tomorrow’s gardeners in tomorrow’s garden

Big mum. My present garden.

As I started to plant some of the plants waiting for garden bed homes I was thinking. And what I was thinking might seem somewhat morbid to some, but I’m a realist. What I was thinking is what will the gardener in the future think of what I have done here?

And it’s something I have thought about before. I thought about it when I first started to excavate the original garden beds from the original homeowner of this house when we moved in. Weeds and invasive things had taken over much of the garden so it was like an archaeological project. I had wondered if they had looked at their gardens ever and wondered what people down the road would think and what they would want to keep and nurture?

I found some things I liked, and other things I didn’t like so much. I kept the azaleas that were way over the height of the porch roof when we bought the house, but I jettisoned the yew bushes covering the garage windows the day of settlement.

Waiting for planting. My present garden.

These are the things I don’t understand about gardens. If I had been the one selling my house to me one of the things I would’ve done is trim those damn bushes. They were tall they were dense they let no light in. And they had long since lost the shape they once had.

This was one of the few times I utilized a landscaping company. I had them come over and literally put chains around the tree trunks size bases of these shrubs and get them out. The bushes we couldn’t get out we cut below the base of the soil line and they have rotted away since.

My parents’ garden of the past. Haverford,PA.

Somebody said to me the other day when I asked them about a picture of a job they had done that still had overgrown shrubs that they had “done with the customer wanted.”

I’m sorry I don’t understand how someone can want shrubs the completely cover their first floor windows can you?

When you are inside a house with shrubs that cover the windows it’s like being in a tomb— literally. I also didn’t understand that if the customer wanted to keep those shrubs why this professional didn’t at least shape them? That is what my living room was like before I trimmed the azaleas out front: an unwelcoming tomb of darkness. Nature should envelop you gently, not wall you in.

It has taken a few years for me to get my giant out of control azalea bushes to a more manageable height. And next spring I will take the center azalea down a third again because I want it to be the same height as the smaller ones on either side. I’m not going to cut it like a 1960s azalea hedge which I think is what it originally was, I prefer softer rounder forms to my azalea bushes, and I know to keep the plant lush and healthy I should probably do this one more time.

And when I prune my azaleas it’s all hand pruning. I like the way it looks better that way. And somehow I find it more satisfying.

This morning I planted a “Pink Truffles” Baptista and a Clematis called “Avant Garde”. Later I will plant two lilacs and a Hydrangea a. radiata (silver leaf Hydrangea found in the Appalachians.)

But in 50, 60, 75 years and further into the future will whomever gardens here next appreciate what I am doing now? I think it’s a valid question.

My parents’ garden of the past. Haverford,PA.

I look at my late mother-in-law’s former garden as an example. She was an incredible gardener and I have written before how I use her old gardening books as guides to my shade and woodland gardens. And if you go by my husband’s childhood home you no longer see the gardens she planted. Most of them have been ripped out.

And this happened in my family too when my parents sold their house years ago to move back into the city before my father got sick and eventually passed away.

I had planted for my parents a period appropriate garden to the age of their house. That is how I became familiar with Heirloom Roses, The Antique Rose Emporium, White Flower Farm, and other fine mail order nurseries.

Once their house was under contract all those years ago, we were told we could not remove any plants. We were told the owner wanted everything. Mind you, I was living in a much smaller garden apartment and I only had a little garden, but I was glad at the time that I snuck out a few hostas and a couple of daylilies.

My parents’ garden of the past. Haverford,PA.

Much to my dismay when I drove by a few weeks after settlement, I saw landscape trucks and a crew ripping out the 50+ different varieties of roses, as well as shrubs, perennials, and even trees we had planted.

But I also noticed that the landscaper had lined plants up in a lot of cases, which I knew meant they were going to make money off of what had been my research and labor, and put them in someone else’s garden like they had a garden epiphany. After all, this wasn’t an overgrown garden they were ripping out, it was a perfectly pruned and planted space of healthy mature plants. As a related aside, I remember running into the person who bought my parents house a couple of years later who invited me to come see all the changes they had done. I smiled and said no but inside I was looking at them like they had at least two heads, and remembering the ripped out garden.

I will also note, that for this garden of the past I wrote down every single thing I planted and where. I will also note after watching this garden get torn out, I have never written down where everything is planted ever again. I wonder what that means subconsciously?

After this I have had to become much more realistic about my garden spaces. And I had to realize and accept I could love these spaces while they were mine, but couldn’t control what happened to them in the future. A few more gardens between then and now have been ripped out and essentially razed after I left. Including our last home in Chester County.

It’s one of those things I will never ever understand. I understand wanting to make your own mark on your garden when it becomes your garden, but I don’t understand the wanton destruction of gardens. It is a weird thing to wrap one’s head around that for as many people as there are on this planet who love to garden, there are just as many who do not.

So I guess I’ve answered my own questions haven’t I? We can only love our gardens as long as we have them. We can also only hope (but not compel) that future generations and/or subsequent owners will appreciate what we have done.

I hope in the future someone loves my garden as much as I do. Much like the gardener who came before me in this current garden loved it too.

It’s a beautiful day, go plant something!

My parents’ garden of the past. Haverford,PA.