed it. I had the chance to take it before I moved but I didnt, believing that it would help sell the house if that is what he decided to do. Shortly thereafter he did decide to sell. I returned back to the old home to take cuttings etc from a few plants that didnÂt survive the trip and had sentimental value to me. Was I in shock!! MORE than just the Jap maple had been removed!! Who ever was stealing from the yard was returning over time slowly taking from the yard....to the extent that they removed a sun-spiral patio I had laid (see pic)--no small job!! My ex-husband never even noticed since he was rarely home and didnÂt garden. Prime roses and clematis were taken along with any hardscape not nailed down. Heartbreaking!
    Patio after completed
    When the house did sell the new owners called me and had me show them how to use the sprinkler and maintain the pond. I suspect they never knew what they almost had...but to me...it was salt in the wound.

    Truly I have been through 2 very difficult years and I havenÂt had my garden to comfort meÂ.but, life does go on!! I do not go by the old garden because it isnÂt mine anymoreÂ.understand that when I say mineÂ.I mean that in more ways than ownership. My garden represented my creativity and outflowÂ.looking at it now would not be a productive act.

    The house I live in now is on a postage stamp. I have like .2 of an acre. I have beds all around my house and I am gardening the hill behind my house by slowly removing the junipers in favor of roses and drought tolerant perennials. I mourn the loss of my pond as I spent many days sitting on the edge and enjoying its comforts. I recognize and accept that this yard will never be, can never be, the garden I once had. I am currently working on what I do have and dreaming of gardens to come. I pour over magazines and imagine what I would do with this and that. My goal is to maintain this residence until my children complete school and then to move out where I can have 2-5 acres.

    I believe that our gardens are not plants in the same way that musicianÂs compositions are not just random notes. They are our creations and certainly never easy to leave behind. New gardens should be viewed as blank palates and a challenge--to be sure!! I feel a kinship with those of you who have left your gardens behind and I wish you all the best in the building of your new havens.


  • coloradobird

    I was sad to leave a garden that I had created a few years ago, but I was one of the lucky ones. The house was on the market longer than I expected, and I think it was because of the gardens (rather than a simple lawn, which is so much easier), but the woman who bought it loved the gardens and was excited to have them to care for. I have driven by several times since and she has really kept it up. It is nice to see, since I put years of blood, sweat and tears into that yard and it was just coming into its own when we decided to move. I would've felt terrible to see it overrun with weeds or replaced with lawn (which I had dug out in the first place!).

  • terrene

    This has been a very moving thread to read - even reading it through a 2nd time now that it has been bumped!

    When I moved to this house 4 years ago, I brought with me about 25-30 large pots of perennials and a few shrubs. The poor things ended up staying in the pots for about a year and a half until I was able to get them planted. Most of them were a bit tattered but survived.

    I decided that when I move from this current house (which will happen in a few years when my son graduates from HS), I am digging up and taking with me everything I can. Maybe I'll have a "dig your own" garden party for friends and other gardeners from GW or maybe advertise them on Freecycle.

    Better that someone who loves and appreciates the plants get them than have someone move in who is going to roto-till the gardens and plant grass!!

    "There is one other important reason, I think, NOT to remove many, if any plants, from your old garden. And that is to spare yourself the painful memory of seeing and *being responsible for* the destruction of your own garden."

    Although I've poured my heart and soul into my gardens, I'm not sure that I see it this way. I remember reading years ago about Buddhist monks who create elaborate and beautiful sand art, and when they finished, destroying it as a way to represent the transience of life on Earth.

    Check out this link, the mandala these monks created is absolutely stunning. Then in a ceremonial process, they sweep it up and deposit the sand in a body of water!

