A Wise Man Said


Recently a wise man reminded me that you don’t really appreciate things until you lose them or teeter on the edge of doing so.  That wise man was my eldest son and the thing I was considering losing was the garden.

I have been contemplating moving house over the last few weeks.  My youngest is buying his first home and helping him look at mortgages led to me investigating what I could borrow, which inevitably lead to some looking at property websites, and then to a valuation of the house.  We got as far as having an appointment set for last weekend for photographs to be taken and details put on the web.  However, whilst I was away in Rome I find myself thinking about the whole thing a lot and the persistent small voice of my instinct kept saying this was not a good decision right now.  My practical head argued that I was in a position to push myself up the property ladder and this was an investment for my retirement but still the voice of instinct niggled away causing doubt.  Finally, halfway up the M5 on the way home, I decided that the idea should be put on hold for the time being until my desire to move was stronger than just looking to improve my property investment.

On Saturday morning I stepped out into the garden and calm descended on my soul. My cricket like brain stopped jumping and the endless considerations of whether to buy a refurbishment project or a house already done, was there enough garden to satisfy me, was it overlooked, what about trees, what about slopes, how far from work was it, how far from Mum, what about when it snowed…stopped.  No actually they vanished and the garden and I became friends again;  like a pair of old friends reunited after some old disagreement the details of which neither could remember.

How, after all my work, especially in the last couple of years could I contemplate not waiting to see if my plans came to fruition? Would the Big Border finally have a sense of cohesion, would the Hardy Exotic Border look as lush as I imagined and would the tree peony ever flower?  We got to know each other again. I weeded and weeded.  I noted the gaps that needed filling and the odd plant that needed rescuing from being overwhelmed by its neighbours. Also the buds of poppies and irises mistreated over recent years but now forgiving me and offering a peace treaty, a floral supplication, not to be moved for a while.

We are friends again and I feel like a huge self imposed weight has come off me.  I really struggled while I was getting everything ready to put the house on the market with engaging with the garden.  I have become such an all or nothing character over the recent years that there seemed no point doing the garden, pricking out seeds, or buying anything at the Malvern Show and it made me so sad.  I really didn’t know what to do.  Now though I am back rushing outside after work and loving the garden.  There is still plenty of projects and plans that need completing or tweaking to keep me entertained for a few years yet.  Then maybe something will happen or come along that will mean that I have to accommodate less requirements when I move and the decision may seem more obvious and the wrench from the garden will not be so great.

Meanwhile the wise man nods knowingly and I find myself surprised at just how much the garden and some of the plants mean to me.


22 Comments Add yours

  1. johnvic8 says:

    My Arranger and I went through the same process about a year ago, although our goal was downsizing to something smaller and less strenuous. We came to the conclusion that were happier with what we have than with what we don’t yet have. Also, I have too many plants that I love and can’t bear to part with. So we too are staying put…at least until the back gives out.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi John
      I’m still at the stage of wanting more outside space although working full time I don’t know how I would manage it! I think it is healthy to go through the process though

  2. Such a wise man that son of yours Helen. I hope to stay here for at least another 10 years and then maybe we will be coerced to part with the garden and move….I too am just getting things done the way I want as I have time so I don’t want to leave yet…it is a hard thing to move from a garden that has become part of you…I have done it once and I still cannot bear to go back and see it as most of it was torn out.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Donna
      Where we live isn’t where I intended to end up. It’s a good location for the good school but the boys are now men and working hence my thoughts of moving but I love the garden and the location is convenient so I suspect I will be here a few more years

  3. We’re planning to move at the moment and even though my – our, technically – garden is only 4m x 7m, I know I’m going to be very sad to move away from my square-metre bed, the Prunus subhirtella we nursed back to life, our stooping, looming mahonia and going-gangbusters honeysuckle. It might not seem much, but it’s my – our – first real garden. The thought of being able to buy somewhere with a bigger plot (we’re moving to the north-east) is frankly all that’s kept me on rails sometimes. So I know exactly how you feel, regardless of what an investment a move might seem like on paper!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi JP
      I think if you find the right house with the right garden you will feel so inspired with plans that it will make the move easier

