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Looking for a Perfect Gardening Weather Place to Retire

June 13, 2008

I live in NJ, the growning season is relativly short here, 4-5 months the most. Tired of the daily rat-race commuting to NYC, contemplating retiring, hopefully soon.

I have been browsing the web trying to find a place with mild weather/long growing season as well as retirees friendly so I can happily gardening all year long.

Is there such a place exists in the US ?

Many thanks for your help in advance.


Comments (33)

  • agardenstateof_mind

    Depends on what you want to grow. I have blooms from late January to the end of November ... that's ten months ... hmmm, the right camellia would probably close the gap, but, honestly, during those months I'm busy getting ready for the holidays anyway and once they're over I get busy in my little greenhouse. Even vegetables: Fall planted spinach will be ready for harvest surprisingly early in the spring, and my tomato plants keep on producing until frost strikes them down in late October.

    Obviously you feel differently, and I notice you are in Zone 6, but I feel we have a wonderful growing climate here in USDA Zone 7, where the edges of the "northern" and "southern" growing regions overlap, giving us more diversity from which to choose.

    I expect gardeners from other regions may take me to task, lol, because they probably feel the same way about their respective regions, but I guess my philosophy is the advice I give to my plants "bloom where you are planted."

    However, having done it myself, I definitely concur with the commute to NYC being a drag once the novelty wears off. So does spending 40 hours a week in a 6x8, windowless, fluorescent-lit cubicle, even if it's relatively close to home ... so I dropped out, studied Reiki, took the Master Gardener course, and just landed a job in a botanical park "devoted to the education and enjoyment of the home gardener."

    Wherever you wind up "transplanting" yourself, I wish you the same happiness.

  • Marie Tulin

    A friend researched places to retire, but included 4 seasons, and came up with Asheville, North Carolina.

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  • SandL

    If you can afford it - California. I'm native Californian. The weather along the coastal/orchard areas is always mild and great for growing all sorts of plants.

    The best types of plants to grow are ones that do well in a Meditteranean climate. Lots of citrus, avacado, Macadamia nuts, palms, boxwoods, roses, ivy, herbs of all ranges - I could go on and on.


  • mxk3

    If it were me and I could afford it - Hawaii.

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.

    For long growing seasons consider south and up (higher altitudes). A few years ago I met a chrysanthemum grower from Columbia who claimed that at his altitude the temperature was 64-68° every day of the year and that the cost of living was quite inexpensive. There are probably similar places in Hawaii but not inexpensive I would guess.

  • oldroser

    Califorians can't grow lilacs, peonies, spring bulbs....
    I too have flowers from January(snowdrops) to November (asters) and then the indoor roses pick up. If I was given my druthers, I'd probably pick West Virginia for reasonable climate, hilly terrain, wide range of native plants.....
    But right now, with the roses in full bloom, I'd rather be here.

  • MissMyGardens

    I know this sounds corny but the Zone 7 where P. Allen Smith lives seems to allow him to grow a huge variety things from what I see on his gardening show.

    Just searched the net and his residence is in Arkansas but I don't know where he's built (still building?) the new Garden Home Retreat which is a dream of a place out in the countryside.

    While researching plants for the last 18 months there seems to be a lot more that will make it in zone 7 than my zone 6b.

    Being a true Jersey girl I don't think I'll be moving to Arkansas, though. :) This is the "Garden State" after all and the southern half of the state offers a wealth of produce.

    I'll take Jersey...even with clay soil needing massive amendment for the home gardener especially one just starting out like moi!

    My sister went to Western Carolina Univ. right by Asheville, NJ many moons ago when it was just a sleepy little town. It was beautiful back then and it's grown incredibly since the early 80s. Gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains I think.

    I commuted from north Jersey to the city for only one year and loved it but was 23 at the time and the city was fun for that one year. Later I traveled in sales for 20 years and driving 25-30,000 miles a year for business gets old very quickly if you're not a stereotypical adrenalin junky.

    Good luck in your search for a great gardening place to retire.

  • peaceofmind

    Have you considered the Oregon and Washington state area. I'd love to garden just one year in that area. It sounds ideal to me.

    I live in the Missouri Ozarks and many, many people retire in this area. It may have more to do with the low cost of living. I think Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky have moderate climates and would be great places to live.

    I'm interested in seeing how others respond.