  • blackie57


    I'm not sure how I missed this thread back in April, but somehow I did. I just spent the morning reading through it and have been touched by all the posts, and the obvious heartbreak that comes with leaving behind something that you have given yourself to creating. I have no plans to move in the near future, and my gardens are in no means as elaborate as yours or Taryn's, or Deanne's or all the others (as I have seen photos of all), but I know were I ever to leave, I'm not sure I could go back and look at what might happen.

    but I believe the jist of my post here is that I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for inspiring me to delve deeply into the joy of gardening. Your previous gardens were breathtaking, and inspired me to try growing various types of plants I had never even thought of before. I had never grown clematis before seeing your pictures, but I now have 4 growing beautifully with more to come. You taught me that hardscape is as important to a garden as the plants which share the space. As a new gardener, your photos taught me what an oblisk was, and that interesting foliage was equally as important as blooms, as blooms dont't last forever. And you taught me that planting things close wasn't necessarily a bad thing, and to take chances with marginal plants because Miscanthus "Cabaret", which is marginal in my zone, looks incredible planted behind Agastache "Blue Fortune"! ;)

    I anxiously await photos of your new home and garden, and some more inspiration from your creations. And also, congratulations in making it through the trials and tribulations that are the life we live. It was inspiring and heartwarming to watch your obvious dispair early on, turn into a rekindling of your joy of gardening as you saw things start to spring to life in the spring. I could almost see the sparkle in your eye as you wrote. I too am facing some life adjustments ni the form of "moving out of children", as my oldest daughter is getting married, and dread that as much as you did. But as my Dad always said, "That which does not kill us only makes us stronger." Yeah right, Dad ..... kinda brings the whole mortality thing back into play...

    Anyway, the best of luck to you in your new life, and please PLEASE....pictures...we need pictures !!!



  • gaia6b

    David - I usually hang out in New England Gardening, where I found a link to this thread. The whole thread moved me immensely. I've had my share of "explosions" in the past couple of years: moved recently from the house and garden where we brought up our children, our new home and yard were heavily flooded this past spring, my twins (only children) just left for college, and one of my sons just *came out*. So somehow I feel kinship with you and the other writers. I'm reminded of how our lives are so different, yet so similar. We age, change, experience what life presents us and find a way to move ahead. How wonderful that we have the opportunity to find comfort and joy in such creatures as plants!
    Thank you for your garden and for your thoughtful words.

  • Sue W (CT zone 6a)

    I'm not sure David gets to the forums as much anymore so he may not see the picture requests right away. He does have an extensive collection of pictures of the new garden and I was lucky enough to see them last month when we all got together in Chicago. As you can imagine, the new garden is lovely even in it's first year and the hardscaping is incredible.

    So, David, if you're out there, share a few shots of the new place.


  • jerseygarden

    When i move every1 of my plants are coming with me.

  • michigoose

    I don't know. I'm now at the point of mowing over everything. As I stated above, last year I moved from CT to OH, and in the preceeding fall, I potted up lots and brought it with me. I went back in the fall after we had moved and brought some more things with me. In all, I had over one fifteen foot uhaul, and two van loads, as well as boxes I slipped stuff into bare root into the moving van (naughty me).

    The task of creating new beds in awful clay soil, getting the bare rooted stuff potted, planting what I had, and trying to get gardens going on this space which is 3 times the size of what I had in CT as well as unpack, paint, etc. was difficult.

    This winter, I started winter sowing and brought a lot of things to trade to a regional plant swap. I also bought more. I wanted to make the garden a place as nice as the one in CT....and it was hard, brutal work, and I was taking it too fast.

    I put in a lovely goldfish pond, 3 times the size of my old one as well, with wonderful things like bottom drains, biofilters, skimmer and a waterfall. But I don't enjoy it. I still have a lot of plants to get into the ground like right now....

    In June, I went back to the house as I was visiting the friends next door and I wanted a few of my special broader leaved sun lovers (I have next to no shade here....) and to give some tips to the couple who bought the house ....the wife "Wants" to garden, but knows nothing. When I stepped into the back yard, I was stunned. They had brought in a bobcat and had bulldozed most of my sun beds. Gone were variagated chamycyparus and what has left had been damaged. I had told them that if they wanted to take the garden out to please let my neighbor across the street know so she could come and salvage some of the plants as they were unusual and special. That was too much bother.

    They told me to take what I wanted. They were still talking about simplifiying. I told them to take out the front beds completely as they were just overflow and for heavens sake to take out the flowering quince I kept pruned to 3' high as it took A LOT of pruning. She wants to keep the quince. She had asked the local nursery to come in in the spring and simplify the bed in front....and they were waiting...Why? They knew I had unusual stuff and they wanted to come in and pot up the stuff that she "didn't need".

