Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Question of Leaving

When the local garden club visited last month I gave them a history of this garden from its beginnings as a scraped-bare builder's lot to the intensively planted gardens and reforested hillside that they were seeing.

We've been here 12 years, but most of the tree planting and garden creating started about 9 and 10 years ago, with major additions 5 years ago.

One visitor asked "when did it first seem right to you? When did you first like what it evolved into?" The question hit a mark with me, because for the first years I did not like this garden and it did not feel right. It was a work in progress and I enjoyed the process immensely, but I did not feel at home in this space.

Only in the last two years has it become what I envisioned. Now I do feel that I belong here and that my garden belongs in this place. Jim and I spend a lot of time out in it, and it feels exactly like it was meant to be just this way in this time and in this area. It pleases me.

It wasn't always so. The difference in the last two years has been that many things have matured. When the entire garden is started from nothing in a span of just a few years, it looks and feels universally raw for a long time. Everything is developing at the same time, not just a few areas.

Now, after 10 years, I have losses and changes and new plants going in all the time, but the bones of the place look settled. I have shade to sit in -- not a high forest canopy yet, but enough shade. The road behind us is well screened. The patio and front walk are both finally redesigned and look so much better with the rest of the garden. The built edges of the gravel area and other garden constructions are now filled in and softened with bigger plants.

I've matured too. I've settled on the furniture that works, after years of rotating items around. I've learned the rhythms of the seasons and the idiosyncrasies of the micro climates here, so I am more relaxed about what I can do. I know more about plants in general. After so many years we've found a way to make peace with the chaos around us (mowing paths into the wild meadow helped) and how to control the wildlife and how to shrug off each year's problems. They aren't such catastrophes any more.

So. . . .  now that it all looks and feels so right, could I leave it? Could we move out west in the next few years? In the next year?

I want to be careful to assess whether I picture leaving this garden for the logical reasons (proximity to future grandchildren, lower taxes, serious downsizing, making a move while we still physically can and not when it's a crisis) or whether I picture leaving here because this summer was so awful.

I have to admit I feel disillusioned this year. It was so dry, it was a lot of work just to keep things alive and they don't even look good. Winters are always long and difficult here, but adding a long and difficult summer made me sort of give up. I feel like I could be done with all of this. A condo with a stone courtyard in a dry climate seems just about perfect to me right now.

But if next spring is lovely and my plants respond, and I'm feeling the pleasure of a settled place here, will it then be too hard to think of leaving? I wish I knew.

I'll miss seeing my little trees grow, I know that. A couple were new this year and aren't more than a few twigs and leaves. I want to be here to see them grow and to see the older trees get big and shady. That's going to be the hardest thing about leaving. . .  my trees.

The rest of it, especially all the work of a big lawn-and-borders garden, I could leave. Particularly if I don't try to replicate what I am leaving. I'd be moving to a small place, a different climate, a new aesthetic, a whole different view of the landscape. It would be a clean and total break. I could do that.

I could do that for sure.

I think.


  1. Everything is gorgeous and it is easy to see that you have put a lot of work into it. I am totally jealous of how you have blocked the view of the road. I have wanted to do that here for a long time but a certain someone won't go along with it. Love the berm. Did you do that yourself or did you have someone come in to do it?

    1. Thanks! The berm was installed by a landscaper in 2005, he brought in dirt and planted the spruces. I put everything else in on the berm to fill it out, including the two river birches that now dominate. I hope you can convince a certain someone to put in screening -- you don't have to put in a wall of trees along the road, you can get a screening effect that distracts (but doesn't hide) with just a few tall plants!

  2. I see a big change looming on the horizon. Change is good if done for the right reasons. Future grandchildren are the right reasons.

    1. Ch-ch-ch-change. . . . aaack. It's so hard.

  3. Laurrie, I just discovered your blogs, I love everything you've done! And you've done so much on your blogs...just beautiful. I started a blog about my gardening and love to write about the changes happening on my small property. Good luck with your decisions i.e. "should I stay or should I go?"


    1. Ann - Welcome! I'm glad you found me. Now help me decide to stay or go... ha!

    2. Laurie
      As you know as I have written before - everytime I read your entries it is like you were just inside my mind reading my thoughts. Perhaps it is because w are both at a similar time at our life. These photos really prove what you have accomplished and no matter whether you stay or go - those accomplishments are gorgeous and represent a great deal of work, creativity and money (and time)!! You have created something beautiful and special. That is the way I feel - I have "done it" - I have accomplished what i=I was after - it is not perfectly what I wanted but since it is living - it never will be. I actually feel like I could walk away. I also know I could stay - but the development is always more fun than the maintenance phase - at least to me. You are already dreaming of new challenges in an arid western landscape and why shoulb\dn't you go for it and try something new. That is what I am thinking of doing. - a courtyard paved garden with fountains and pots and some trees and shrubs - not all the perennials I have now. But...I just added about $1,000 worth of exciting new daylilies - O why would I leave and miss their development? I flip flop about every day - there are positives and negatives. You also have family ties pulling. Which ever choice - your place has really become beautiful - I am glad you shared these earliest photos! Karen

    3. Karen - how right you are when you say the development of a brand new garden is more rewarding than the maintenance. That does sum up how I am starting to feel about this place, and why I feel I could leave it, maybe.

      I can't imagine what $1,000 worth of daylilies looks like -- wow!! That will be something to look forward to . . .