Losing My Garden

“A garden is a delight to the eye and a solace for the soul.” ~Sadi Ranson

When I moved in January of 2020, I knew that the small garden bed that surrounded our rental townhouse was not mine. But I was encouraged to plant a garden. Nothing elaborate, but yes put in some lovely shrubs and flowers if I so desired.

So I spent a good deal of my spring this year designing and planting my fledgling garden. Bulbs and the few bushes and plants that I had managed to get in the ground in the fall of 2020 were growing in nicely. I had a vision of vines on 2 trellises growing along the back patio with some reliable perennials and containers of herbs and annuals.

Veggies growing in containers also along the back with a new sweep of native plants (all my favorites) bringing us to the shady part of the garden along the side. And then moving around the corner of the house to the sun and my cutting gardens, perennials and the first garden I planted in the spring we arrived, the herb garden. Yes it was all filling in, and the visions were swirling for changes and tweaks here and there. I had even managed to plant a lovely perennial and cutting garden in my neighbors small patch that bordered my driveway.

Then an email came about landscapers working in the garden beds. OK, what is it this time, spraying, weeding, cutting backing, mulching. I had an agreement with these guys not to touch my garden as I took care of it. So when I saw the unfamiliar company trucks around, I went to investigate. I took one look at what they were doing and my heart sank. They were digging out plants, and covering mulched beds with landscape fabric and stone. Oh my god no!! What the heck is this??? So I went up to the management office and was met with a matter fo fact statement that all gardens were being pulled out as per corporate office, and a few plants would remain so the development would have uniformity. I pleaded, I raged and then I spoke the truth that hurt….‘Why wouldn’t you tell me this was going to happen? You knew! You knew months ago but didn’t have the common curtesy to tell me. I would have saved time, money and back breaking work.’

When no answers to these questions were forthcoming, I was given over to their boss, but again was met with a matter-of-fact this is how it is and was promptly hung up on. I could move, but to where and for what reason…spite, anger, hurt. Never good things to base major life changes on. So I was plunged into deep grief. Neighbors from all over the development were horrified to learn the garden they loved to gaze upon was to be ripped out. It made no sense to anyone. My only option was to put what I could into pots. Try to save my most precious plants, and those that might survive in a container.

Finally 2 men showed up to my door to look at my garden. They knew about it and had seen it. Thankfully one, the guy from corporate, was a gardener. He was lovingly touching my 4 foot high dahlias finally budding when we had the gardeners talk that lasted a good 45 minutes. Why I was not a fan of stone mulch but a combo, native plants, new cultivars and what many of the plants were. He was simply amazed at what he was seeing, and he knew I needed time. The decision was made that my garden would be done last sometime in early October. With that I was breathing again. And then the second miracle occurred. Not everything was being taken out. I could keep some bushes and plants. And I could keep the 2 trellises and vines along the patio. So I made a plan to give away my plants. If anyone was to dig them up it would be me…and of course only after I had a chat with my plants so they knew what was happening. I would try and find new homes for them. I researched and bought the containers, and was to begin digging up the plants, but a heat wave in August kept the weather so hot for the whole month and into September. So I delayed my plans until late September.

I gave away dozens of plants to new homes which made me happy. Such incredible friends. Right before the landscapers came, I finished by digging up and moving plants to containers and moving a few into spots agreed upon. The hardest part was ripping out my cutting garden. I did manage to make a few vases though that you can see below.

It was a relatively painless day the 20th of October when the men came. Mostly sunny but a bit chilly.

I was out there directing and making sure the plans were followed. And here it is. With only a few plants left, in different spots, it all looks so barren. You can see where the brown is, that is how much they shrunk up the beds and planted more grass.

No more seeding flowers for cutting in the ground. Many bulbs will not grow again or even naturalize. Plants that volunteered are gone. I’m not used to everything in containers. So that will be a new learning curve. This will all take some getting used to.