    I called in a couple of my friends and we worked at moving stuff to make life easier for her and salvaging stuff which were in areas not yet whacked but in the process of being whacked. I had a huge royal fern I hope someone got into the ground....I lifted it for them (they were decking over it) but I couldn't replant it as I was worn out by that time. All in all, we saved 3 carloads of plants....and you couldn't tell what was missing. Hundreds of dollars worth that went to my appreciative friends. Some came back with me.

    While I'm glad some made it. I look at my gardens here which to me are beginning to look like ma and pa kettle's back yard and I'm worn out. I'm sure I'd feel different if the soil were different....and I'm sure I'd feel different if I had kept my head and done it a little at a time, but oh mamma, this is more than I can handle at present.

    And I wonder....will I get to sit next to my goldfish pond ever????? It would have been easier if I had not brought a single stick with me, and had done a small bed at a time.

  • WendyB

    michigoose, I think it must have been very tough to go back to the old house and look. I think if this ever happens to me, I will not want the memories of what the next people do or don't do. I will attempt to cut the ties and let it go and move on. Will just take my memories (and digital photographs!) with me. Although, I'm quite sure that is easier said than done.
    Go enjoy your pond!!!

  • highalttransplant

    Boy, talk about a lot of food for thought on this thread! It is true that every garden is a reflection of the gardener that created it, AND where they are in their life's journey.

    Even though I had always loved digging in the dirt and watching things grow, I never had the time for much gardening, until we moved from the Mid-south to Colorado. Then, everything I knew about gardening was irrelevant, because of the high altitude and zone differences. Just as I was learning what I could grow successfully, and discovering the Gardenweb forums, I found myself in a situation similar in some ways to David.

    My DH found out that his dept. was being dissolved the day before I found out that I was pregnant with our third child. When he found a job he wanted, it was 3 1/2 hours west of where we were, so we put our house on the market in November. Then he had to commute back and forth, so we only saw each other on the weekends until we closed on our new home at the end of March. Not only did it take longer than we thought to sell our home, but the builder missed numerous closing dates on the home we were purchasing. Anyway, don't get me started on that ordeal!

    My point of sharing this is to say that even though MOST of the changes I went through were positive, there was still a lot of stress during those changes, and I am a different person now because of them.

    I had to leave behind several plants that I had recently planted (the houseplants took up all extra space in my vehicle), but I look at all of the knowledge I gained through trial and error there, which will only make me a better gardener. The weather here is drier, and the temperatures are a bit more extreme (zone 4 now instead of 5), but I can still use many of the same types perennials, trees, etc. that I grew there. Of course, I was only there for 5 years, not 20, so I had not become emotionally attached to any specific plants. We currently have a dirt yard, though the beds on the front of the house have been prepared, and have a few plants in them. It definitely looks like a work in progress, but the planning, and the anticipation are just as much fun as the finished project. At least for me anyway :)


  • decolady01

    An old thread, but many very moving posts.

    My favourite gardening book is Passalong Plants, by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing. Many of the plants in my garden are listed in this book. They came from my grandmother's garden and her grandmother's before her. Or from neighbors or from friends. And after I married, from my in-laws.

    The largest group of these are heirloom daffodils. Whenever we have moved I have always dug up plants to take with us and taken cuttings of plants that will grow from those. They are never planted in the same plan as they were before, but they are generations of my family's heritage to ground me in the new space.

    Nearly two years ago I was able to go back to my great-grandparents' place in Louisiana and get cuttings from an ancient fig tree. Two of those are now planted at our place. The setting is not the same, but the joy to be reaped when we have figs from the tree that was always designated, "the best figs in the country" will be worth it.

    By taking the plants with me, I don't miss the old garden nearly so much. Plus, I've left pieces of of our family behind to give joy to others.


  • anitamo

    David....now that it's almost two years later since you first posted this, do you still feel the same way about how you moved the garden? Of the plants that survived, how are they doing now? Any comments on the whole experience? It was such a great post, I just hate to let this die without a follow up.

    And how about posting pics of what your old garden looked like when you moved? I believe you mentioned trying to find them to post.

  • terrene

    Oh so glad you resurrected this thread. I've read through it at least twice and it's a GREAT thread!