  • machree

    I lived most of my adult life in zone 8 Florida then moved to zone 6 Kentucky. I was thrilled to be able to have some of the plants that require a chill, like daffodils and peonies and even a peach tree. But boy, did I ever miss my fig trees! And even though you could grow a crape myrtle in Kentucky, you didn't get them large tree shaped, winter kill usually made them look more shrub-like for the most part (I'm sure there were exceptions somewhere.) I always felt like Zone 7 would be the perfect zone, cold enough for the plants that need the chill but still warm enough for the ones I love. I now live in North Carolina in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Fabulous mountain views and Zone 7. I believe if I had moved into the mountains themselves that it would have been zone 6 again. I live close to Mt Airy which I have heard is a highly rated retirement area, a town of about 10,000. No place is perfect, there will always be drought or bugs, hurricanes or earthquakes, tornadoes....well, you get the picture. But in my opinion I think Zone 7 is just about as perfect as one can get from the gardening standpoint. Of course if you love snowy winters then zone 7 more than likely is not the place to be...I've actually heard that there are some poeple who love lots of snow...lol! My daughter lives in Maine! She loves it there but does wish for a longer growing season.

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA

    I enjoy the break from gardening in the winter and would really miss it if I could garden year round...and nothing besides gardening would ever get done..lol. I have to confess I am one of those crazy people who love snow too. Here in NE, I find our weather although changed from what I remember as a child, seems to always be preferable to other areas whose weather I keep hearing about. As a rule, we don't have to worry about flooding, brush fires, tornados, hurricanes, mud slides. Plus, the way global warming is going, I may be zone 7 before you know it. [g] Actually, Cape Cod, is New England and is zone 7 too.


  • agardenstateof_mind

    Machree, you said it better than I did.

    I have three figs growing here in my zone 7 yard, though all three were just started from cuttings and still too young to bear fruit (but I know their "parents" do). I've seen many crape myrtles throughout NJ, in zones 7 and 6. Variety may be a factor in winter hardiness. We have some very large ones at the park with is borderline 6/7.

    Winters can be dull, without those Currier & Ives snow-covered scenes; once the holidays have passed I feel in limbo, like everything us "on hold" until spring arrives. That's when those plants with winter interest come to the rescue: the woody plants with colorful, patterned or exfoliating bark and, of course, the earliest bloomers ... and bird feeders.

  • lynnencfan

    lol - if that place existed we would all be gardening on our little square inch of land there would be so many of us there. Seriously tho - my late husband and I retired after 40 years living up in the Delaware Valley area and were looking for 4 season gardening. We settled here Southeast of Raleigh NC because it is right on both zone 7 and 8 so we can push both types of growing - tropical and the more standard plants. Our summers are HOT but we can pretty much garden all winter. One thing I would suggest - once you do decide on an area and moved there - check out your Co-operative Extension Master Gardening program because you will be gardening under different conditions. I learned so much from taking the course. Good luck in your decision - it is just a whole new world once you retire - I love it......


  • Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

    Winter chill is needed to grow many desirable plants. Gardening doesn't stop once it gets cold outside- you just do other things. I would look for an area that gets 4 good seasons but little too no snow.

  • david_5311

    This is an interesting question and one I have thought a fair amount about, being in the age group where I start seriously thinking about this. I have had the great good fortune to visit lots of prime areas in lots of seasons too. My choices:

    1. Pacific NW, mild climate, huge range of plants that can be grown, definite but mild winters where winter is a garden season, with winter blooming woodies cyclamen hellebores etc.

    2. California coast, anywhere from the Bay area to San Diego. Who can beat that mild climate and what can be grown all year!

    3. MidAtlantic/upper south. Summers might be a little hot for me, but I find as I age that I am more tolerant of summer heat than I am of winter cold. I have been to Philadelphia and the DC area lots of times and I am amazed at what greater diversity of plants can be grown there than in Michigan...AND the growing season is at least a month longer on either end! I could really go for that. Spring in Michigan is way too short, fall is great but too short, and winter is way too long. I wouldn't half mind winter if it were milder and 3 months or even 2 rather than 6.

    Another great choice for me would be living 6 months of the year in a northern clime like Maine or Michigan and 6 months in California or Arizona ... duh.....the snowbird life beckons......


  • shnj

    Thanks to all for the wonderful ideas.

    Few years back, I took the boys to San Fran for vacation in July, loved the mild weather there, can't never forget the beautiful blue Agapanthus and the firey red Buganbilia.

    Raleigh NC is another place, close to many colleges, it would be good to go back to school minus the pressure. Ashville is another consideration, it is where my daughter-in-law grew up, her family is still down there. Blue Ridge mountains, Columbia, Pacific NW, MidAtlantic all sounded great. Becoming a snowbird is a pretty good alternative as well.

    agardenstateof_mind, thanks for the insightful advice, greenhouse is a splendid idea, now is not the time for me to pick up and leave, a greenhouse is the next best thing to extend gardening season.