  4. Tina says:

    I’m also considering a move, but when I step into the garden, I don’t know if I can leave it. The lure of a new and different challenge is appealing, really appealing. But a garden is more than just furniture or things–it’s emotion, time, creativity and an extension of who we are. That’s hard to give up.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Tina
      This is the first garden that I have felt emotionally connected to, I have put so much into it. I think the key is to look forward and as Yvonne says don’t go back

  5. Julie says:

    Children are very wise, not that I would tell mine that yet! A move was on the cards here for the last few years and now we are staying I’ve rediscovered my own garden again, its rather lovely to be able to do so.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Julie
      It is surprising how the prospect of a move just disengages you from the garden

  6. Brian Skeys says:

    ‘Out of the mouths of Babes’ I know he is no longer a baby but its all relevant!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Brian
      Indeed, they can be very wise

  7. Diana Studer says:

    picture from upstairs? That’s a different view and it does look a loved and cherished garden!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Diana
      Yes from one of the bedroom windows. It looks small from upstairs, although admittedly it isn’t that big but it feels bigger when you are in it

  8. Yvone Ryan says:

    Hi Helen – The worst thing about moving is leaving your garden! Although my last 3 moves have involved my garden coming with me also!!! Last move after my husband died – leaving a cottage roses and palms tropical garden (small) but left the roses and a lot of garden was in pots as volcanic rocks. At least 10 loads in car, a large furniture trailor and 4x cruiser of plants came over to Whangapararoa. Most ended in Daughter no 3’s garden but now lots have migrated back around to my little appartment in the B&B I live in. Brommies etc doing well. this is a tropical garden, palms etc but I have my bits of colour with at the moment cerise and white cyclamens a ceris, ???? maybe in the fuschia family thingy, poppies, pansys and granny bonnets. If you do sell DO NOT go back and check it!!!!!! Under any circumstances!!!! Can be heartbreaking!!! Gardening and swimming when warm enough my exercise for my body and soul. Nothing like listening to ‘Telephone Tui’ singing away, lots of other birds, skinks racing around and bees and bumble bees sucking necture. Also always trying to hatch lots of Monach butterflies and beat the bl……..dy paper wasp from killing them. A real problem hear. Happy tranquil gardening – Yvonne

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Yvonne
      You are so right about not going back. I know a number of gardeners who have gone back and regretted it

  9. Alison says:

    Hi pleased to see you have found peace with your decision. No point I moving unless you really want to, it’s too stressful.

  10. Anna says:

    That’s a wise head on young shoulders that you are fortunate to have to offer you counsel. You are following your heart Helen and from what you say staying put sounds like the best decision for you at this moment in time. Love the view from above!

  11. Sarah says:

    I know exactly how you feel. 15 months ago we found what we thought could be our next home. An 18th century cottage in the country, acre of garden, wild orchard, old pond, under an hour’s drive to work – perfect. We and about a dozen other people made an offer and ours was accepted. We commissioned a survey and the solicitors reached the very cusp of exchange and then the owners got cold feet and said they couldn’t move because they hadn’t found anywhere to move to. I understood. So our lives have been on hold. But it’s OK. I feel as if I’m in a period of transition with both children now at university and the death of my mother in 2011 and of my father in 2013. Meanwhile like you I love my garden despite its shortcomings (150 square metres, why that’s smaller than a Chelsea garden, east-facing, overlooked and with bindweed creeping in from the neighbour’s untended garden) because it’s mine. I’m a firm believer in che sera, sera, whatever will be, will be and when the time is right we will both move.

  12. Jen Gardener says:

    It’s amazing how gardens and even individual plants arouse such an emotional connection. Your son is very wise.

  13. Good to know you have a wise son. I hope he doesn’t also say “I told you so” too much…!
    And there you – you make your decision, and you know it’s the right one because your get-up-and-go has come back again!

  14. Cathy says:

    Thank you for sharing your thought processes Helen and I am glad you can rest easy knowing you have made the right decision, at least for the time being. You will recognise when the time is right, I suspect

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