    Reading this thread convinced me once and for all to take as many plantings as possible with me when I move to the next house, and give away as much of the rest as possible!

    I am also planning semi-permanent gardens and fixtures for some areas, especially the back yard. They will be heavy on annuals and veggies. New plantings of shrub borders and understory trees are going to farther back away from the house. That is because I figure that future owners will want to have a larger area of grass in the back yard.

  • Fledgeling_

    When I move I am taking the plants that I cant replace through other sources with me. I have a few that are now considered commercially extinct and I wouldnt be able to obtain them again if I lost them. The ones i can get again, I will leave.

  • Maryl (Okla. Zone 7a)

    David, your experience, as well written as it is, will never appear in any gardening magazine. They will make you think that devoting time and money to landscaping will repay you with something other then self-satisfaction. And in the long run that's all it is. In my climate, summer is usually as brutal to deal with as any artic winter. You are forced to get out there every hot, humid, oppressively miserable summer day and tend to your plants. Why the heck am I doing this I ask myself ( when the majority of people around me are sitting under the air conditioner watching Oprah in the afternoon and letting their one lone green plant, Bermuda grass, grow)? It's got to be either masochism or self satisfaction. I haven't quite decided which yet.....I'm at a crossroads now. At a point where, in a few years, the government will pay me to be old and I have had to face the fact that I very well may be. So the thought has occured to me on my small property that instead of planting things in the ground, I will put them in pots. After all ground plants will probably be ripped up after the house is sold to make way for the kids trampoline or some such, so why go to all the effort of amending the soil, stooping, bending etc. to fertilize, deadhead and weed. Just put it in pots. This is my plan as of now. As time marches on, it may change. There's more then selling your home to stop you from gardening.

  • david_5311

    Well I am surprized that this thread has resurfaced too but I will just make a few comments --

    I was down on the idea of moving plants when I first wrote this, for the reasons I said above. Because of my life turmoil and a very dry summer in 2005 (we seem to be getting more and more of those, don't we?...), a fair number of the plants I moved seemed to die off, especially the clematis and a few of the woody plants. But more of those plants recovered than I expected, and I now have quite a few clematis in my garden from the old place.

    I think it was worthwhile to have moved the woody plants that I did. They would never have been fully appreciated at the old place, many might have been cut down since the old garden was so overplanted. And in the new garden I have multiple maturing specimens of uncommon and rare trees and shrubs, most of which I never could have purchased at the sizes they are, if I could have found them at all. Some died, but the vast majority made it. They also give me an important connection to the old garden. For someone who loves plants, especially woodies, they are like old friends who have come along with me. They are imbued with memories of the old garden. Most of them now have more space and are flourishing better. Few gardeners would move woody plants like I did or pay the cost, but in retrospect that was definitely worth the trouble and expense, for me at least. Clematis too. Perennials, less so, except perhaps the hellebores I collected from all over and some of the rarer plants (those pricey epimediums I have come to love....)

    BTW, the buyers of my old house and garden downsized the garden and added more lawn. The number of plants in the front part of the garden I could see clearly diminished. Still, it was unmistakably a garden, and actually pretty well maintained.

    Then those buyers got transferred, and early this fall the house and garden went up for sale again. Despite a VERY slow real estate market here, the house sold again in a couple of weeks. I am told by an old neighbor that the new owners also partially bought the house for the garden. So? who knows how it will end up. I would love to see the back part of the garden that is the heart of it and not visible from the street. I have not seen it since I left.

    So that's the end of the story for now.

    I do, BTW, have lots of new garden pictures which I DO intend to post when I get some time. I cannot do it at work and the evenings get pretty busy, but I will try. Lots of pics from this past weekend, when I realized that the garden still has loads of interest and many plants still in good bloom. We have had a very mild October, no killing frost yet.......here's hoping it will hold off another few weeks.


  • LindaMA

    What a great post, I'm so glad I read this. I recently purchased a new home in July and spent many days and nights since improving my landscape. I have already planted 10 Clematis and two rose bushes and can hardly wait until next Spring when I can add more to my perennial beds.

