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So You’re Downsizing, But What About Your Garden?


As we get older and our children move out, most of us go through the whole “empty nest” stage. Then come the grand-babies which is where I am at right now. But what about when they too have grown and your home seems so large and empty? Your children are talking to you about downsizing and you take a look around at everything that has been part of your life and wonder just how can you leave it?

This question came up the other day when a customer and I started chatting. She was missing her garden. They had sold their very large single family home in New York and had moved to Maryland to be closer to family. She was looking for house plants to make the new place more of a home, but told me how much she missed going out in her yard to work in the garden. This was not the first conversation on the topic I have had nor will it be the last. Just what is the answer? I would guess making sure you take photos of each season of your home before it is time to move? Can you remind yourself how stiff and sore you felt after weekends of weeding and mulching? If you’re moving to a place with a little garden, can you take a few of your favorite perennials? Maybe give your children or neighbors some of those beautiful plants? How about joining a garden club or a community garden to get you out in the sunshine?

There are many options out there for you but the problem still remains that there is a deep sadness in leaving your garden as well as your home. I wonder if that is why my grandfather (Albert Behnke) said for us not to try to keep his gardens going. They were his and we needed to concentrate on our own homes and gardens. One thing I have heard time and time again from our customers is how sad they are when their friends from their old neighborhoods tell them how the new owners of their home have dug everything up. Years and years of mature gardens removed so the new owners can make their mark. I wonder sometimes if the new owners knew what plants and surprises were waiting for them they might just think twice. Maybe as a gift to the new homeowner we can make a quick map of just what is planted in our gardens. Explain to them just what a Japanese Split Leaf Maple is and what it will look like when it leafs out. What beautiful Spring bulbs will be coming up or the different perennials. Put markers in the ground where those surprises will appear during different times of the year. Think about the gift you will be giving them in knowledge.  Of course, it could be they will dig it all up anyway and start over but at least you tried. Plus, we need to remember that the new homeowner might also want to create their own memories while gardening.

We will be hosting our annual garden party on June 4th, where all our local garden clubs and plant societies come for a grand time. Consider coming out this year if you have been feeling blue and join in the fun. You just might find a new passion.

by Stephanie Fleming, Behnke’s Vice President

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thank you, thank you, for this article. Something else that may be involved in letting the gardening go because one is too frail, is SHAME. In my case, and I’m sure that of there’s not enough money to hire persons to do the gardening and I (we?) feel ashamed at the deterioration.

    However, however, LOSS is a big part of advanced age, as the body gradually weakens so that (I think) the soul can strengthen. Losing friends, some eyesight, some hearing–all losses require us to accept as best we can, I think.

  2. Please do not feel shame, instead maybe pride of all that you put into your gardens through-out the years. I have been watching my own mother going through the loss of so much these last few years and I am so proud and happy that she is able to still enjoy simple things like just relaxing and watching the birds. Is there weeding to be done? Sure, but heck the last time she went to pull a weed she ended up falling and breaking her hip and shoulder. Now she laughs about it but it did bring it to our attention that she just cannot do everything anymore. I am glad you liked what I wrote. Your right, acceptance is a such a big part of understanding our limits. I love how you put it that as the body gradually weakens so that the soul can strengthen. Well said. Take care and enjoy what makes you happy and don’t worry about what you can or cannot do.

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