The containers I decided on are a group of pots that are modern in look and dark charcoal in color to contrast to the light gray stone they put down. Apparently the straight lines and charcoal finish are a hot trend in modern landscape designs. Who knew as I am more into cottage garden design. Great for indoor or outdoor use they are made of light-weight concrete and weather-resistant fiberglass making them breathable, strong, durable, weather and damage resistance with long-lasting color. Manufactured by Kante, I bought three 31” large rectangular, two 23” small rectangular, two 18” tall round, one 20” round bowl, and two 16” round bowls. My plans for the containers are still morphing so as we get toward spring, I’ll give you more of an idea of what I am thinking.

The garden has always been where I could find my true self…to meet my soul….find solace and answers. And I expect it will continue with this new garden. I plan to nurture it with all the love, sweat and tears I have given all my gardens. There was one surprise and gift that came out of all this…..my native garden. It did not make it into any container, but much of it will live again. Ah, but that’s a story for another time…soon.

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A few of the many vases created from the cutting garden before it was pulled, and many blooms cut from plants that were given away or moved.

Linking in to a wonderful meme I have missed over the last 2 years, In A Vase On Monday, at Rambling in the Garden.

All the pictures shared in this post were taken with my Nikon Coolpix or iPhone camera, and manipulated on my iPhone using the apps, Pixlr and Prisma.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2022.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

38 comments

  1. shoreacres says:

    Though I’ve never gardened, I feel the same way when a subdivision pops up in a field that’s always been rich in native plants. I’m so glad that you met some fine people through this, found homes for some plants, and were allowed to keep some — but that corporate mind is the very incarnation of “Uniformity above all else.” I’m sorry.

    • Donna says:

      Yes that mindset is so harmful I feel in so many ways. I agree about subdivisions that take down trees and natives. I’ll share my native garden story soon which is one way I am trying to help.

  2. Joyce Whitby says:

    So heartbreaking. Those stone gardens look like… well you know. And yet you are kind enough not to mention the corporate name and shame them on social media. You’ve got. good soul Donna. This spring will bring you gifts, the universe takes care of its own.

  3. Janice Adcock says:

    Where we live did the same thing a few years back. Now I am surrounded by rocks. The person in charge of the facility did not have weed cloth put down so weeds sprout. Lots of weed killer spray. There were perennials put in the ground with the rocks. The work was done in the heat of summer in Texas. The silly manager assumed since these were native plants, watering was not needed. Almost all the plants died. Such a waste. While I had gardens at my homes in the past they were never as glorious as yours. Wishing you the very best with your container gardening.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Janice. I expect plants they left after moving them will die due to same reason. Too hot and no water. They put down fabric but not the right one in many spots or not enough. So weeds will definitely sprout. So sad all the chemicals.

  4. Kathy vilim says:

    I feel your pain, Donna. I really do. Having left my canyon home and garden of many years, I know what its like to miss your friends.

  5. Elephants Child says:

    I am so very sorry. Time in the garden (cottage and rambling) is hard work but heart balm for me. I am not good with potted plants either. My heart goes out to you, and I am glad that you could save at least some of it – and that other pieces will live on in other gardens.

  6. Jennifer Richardson says:

    Feeling your loss so deeply and sending hugs and another good squeeze for good measure. Horrified that you had to pull up and discover such violence against your beds but also grateful for the mercy of an understanding ear and extra time.

    Loss to grieve and new curiosities to explore.
    Such a snapshot of life. The garden always is, isn’t it.
    Big bravo to you in your brave new world
    and much grace to you in the losing and letting go.
    Always respect,
    Jennifer

  7. Cathy says:

    Oh my goodness Donna, what a terrible experience to have gone through, and what an unusual corporate approach to take…in the UK at least there is a move away from uniformity and new estates are becoming more varied, tending to the vernacular even. It must have been so painful for you, especially as no-one had been pre-warned. I am pleased so many of your plants went to good homes and that you have rescued as much as you can to fill your new pots. I am intrigued now about your native garden…! Thanks for sharing all this with us today, Donna

    • Donna says:

      My pleasure and the whole uniformity thing here is just another way to say we are saving money. I promise to write about the native garden in the next week or so.