    I do like the winter here, either driving through snow covered south mountain reservation or curled up with a book in front of the fireplace and if I can garden at the same time, I will be in haven.

    Thanks again to you all.

  • phill173

    Oregon or Washington--hands down! We do have our four seaons, but they are mild, and we can grow just about anything. Lots of wonderful small nurseries in both states carrying hard-to-find plants.

  • lemecdutex

    Actually, California can grow Peonies and Lilacs. We have a lot of them at my place, and I had lots of them in the Central Valley area as well (I'm in Sonoma County, a few miles from the coast). Northern California is better for plants that need winter chill, and closer to the coast but north of Marin county you can grow most anything from the east coast, as well as more tender things. For instance, my garden has alstroemerias, shrub lupins, blue poppies, all manner of iris, poppies, tulips, Russell-type lupins and much more. I think for my taste in plants I'd still prefer to go a little further north, like Ferndale near Eureka, or on up into Oregon or Washington.


  • covella

    Wherever you go, make sure there is something else to hold your attention besides gardening. Not to make any predictions but things change and you may find other interests in retirement that are fun too.

  • redsox_gw

    I have thought about this issue often, even though we are many, many years from retirement. I am transplanted from Boston to Kentucky. I do think Zone 7 is probably the most ideal Zone-wise. (Currently we are 6b). I am not a Southern girl, though, and I do miss the Northeast. In Kentucky, we have lots of blackspot if you grow roses and lots of Japanese Beetles. You pretty much have to garden in the earlier hours of the morning as it gets blistering hot and humid.

    The Pacific Northwest or California do seem ideal for gardening but I think East Coasters stay East Coasters. So I can't really think of an ideal 4 season place.

  • peachiekean

    I think I found it. I moved to a retirement community in So. California (yes, I'm a Californian and still work). The climate is slightly different than where I came from.. Soil is clay, not sand, and everything grows! There are many snowbirds living here - they hang out for 6 mo. then they go back east or out of country. It's a nice life if you can handle fire, earthquakes, traffic, high prices and too many people! It makes gardening just that sweeter.

  • Karchita

    Sonoma, CA or someplace very similar (inland, northern California) gets my vote.

    I love the weather in the here in the Pacific Northwest and the variety of plants that can be grown here can't be beat, but Sonoma is drier and milder and really would be perfection. The PNW is merely fantastic.

  • Maryl (Okla. Zone 7a)

    Oklahoma's a great place to garden if you like living in a constant state of anxiety about the weather. Well, except for summer; always hot and humid. A friend of mine said gardening here puts hair on your chest. After this years Ice storm, many floods, golf ball sized hail storm and 3 or 4 tornados close by, I'm starting to look like Robin Williams....not a pretty sight on a female........Maryl

  • Lisa_H OK

    Oklahoma is does have fun weather :) But the upside is we don't have shovel snow too much (in face we take pictures when we have snow!!). But I will say this for Oklahoma (I'm not a native okie), the people are friendly, the cost of living is low and the pace of life is much more laid back. Those are all important considerations when it comes to retirement.

    Of all the other suggestions, North/South Carolina would be my choice.


  • DYH

    We live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina...just in the next county so that we have lower property taxes but within 4 miles of downtown. Raleigh is 30 minutes away; Greensboro is an hour; Wilmington (coast) is 2 1/2 hours away; Asheville is within reach for an overnight stay/weekend getaway.

    We have great access to medical facilities such as Duke University, UNC Hospitals, Rex Hospital, etc. We also have the advantages of the universities in the area for botanical gardens, cultural activities such as theater as well as opportunities to take classes of interest.

    You can find just about any store you need within easy reach. The cost of living isn't too high here IMHO.

    If you aren't commuting to the RTP area during rush hour, traffic isn't bad.

    Aside from our drought last year, other years (and this summer) have been good for gardening. You can see my blog to read more about what I've been doing here for the last few years. In full disclosure, we have to deal with deer, bunnies and Japanese Beetles.

    BTW, my husband and I are both retired. I've always lived in NC and my husband has lived most of his life here, too. We like to visit other places, but as we say here "we love calling North Carolina home".


