July 28, 2011

A Letter to the Future

July 28, 2040

Dear New Homeowners,

Congratulations on your new home.  I lived in this house for many decades and loved it.  I know you will too.

I am writing to you now, after the closing, to say one thing that I was not able to say during the sale negotiations.  Now that the house is yours, I need you to know:

           I am so sorry.
                 About the garden.  

It is so crammed and overgrown and impossible to navigate because I could not imagine, back in 2011, that stuff would grow so big.  I had no idea.  Well, of course I read the plant descriptions, but what help is that?   12' by 12'?  That's not so big for a viburnum, is it?

The magnolia that prohibits cars from using the driveway and blocks your access to the yard --- that was a foot high once, not even the height of a rabbit standing upright to nibble it.  The tag said "smaller than other magnolias".  Smaller, okay?  I'm sorry.  I guess it all looks too closely planted even in 2011, but who knew?  Each tree and shrub looked like a chess piece on a small game board:

That giant sassafras tree that towers over the evergreens, deforms them as it encroaches in their sunshine space, and suckers all over the berm?  I'm so sorry.  It looked like this once.  It was incredibly cute:

I know I planted trees and shrubs way too close to the house.  I'm sorry about that.  I left loppers in the garage. You could prune them back maybe.  You won't believe it, but the stewartia and redtwig dogwoods did not completely block the front door in 2011.  They seemed so right-sized then.  I did not expect them to wrap around the front porch and lift the siding panels at maturity:

See the red painted hatchway door to the basement?  You didn't know there was a door there, and I'm sorry about that.  It got covered up when the amsonias leapt their bounds and spread across, and the hydrangea 'Tardiva' ("smaller than other hydrangeas") grew to be 12' by 12' as all the shrubs did.  But there is a door there, you can see it here in 2011:

The golden hops vine that is now taking down the roof shingles on that side of the house was so small and unassuming when I put it in, back in 2011:

As was the kiwi vine that has now ripped down the deck railing.  It was dainty and so pretty when I planted it.  Sorry about the vines.  Sorry abut the deck railing.

And everything else.  When I toured botanical gardens I saw how they crammed specimens together and one plant grew into another and it all worked so well.  But maybe they pruned a lot, or replaced a lot of too-close plants as they matured and put in others that were newer.  I didn't.  I planted and let it go.

When visitors came to my garden years ago when it all was brand new, the only comment I ever heard was: "do you know how BIG that's going to get??"

I now know that 5 Colorado blue spruces and 3 birch trees and 4 hollies and a spreading biomass of clethra and spicebush and a raft of woody ground covers need more than a five foot wide strip to grow in.  But for a while, in the beginning, it looked tidy.  It all fit:

I am sure you will enjoy your new home.  And I think you can enjoy the garden if you don't go outside.  Actually, you can't get outside; the plants have blocked all the doorways.  Fortunately you can't see out the windows to observe the mess.  All the foundation shrubs are 12' by 12' now.

My apologies.

  the former homeowner


  1. I giggled all through this post. I was just reading one of Henry Mitchell's books and he was admonishing people about planting too large of specimens for their garden size so your post is timely. I think many of us could copy your letter and pass it on to new home owners. ha... It is just so much fun planting all of these plants. Apologies not necessary. Let the planting continue.

  2. This was an enjoyable post, funny too. You should have left the new owners a set of pruning shears, so the can get in and out!

  3. Ah, Laurrie, I have to stop laughing so I can type:) You and I definitely have the same problem, except that most of my garden areas are not next to the house, so hopefully future owners will be able to get in the door:) Like you, I see these beautiful plantings in botanic and other public gardens, and I want that mass of blooms without a speck of dirt showing in my garden, too. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have the patience to wait for my plants to fill out to that vision.

    I think your garden looks beautiful as it is right now. Don't worry about future owners--they might like living in a jungle:)

  4. You've touched a common nerve! You've created the perfect template for us to change the plant names and leave for future owners! Love your sense of humor!

  5. First the Lobsta in the Potty and now THIS! Love it!!!!!!

  6. I should write a similar letter--I plant things waaaaay too close together. But if we didn't plant things closely, we'd never fit everything we want to buy! That would never do.

    Great post :)

  7. You gave me a good laugh Laurrie. We keep planting and planting here thinking the space will never be full but I'm sure in just a few years I might have some of my own apologies to make.

  8. Ha! Loved every precious word of this one. Thanks for the giggle, you clever gal!

  9. Laurrie, What a creative post. I often wonder what the next owners of my garden will think about me once they start looking around. All I can say is that it made sense at one time!

  10. Thanks, everyone, for having fun with me in this. It's nice to know I am not the only one overplanting!

  11. Hi Laurrie, I think I could write a similar letter to the future owners of this place. (That is, if there are future owners! The regional government has always had half an eye to putting a road through my front garden.)
    In my case though, I think any future owners might actually be more peeved about the size of the gardens and the work involved in keeping them going. My bet is that they grass half of it in immediately!

  12. LOL. Perhaps you're too good of a gardener for your own good, as I always expect (and get) fairly high mortality rates.

    Future owners will thank you. :)

  13. I am still laughing1 I also have made my share of mistakes by planting too closely. Landscapers do it too, on purpose so things will look 'finished' for their clients, knowing well the client will need to have some of that stuff removed in a few years.

  14. I need to write a letter like that, too! Maybe it will be the next tin I bury!! :o) My American Cranberry bush is trying very hard to eat the side of my house. I should have planted it out another two feet or so. Oops!

  15. Of course, they will find you living in the basement as you will never get out. Bwwwhhhaaaaahhhhhaaaa! ;)

    Love this post!

  16. Thanks for the laugh Laurie....only wish I was buying such a dreamy place as yours out in Saskatchewan : (

    Found your blog searching for Ornamental Oregano 'Kent Beauty" and how I could overwinter it out west when we move there this fall.

    First time I have grown 'Kent Beauty' and it is simply gorgeous......could use any advise you might have for a successful trial in making this Beauty a keeper.

    Again, thanks for the funny post; throughly enjoyed it.

    Annabelle ; )

  17. Thanks, all, for chuckling about this!

    Annabelle, I wintered over two pots of Kent Beauty oregano here in zone 5 (on an unheated enclosed porch, watered only very sparingly until spring.) One pot survived just fine, the other up and died. So I am 50 - 50! Good luck if you try to do the same in your new home. Just keep Kent Beauty in potting soil + sand and don't water too much in winter. The one that lived for me was in a drier, cactus type potting mix in the container.

  18. Love this line--
    I left the loppers in the garage
    Sin and plant boldly, my friend!! Apologize later!!

  19. Sissy, that's true of most of life, right? Do it and then apologize later!
    : )

  20. Ha!!! Perfect! We almost had to do that when we sold our previous house! Luckily the hops hadn't yet reached the gutters as they stormed across the pergola roof! And the two raised beds looked vaguely attractively blowsy with their six-foot oregano and dill plants blowing in the wind. Fortunately, the woman who bought the house had a sense of humor about the mint taking over the lawn. Her neighbors might not now be so patient! (You could see some pictures on my blog http://www.lettherebegarden.com/p/gardens-we-have-loved-and-lost.html) I am so enjoying this blog!!! I feel like you're reading my (gardening) mind! Thank you!


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