  8. Jennifer J ONeill says:

    Your gardens were so lovely, and I have no doubt that you will persevere and they will be glorious again. Creating beauty is part of your soul. Plants and flowers are some of the media you utilize to share your creativity. Container gardening may not be your preferred method of expression, but you will design wonderful container-scapes in pleasing varieties of colors, textures, sizes and aromas. I am excited to see how you will overcome this new challenge. I think… spectacularly!

  9. eliza waters says:

    I would feel the same as you if that happened to me… that helpless frustration! I suppose we are adaptable to what we can’t control, and you seem to have made peace with corporate (even if it is boring landscape uniformity). Everyone is cutting costs and uniform is easy and cheap.
    At least you were left to the end of the season, so cutting the annuals was close to frost ending them anyway.
    I like the new containers and look forward to seeing what you create next spring.

  10. Cathy says:

    Goodness me, it has been so long since I heard from you, I had no idea you had moved. This is a sad tale indeed. I am not sure if this kind of thing happens in towns in Germany, but I feel it is wrong to stop people from planting and growing things if they want to. Anyway, you have made the very best of it and I love your choice of pots Donna. Well done for coping so well with the situation and rescuing what you could, and good luck with your spring planting!

  11. Kris P says:

    As familiar with the way corporations work as I am, I’m still perplexed by decisions like this – a stone-covered landscape with a few random plants may suffice to “dress up” a gas station but why a company providing rental housing would think that something like that equals curb appeal to attract and retain tenants is beyond me. I’m sorry you experienced that kind of emotional upheaval, Donna, but I’m glad you were able to obtain a temporary reprieve allowing your to pot-up and pass along some of your treasured plants. Best wishes with your container garden!

    • Donna says:

      Yes it is just astonishing how people miss the mark with curb appeal. I think the containers will be a mix of perennial and annual.

  12. Annette says:

    Your sad story mirrors the pathetic state of our world. Stone deserts are popping up everywhere, people have lost touch with nature a long time ago and how can we expect that they nurture something they don’t know. Wishing you all the best in your new home, stay strong

  13. Noelle says:

    My heart goes out to you Donna. Condolences. I am full of sympathy. You are a great gardener and maybe you will turn your nurturing side to house plants for a while.

    • Donna says:

      Absolutely I am doing that a bit. I know my garden journey is not over. It is taking a brief break as a new path unfolds. Thank you for your kind words.

  14. Stacy says:

    Oh, Donna, how very hard. I’m sorry for that painful loss. Container gardening does have its joys, though, and I imagine you will discover all sorts of new creative possibilities. Being able to garden at waist height sometimes has its perks, too!

  15. Frank says:

    What frustrations and struggle, especially after so may changes just to get this far. This post sounds full of promise though. You seem to have made it through and have direction again and I’m excited for you. Good luck and glad you were able to get it all down as part of the process.

  16. Diana Studer says:

    My heart breaks for you. And for society in general, out of touch with nature and Fighting Weeds. That whole – it’s green, it’s nasty, make it go away attitude.

    I have 2 Iris in my garden that once came from my mother’s friend at her retirement home. Friend’s garden was an absolute joy – across from the clubhouse and highly visible. Garden service tidied it up and ripped out most of her cherished plants … and and

    But sounds as if you can nurture a fresh new native garden!!

    • Donna says:

      You are correct. For now I have a plan that is accepted and will reveal more in an upcoming post. So glad to reconnect with you Diana!!

  17. Jean at Jean's Garden says:

    Donna, This made me so sad, but I’m really impressed with your agency in creating a compromise you can live with (and maybe doing a little environmental education while you were at it). This past year, I’ve gotten addicted to the venerable BBC gardening show, Gardener’s World. One of the things I’ve found particularly inspiring is the way Brits in rental units with little (or no) outside space create fabulous gardens consisting entirely of container plants.

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