    Here is a link that might be useful: my gardening blog in NC

  • newskye

    Here in south Wales we've got great gardening weather! Very mild winters, mild summers, plenty of rain, so seldom is there drought or a huge job of watering the garden, and you don't get cooked by the sun as you're out there in July or so. It's weather that's actually comfortable for gardening as well as being nice for the garden itself. So since you want US places I'd say the PNW, which has very similar weather to here.

  • christinmk z5b eastern WA

    I live in Spokane, which is in the east side of Wa. Dont come here. Its hot and dry in the summer, and we get cold and lots of snow in the winter.

    But Im a PNW girl thru and thru. I have a lot of relatives that live in Seattle, and one that lives on Bremmerton Is. I also vacation semi-frequently along the coast of Or. The PNW is so lush and green. The weather is nice and mild too. Lots of outdoor activities and great gardening.

    BUT, its not for everyone. I know several people that moved to the PNW ended up not liking it because of the grey winters and many days of overcast. Then theres all the rain. Personally, I love this kind of weather, but many do not.

    Hope this helps you.

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.

    I understand that the political situation in Columbia has the potential to improve rapidly. When I mentioned Columbia earlier I was not being entirely facetious but it appears to be looking much better.

  • prairiegirlz5

    It is my understanding that South America has perfect weather for rose gardening, in fact that is now where most roses is the world are grown.

    But since you're interested in USA only, I'll vouch for Maryland, Virgina and the DC area. They have mild winters, gorgeous fall color, glorious springs and the summers are amazing there.

  • arbo_retum

    There once was a very amazingly talented and serious Chicago gardener named Steve Antonow. When he pondered your same question, he spent a great deal of time studying U.S.weather charts and soil data and every other kind of data (property prices etc.) that he could find. He then settled/retired in West Seattle and developed an extraordinary garden.He often verbally confirmed that he had indeed made the right choice.West Seattle.

  • buyorsell888

    While many who have never lived anywhere else love the Pacific Northwest, I who lived for fifteen years in Phoenix, hate it.

    Yes, many plants grow well here but....it rains. It rains and it rains and it rains. You can't go out and garden unless you don't mind being damp and muddy. Spring is especially rainy and then the rain stops July 4th and everything fries. I was born here and I've lived here over twenty years this time but if my husband would move I'd be out of here in a heartbeat. A retired person would have it better than I do though because they could take advantage of nice days during the week that I can't since I work.

    I have online gardening friends who live in colder climates but have flowers much longer than I do, especially waterlilies. I never get a bloom until July and people with sunnier springs get them in April.

    What you consider gardening paradise depends on what kinds of plants you want to grow. If you are into tropical then San Diego or Hawaii can't be beat...if you can afford it.

    If you want a blend then San Francisco or many parts of the South are great. Lilacs and Crepe Myrtles, Agapanthus and Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Gardenias.

  • Karchita

    I think a lot of people who lived for 15 years in Phoenix would have a hard time adjusting or readjusting to the PNW.

    I lived in Anchorage Alaska for 15 years before I moved here and after nearly 10 years I'm in love with all the warm and sunny weather; believe me, after Anchorage it is paradise here. I have also lived in the midwest and Hawaii and would gladly chose this climate over either of those. Phoenix? No thanks.

    It all depends on what you are used to. Those of us who have lived in really miserable climates have no complaints.

  • lemecdutex

    I've lived in Houston, TX; Nashville, TN; Orlando, FL; Los Angeles, Fresno and now Sonoma county, California, and I'd definitely prefer any California climate over anything in the SE. I used to be very interested in tropicals, but got over that after a bad freeze in Orlando wiped out practically my entire garden. It's weird, temps in Orlando that would wipe out a lot of plants (like Citrus) can happen in California and they are untouched. I think it has to do with the gradual cooldown typical in California compared to the SE, where weather fluctuates too much.

    The weather here is the best I've ever had, overall, for growing plants, though I'd prefer it rained a bit more and stayed cooler (our nights are cool, but some days get warmer than I like). I think around Eureka and Ferndale might be closer to what I'd like.

    I never want to live in a hot humid climate again, summers are just too miserable, and none of the perennials I like survive there.


  • GGGF

    I am curious as to whether or not you moved somewhere. I too commuted once to NYCX, where I worked 5 years. I went back to Ky, about 120 miles north of the Asheville area that manyh of these people recommend. I like Ky. a little beter than NC because, when I lived in NC, it sometimes got unbelievably humid. In Ky., there is a temperate zone -- it is compared to San Francisco sometimes. Land costs tens times more around Asheville, and it is more biodiverse n the woods here. Just not as muh culture.
    If I meet the right friend(s), I would share land with them. I am trying to farm more than I can handle.

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