    This post brings back fond memories of working in the yard with my grandmother. She was the one who initially taught me so much about gardening and her yard was spectacular. When she passed away and her home was sold, I went back the next summer and the new owners had dug up the entire yard and paved with black tar over everything, front and back. I was horrified, sat down and cried. I would have loved to have been able to save some of her flowers, shrubs and roses. I do not ride by that house anymore and if I have to go that way, I try very hard to avoid the street she used to live on.

  • anitamo

    Looking forward to the new pictures David. Hope you keep it in this post so it'll be easier to follow for someone new.

    Being a gardener, I would love it if I bought a house w/ a great garden, and the previous owner came by for a visit a few years later. So take a chance and stop in to ask if you could check out the back...maybe they'll give you some cuttings, or ask for advice. At the very least, you can visit with your old garden, invoke some memories, and pass on words of wisdom.

  • david_5311

    Well I think I have reached the end of the story on the new owners and my old garden.

    The buyers who bought from us were indeed gardeners, but downsized the garden. Then got transferred.

    The house resold as I mentioned above. My partner Jim and I drove by the neighborhood 2 weeks ago and we saw a Bobcat in the back. The stone wall I handbuilt was all dismantled, all the stone piled up. Many of the specimen trees were gone, obviously cut down. The others that did remain really looked good, reminding me how trees really do need space to shine. And then we could see that most of the central beds in the back garden were gone. There was a very large area of crushed gravel that had been laid. We thought probably for a patio or something.

    Then I saw a neighbor and friend from the old neighborhood. He told me that a nice family with 2 early teenage boys had moved in.

    And, he said "guess what they are putting in where your garden was?"

    "A new paved 1/2 BASKETBALL COURT!!"

    Jim was shocked, but I actually chuckled gently to myself. My grieving for that garden is mostly past. I have a new one, though it does not have the glorious sense of intimacy and wonder yet that I cherished and marvelled at in the old one. Not sure if it ever will, time will tell.

    So it is once again true, that residential gardens rarely survive beyond the original gardener.

    A few pics from the back garden, some of my favorites, in memory:



    Images from a permanent hard drive now, just a glimpse of the past

    Forever written in my heart.


  • goldenginkgo

    In the mid 1960s I had a house in Northern Illinois which had many exotic plants for the region. Many rhodies, Azaleas, Mahonia, etc. I accepted a new job in Denver and only took a Koster Blue Spruce with me. Had a terrible time trying to sell the house. People were scared to death of caring for the exotic plants. I have never been back. Looked at the property from my Google Earth program and the Arborvitae hedge looks like it is still there, also the Korean Mtn Ash and another Koster blue spruce that I left. Everything else is gone. When I left Denver for Southern California I took my collection of 96 different Sempervivums with me, Over half died the first year. The rest slowly succumbed over the next 6 years. Real Estate people rarely have a clue about good landscaping. A couple of trees and a pfitzer foundation planting is all they want. At a house I rented here, I planted a moderate sized tree on the West side of the house to block some of the afternoon sun. The owner sold the house & I moved elsewhere. The new owner cut all the trees down and removed a lot of the shrubs. Said he didn't have time or the inclination to care for them. When housing was selling well, the nursery and landscape business boomed as new owners changed their landscaping to suit their tastes. As an OCD plant person I'm reluctant to remove any plant & would add my own favorites to existing gardens. David, your former property was beautiful. Loved the Japanese Maple and the wall. Currently I'm retired and living in an apartment with no plants. Miss my gardens from all my former homes.

  • terrene

    Wow! What an interesting update! Of course it's understandable that they'd want to have a patch of permanent asphalt instead of those gorgeous plants and stone wall because one their kids will probably be an MBA player someday. Well it's the new owner's house and they can do what they want.

    That's why I'll take everything I possibly can with me and would rather have the neighbors or even Freecyclers come and take plants away, rather than have a new owner rototill them and put down asphalt or something.

    I think this thread should be submitted to the FAQs. A must read for those who are selling their gardens.

  • minnesuing

    Beautiful pictures. I just moved to MI and wish I could have found a garden like that! My young children would have loved playing there. Our new house has the standard foundation planting. I often wonder how exactly they select the few plants they put in. Daylilies four feet apart. Junipers practically touching. A viburnum that will spread 10 feet planted right up against the house. Hosta after hosta after hosta in a deer infested area! I tore most of it out and relocated it. The landscaper came by a few months later to check how things were working out and asked why I made the changes. I started explaining and he looked like he wanted to run! Next spring DH has agreed to tear up the front lawn and make a walled garden. Please don't tell him about its resale value!

