I have always had a love of forgotten gardens. Maybe that is why I initially took on the challenge of my current garden, because it had become a forgotten garden.
Earlier, I was looking through old photos today that I once took in 2007. Then, I had documented a ruin of gardens on Buck Lane in Haverford in Lower Merion Township. The houses were going to be demolished for what I feel are seriously ugly townhouses crammed in like sardines. I still feel that way today.
It made me sad because people had once loved these two gardens, until the lure of a developer’s cash became worth more than a home and a garden and sense of place. And these were relatively deep gardens for their location, which made them unusual and of course deep lots always make developers drool.
As I took those photos that late May day in 2007, the houses were already empty and cleared out. They were empty shells standing there in what was quickly becoming the ruins of the gardens. Beautiful and quite large and well established Japanese Maples with their lovely trunks marked by big red “Xs” meaning soon a saw would take them down, if not simply a big bulldozer. Beautiful, healthy trees.
I remember distinctly wandering with the ghosts of two former gardens’ glory, imagining how pretty the gardens had once been. I never knew the people who lived in either of these two houses with once beautiful gardens, so the day I was discovering the gardens for the first time, was also the last time.
I remember on that day long ago, wishing I had a big garden at that time to rescue plants from this location. But I did not. I had a very small garden. In the end, I don’t even remember the developer offering to let people dig plants.
I realized today that a lot of the plants I saw in this garden exist in my current garden. These were a very pretty pair of gardens once upon a time. And they had people who tended to them. These gardens were loaded with glorious, old fashioned perennials along with the shrubs and trees. These were gardens that had four seasons of interest. And what the vision was which replaced them was a bunch of new construction townhouses crammed in like sardines. Houses with no soul, and overpriced even in a Main Line location. They exist today and were “shrubbed” which means they showed that municipality a “landscape plan” that was a mere afterthought, and will never be gardens.
Gardens are so important. And it is a shame that so many can’t recognize that. When I look back on these photos it makes me wonder if someone else in the future will love my beautiful garden the way I do? Or will my garden some day be plowed under for another development?
I don’t have that crystal ball, so all I can and will do is continue to love my garden and tend to it. I also encourage others to care for theirs. But remember the forgotten gardens, because they can always teach us something.
Your blog touched my heart, as I’ve left beloved gardens behind over the years but also found a new one at my current home. Overgrown shrubs and brush hid a struggling azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron from view. Since clearing out and opening up the area to light again, these ‘ghost’ shrubs have come back to life!
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Thank you Carla
“ These were a very pretty pair of gardens once upon a time. And they had people who tended to them. These gardens were loaded with glorious, old fashioned perennials along with the shrubs and trees. These were gardens that had four seasons of interest. ”
My friend Daryl Beyer reminded me recently that “without a gardener, there is no garden.”
Your story reminded me of that.
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