Starting over

A few blocks from my house there’s a garden that’s nearly as jumbled and over planted as mine. At least there was. Now, it’s gone. Over the summer the house sold, though the garden was so overgrown that it was difficult to see the For Sale sign in the front yard.

It was obvious when the new homeowners moved in. One day there were trucks and forklifts. Huge dumpsters were brought in to fill with trees and shrubs that were bulldozed, chopped into pieces and hauled away. After a few days the once lush landscape was barren, the garden gone except for a few dogwoods and stone walls that were left behind.

Nothing has been replanted, though I suspect the open beds of mulch will eventually be filled with smaller plants. Many areas were graded and turned to lawn, and today from the road I can see from one end of the property to the other. Before, I couldn’t see into the backyard at all. Now, the landscape is open and organized, not at all a garden, to my thinking.

I sometimes wonder what will happen to my garden (above and below) when I’m gone. I assume that something similar will happen, but my garden is more extensive, and more densely planted, though I hesitate to call it overgrown. There are ponds, patios, and a summerhouse to be considered, so perhaps the entire garden will not be bulldozed to start from scratch. I suppose that I shouldn’t care. I’ll be dead and gone, but it seems a shame to wipe clean the efforts of several decades. And, imagine the value of twenty year old (and older) Japanese maples, collections of dogwoods and redbuds, and lots more, but possibly more than a new homeowner is willing or able to care for.

In my first garden, thirty five years ago I planted a large copper leafed beech. Several years later our family moved nearby, and it wasn’t long before the beautiful beech and most of the garden was cut down and discarded. The horribly monstrous sycamore that preceded my garden was kept. I felt mildly sick over the lost beech,  but at this point it was none of my business.

Our family stayed in our second home for only a few years. I like to say that we moved when I ran out of space to expand the garden, but the real reason was to move further out, a bit further from the traffic and congestion. Along with the move to the relatively open spaces of the far suburbs was an increase in space from a four thousand square foot property to an acre and a quarter. I’ve driven by the second house a few times, and much of the garden remains with only a few shrubs wildly overgrown and a few that have been chopped out. The garden could use a bit more care, but I’m not even slightly bothered twenty three years later.

Over twenty some years the current garden has been planted and grown, and more has been planted until there’s hardly space for anything larger than a small shrub or two, and a few perennials and bulbs. Of course, this has not deterred me from continuing to shoehorn in numbers of shrubs and dozens of perennials each year. I have finally conceded that there is not enough space to plant more trees, though I seriously considered planting a small catalpa a month ago that would have quickly grown to be a mistake.

The discipline to consider the long term before planting seems to come and go for me, with most purchases made without the slightest idea where the plant will go until it’s sitting in the driveway ready to plant. I resisted the catalpa, but next week I could reconsider. I’ve done this innumerable times, but to my mind there are few regrets.

My wife has different ideas about this, and of course she’ll have a different version to tell (that you shouldn’t believe a word of). Seldom do we quarrel, but we’ve had a tussle or two over the garden, usually when one thing or another is growing over or flopping onto the stone paths that meander through the garden. This is what plants are supposed to do as I see it. Paths and patios look naked without foliage draping over the edges. Chopping and shaping plants is unnatural, and should only be resorted to in an emergency (I think). I’d rather step over or around an obstructing plant, or even move a path before I prune. I’ve quit using steps onto one side of the deck rather than prune a tall, arching nandina.

In any case, the garden is nearly where I want it. There’s always more than enough work to keep me busy, but there’s still plenty of time to relax and enjoy. I can’t imagine selling the place, and certainly I’ve no desire to start over with a clean slate. The old bones are starting to creak a bit, but I think I still have a few good years left in me. I’ll keep piddling, keep planting, and by the time I’m gone the garden will really be a mess.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Judie Cook says:

    Dave….where are you located?? I think I recall reading somewhere that you are in Northern Virginia??? Alexandria??? Have you ever thought of having an “Open Garden” once a month (or more) and charge admission…Even let people take cuttings of some of your plantings??? The admission charge would go to creating signage for your garden so that folks would know what they were looking at and admiring….;)

    We sure do enjoy your Ramblings…keep up the good work!

    JUdie Cook

    ( In Crownsville Md, near Crofton…and Annapolis).

    1. Dave says:

      My garden is just outside Warrenton, Virginia. The garden is open to any prowler who cares to walk in, but I’m considering giving out the address so that anyone interested could find it for a day or two in the spring. With too much garden and too little of me there’s usually a few big messes and a bunch of small ones that would need to be cleaned up for visitors.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Hi Dave,

    I just read your post and thought at the end that your garden would be what people would refer to as, ” a beautiful mess!”

    I also wanted to let you know that the flowering apricot tree that replaced my weeping lavender twist red bud has buds on the branches and I am so excited that it may indeed bloom for my Birthday in February!

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