  • flowrgirl1

    So sad. It almost made me cry. First of all, i just moved from MI to NC. I wish i would have known about your garden cause i would have had to see it. Absolutely beautiful. Your story cemented in me the fact that i will not be able to leave many plants behind. As of now all my gardens are in MI but they are safe with my mother at my childhood home. No worries there. But i will have to go get them in a few years when i buy a house. I cant waite to have them all back again. I grow around 400 var. of tb irises which lucky for me are really easy to move. Daylilies, hellebores, daphs, hostas, ferns, and thousands more plants will come too. To much money, to much time and to much love for me to leave them behind.(nice rhyme):0

    Your story was very touching. I am glad to hear you have been able to grow and over come the horror of selling.

    I have often said that my home will not be sold to just anyone. I will leave it in the family if possible. I better have a bunch of garden crazy kids.

  • flowrgirl1

    My journey as a gardener.

    1st house: My mother and father moved to northern MI after purchasing a house complete with a greenhouse bedding plant business. They ran it while starting a family. After i was born my mother said she had me with her in the greenhouses all the time. No babysitter, just me and her, soaking up the warm feel and wonderful smells of the greenhouse. Which explains a lot for me. I would hang out in a greenhouse all day if i could. After a few years they sold the home and business because it was just to hard to make ends meet.

    2nd house: I planted an apple seed at a babysitters house in a little paper cup. I took it home and put it in our large veggy patch. I checked on it every day. It was growing very fast. Then one day it had green beans all over it. I can still remember running up the path under an old crab apple to the house. My vision was blurry from the wash of tears streaming down my face. I was devestated to see my apple was a bean. a few years ago my mother confessed about the seed switch. She said that the apple wasnt sprouting so she replaced it with the bean never thinking i would care or notice.

    Next to this house was huge garden with all sorts of plants planted out in rows. I strolled through them regularly as if they were mine. Turns out i didnt own them but a wonderful, 100 year old woman did. I would go visit her and she would give me candy and talk about flowers with me. I was probably only about 5 but i remember it well. Carmel toffee style candys. So buttery and delicious. she let me pick flowers from her yard. To this day she has the largest rhododedron i have ever seen. It was at least 20 ft tall. To the roof line of her second story house! I have one picture of it. My mother, baby brother, and I standing out front. Its one of my favorite pics. We only lived at that house for a summer because the basement was too musty for my brothers asthma. It will go down in history as my favorite home though.

    3rd house: When i was about 6 years old we planted marigold seeds in school. I got to take it home once it had grown. I can remeber very clearly my obsession for that little smelly flower. I dug it up and moved it all around the garden. My mother even gave me my own space to do so.

    I used to pick the wild hepaticas that grew all around. The house was really close to small creek. Wild flowers were all around. I used to go for walks and sing to them. Sounds nuts, but i did. Any way arent gardeners a little crazy! The location for this home is one of the most fun a child could ask for. To this day i still have rogusa roses and old purple irises from that house.

    4th house: About five years ago we were having our propane tank switched out. Well, there was a problem. I had turned our whole yard into an iris gallery. the truck had to straddle one of my smaller beds. Worst of all. All the irises were in full bud just days from blooming. I was just about having a panick attack out there. My mom had to make me go in where i stood gasping and smacking at the window. The driver did well. No injuries were reported.

    This is were my garden is now. In MI, 15 hours away from me. I cant stand it. Knowing that the oak leaves have fallen and i am not there to clean them up. I feel like i left so much undone. I will go back in the early spring to clean up but still its very frustrating. I cant imagine being in the position that so many of you have been in but i am sure i will someday.
    I know that i will be moving several times in the future. Im 25, just moved to NC, probalby wont be here more than 5 years maybe before we go back to MI. Who knows though. I cannot predict the future as much as i try. All i know is if there was only one thing on earth i was allowed to do it would be to garden. Even if i could only plant marigolds.

