They Came With the House

Recently my parents bought a new home and we just had the chance to go see it. I was immediately struck, as they had been, by its gardens! It is clear that the former owners were passionate gardeners who incorporated some rather unusual plants into their designs. As we walked around outside, my parents—who have a good understanding of plants and yard care—nonetheless began to ask me what was what, and what should they do to take care of it.

Happily I was able to give them some answers then and there. A few plants I felt 90% sure about but wanted to go home and look up to be positive. And there are several that I don’t know, so I guess that’s my “summer homework”—to figure out what came with the house. (I’m in my 30s now; how Mum and Dad are still managing to give me little educational projects, I don’t know!)

Looking over the gardens made me really curious about the people who used to live there, and how they felt putting the property up for sale. (Andrew Keys covered a similar situation in his first RadioGarden podcast, “Moving.” If you haven’t listened yet, it’s an interesting episode.)

Are they worried what might become of the gardens? Or did they just feel excited about starting fresh? We know they moved out of this region, so perhaps they just wanted to get down to learning how to garden in a new climate.

I wonder if it crossed their mind to leave a map and list of what is planted where.  That’s what I want to do if/when we ever sell our place. I would like to think that such a list would at least be helpful to a new owner who is already interested in gardening; and at the very best would inspire a new owner who has never gardened before to get into it.

But, you know, my hope would be simply that a garden—any garden—continues to grow here. And if someone is going to garden, they’re bound to make their own choices and do their own thing. I couldn’t expect them to just maintain what I had planted. It’s special to me, but it’s not really special when it comes to gardens, you know?  Just that they would take what I started and keep going. I think the worst thing would be to drive by and see the garden replaced with lawn.

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7 thoughts on “They Came With the House

  1. Hi Kathy,
    I’m so happy for your parents. We’ve lived in our house for 40 years. The original owner built the house in 1922, planted his garden and was on the garden walks here in Park Ridge, IL in the 1930s. I always hoped I could live up that aspiration. This spring we were invited to show our home on the garden walk. The bones of the first garden still exist with an 80 year old climbing rose that is magnificant,a 50 foot pine tree, and a cedar from Colorado that should not grow in our climate. I’ve put together a list of all the plants, original and my own and have markers on unfamiliar plants and trees, and a picture album of the changing season. If/when we should move the album will go with the house with the hope the new owners will love gardening as the first two owners.

    • Hi Kathy — I haven’t taken any yet but I need to and will post some! The comments below gave me the idea to put together a photo album of the plants, all labeled, as a housewarming gift. (Good thing my parents don’t read my blog.) And including a few ideas for what they might put in several blank spots around the yard. Then in the fall I’d like to buy and plant for them a shrub.

  2. We have lived in our house for 30 years now, and when in retired in 2004, my first “to do” was to take pictures of all the plants and trees in my yard. I have put them in a picture scrapbook and labeled them with common and latin names and where they are located in the yard. I hope the next owner can appreciate the love that has gone into my yard and this scrapbook.

  3. When I sold my house in 2004, I had been gardening there for 25 years. I had many exciting plants, and had many of the gardens planted with three seasons worth of perennials and shrubs, and three height levels of plants- I went around the house and gardens with a notebook in hand and listed , described, and explained all the plantings- the new owners were grateful, and much of the garden survives today-

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