  • arleneb

    Just happened across this thread and read clear through it . . . David, I'm glad to have read the latest update and to see the amazing photos of your old garden . . . enjoy and treasure the memories and the photos, and enjoy the new garden as well.

    I've lived on this property on a northern Indiana lake for 32 years. Raised our three kids here, learned to garden here. Tore down the 75 year old house 6 years ago and built a beautiful new one on the same property. We're moving in the spring to a ridge in Tennessee, where we'll live next door to our two daughters and their families. New zone, new soil, new challenges.

    Our real estate description specifically excluded the hosta collection. My DH thought that might make it harder to sell the house, but it sold to the fourth person who looked. The new people are unable to garden for physical reasons, so I think they're glad to lose the 200+ hostas, although lakeside they were foundation plantings, so will have to be replaced. The hosta areas will probably be put into grass, so I'll take the companion plants as well so the area will be bare and ready to seed. The mixed borders will probably be simplified or grassed eventually. The veggie garden will become a parking area. I may take cuttings of a few other things; depends on time and my back!

    My plan is to dig the hostas in April and transport them to Tennessee bare root, in large plastic containers. The new house won't be finished on time, so I'll probably have a couple loads of topsoil spread somewhere and just heel them in till I can site them properly.

    I could probably replace these much more easily than moving them, but the big boys have been mine for quite a number of years, so I have an emotional attachment. And I know the new people had no real interest in them.

    I hope this all works out . . . I fully understand all of you who wept over lost gardens. I'm having a terrible time leaving my lake view as well . . . the only thing saving me is knowing that when I look out of my new house, I'll see the neighboring ridge . . . and grandchildren.

  • carrie630

    This thread is a gem! It's worth saving - thank you David for the inspirations and the honesty of your situation - I wish you all the luck in the world.

    I am recommending anyone who is moving away from their garden to read this thread - it's truly helpful and encouraging.


  • LindaMA

    What a wonderful thread. I just purchased a new house the past summer and have just begun working on the landscape adding a couple of perennial beds, etc.

    I have already planted a lot of perennials and not knowing just how long we'll be staying in this home, it gave me a lot of insight.

    David, your gardens were incredible, I hope you don't mind my asking you the name of the plants in the 4th photo? They are beautiul and exactly what I've been looking to add to one of my beds. I'm curious as to the name of the white flowers in the front and then the tall plumes of white and lavendar in the rear. The plants in the rear look like my grandmother's Veronica but not sure if that's what they are.

    Many thanks for starting this post!

  • vera_eastern_wa

    Thanks for sharing this journey with us David! Carrie and thank you to for pointing me to this thread.
    I will miss my garden...it's almost overwhelming, but I am inspired and encouraged to do it all over again. I've only had the current garden since 2004....all wintersown seed started beds...all that was here when we arrived was a small patch of daylily and some hollyhocks! Of course I started various things from cuttings, ect. like the sedums. It's amazing how much I accomplished in 3 short years! Also there are so many things I can grow in Nebraska that I always wanted but wasn't able to for lack of humidity ...they would've just shriveled up here because it's so low here in summer! One of the reasons why I LOVE to wintersow is because it won't take no time at all to fill the yard up! I plan on taking a few things back too but not a whole lot. You know I already dug up a few iris rhizomes yesterday and am getting pieces of sedum and sempervirens out today...they won't skip a beat out of soil for a good length of time; tenacious little suckers! I brought a few containers of wintersown stuff indoors after going dormant: Magic Carpet Thyme, Monarda 'Garden Scarlet',and Agastache. Of course I have a bag full of 4 O'clock tubers and Geranium and a gang of seeds from harvest and trades this fall! PLUS I have a few winter-sowers who have offered to hook me up with plants. I don't know I'll necessarily need too take up the kind offers, but it sure is comforting to hear those words! No doubt I will send for the Irises offered though!!! That I can't pass up :D


  • david_5311

    For some reason my own photobucket photos are not showing up for me, not sure why. But I know which plants you are talking about Linda, by the description. That combination of spires was a purely accidental one, but one that lasted a whole month the last summer I was in my old garden. They are three of the best spires for the "high summer" July garden. In the front, acting a little floppy, Epilobium angustifolium 'Album', the white form of our native fireweed. And the two spires in the back, Cimicifuga racemosa (white) and Veronicastrum 'Fascination' (powder/lavendar blue). That summer the plants had all matured in and spread where they wanted, and made a patch of spires like that over an area of about 20 sq feet.

    BTW, since I know that people always ask, I will anticipate the question that the white form of the fireweed has become VERY hard to find in the US. I got mine originally from Heronswood 15 years ago, and I know of no place now where one can find this plant. I did dig up a few shoots and move them, and they are becoming established in my new garden.

    Good thing too, because this patch of spires at the old place is now the basketball court. Wish I could have gone back to dig up some more before they paved it.....

  • LindaMA

    Thank you David, those are the ones, that photo is incredible, I can only imagine how beautiful your garden was and how hard it must have been to leave some of those beauties behind. I'm glad to hear that you were able to take a few of the spires with you. I'm sure that your new garden is going to be just as beautiful, only in a different way....your way.

    Good luck!

  • katob Z6ish, NE Pa

    "VERY hard to find in the US"..... aw poo!
    I was eyeing the fireweed too and wanted to give it a try. It shows up in P Hobhouse's book 'On Gardening' as a plant that grows well at Tintinhull and I just assumed it wouldn't grow well with my warm summer nights. Your post raised my hopes and then just as quickly crushed them back down! LOL
    Thanks for the info though (and of course the great photos)

  • mehearty

    David your gardens are so beautiful, and you photograph them so well. Thank you for sharing. It was so nice to "stroll through" your beautiful gardens this am with a blizzard on the way.

    Do you mind if I ask about a plant in the last pic? In the upper right hand corner, there's a blue flowering shrub (?) next to a clematis (I think) with darker blue flowers. What is that shrub? And does it really have blue flowers or does my monitor need serious adjusting?

    Thank you in advance.


  • LindaMA

    Hi MH, just looking at the shrub you were asking David about and if I'm not mistaken, the plant in the upper right hand corner is the Clematis Betty Corning and the blue Clematis next to that one, in the middle, is Perle d'Azur and the Clematis on the far left is Roguchii. I hope I got the right one.


  • david_5311

    Just checking back here, amazing to see this thread is still going. I can't see my own pictures because they are now censored at work, but lindama is right on. Clematis Betty Corning is growing on a very large obelisk, about 9' tall. It makes a huge mass of showy bloom when grown that way, for about 3 solid months. I personally like to grow clematis best of all on obleisks or tuteurs where they can really shine. Linda is right about the other two clems too.

  • alicia7b

    We can only dream of growing clematis like that in NC...

  • rosefolly

    David, I just found this thread and read about your adventures in moving and gardening. It was a quite a journey you took, wasn't it? I just wanted to say that I found the pictures of your garden to be just beautiful. I'm glad I got to see them, and that you got to create them, and that now you are creating a new and even better garden in your new home.


  • sue36

    I saw this thread before, but never read it. Sad. When my mother (who was fairly young) became ill her gardens became a little illkept (just a little raggety). After she died I did the best I could (from 50 miles away) to keep them looking good. I pulled out the invasive stuff since I didn't have the time to control it. The this past year my father had a new sidewalk put in. The front bed was completely destroyed in the process. I am praying some of the lilies come back up so I can get a few. I still need to sit down with Dad and figure out what he wants in there. A 40 year old garden, gone, in a snap.

    David, please post images of your new garden!

  • terrene

    Bumped for Janine, et. al.

  • jackied164 z6 MA

    This was a great thread to read after having moved back in the summer - some very good advice. I was very conflicted about moving but I think it was clear to me that moving the garden wasn't going to happen. As it was I did take well over 100 perennials I potted up as they emerged in the spring (they were mostly splits of plants that really needed it). To be honest this was really too much...I spent a whole week moving car loads of plants before and after work and was already completely exhausted from moving the house. The new tenant at the place asked the landlord if she could contact me about the garden but in the end I said no. Of course a big part of me wanted to still be involved with that garden but I knew I needed to make a clean break and focus on my new garden. This fall I planted about 1300 bulbs and cant wait to see them if this winter ever ends.

  • Debby Kuennen

    Very inspirational. Thanks to all for sharing experiences.

  • astilbe_2009

    Your garden was gorgeous! What beautiful pictures.

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