Aging in Place in the Garden

A week ago, the New York Times had an article about Page Dickey and her husband  Bosco Schell that talked about how they were downsizing and simplifying their garden.  The article is in part a preview of Ms. Dickey’s upcoming book Embroidered Ground: Revisiting the Garden on just that subject.  It will be published in February, 2011.

It is at least the second on that that subject that I know of in the last two years and if the aging baby boomers are any indication, it is just the second in an expected wave of many.

The first, which was Sydney Eddison’s Gardening for a Lifetime, which I posted about on May 13th,  also talked about her desire to simplify her garden by taking out cherished perennials and replacing them with shrubs.  The similarities in Eddison’s book and the quotes in Ann Raver’s article about Dickey and Schell are startling–not because I think there is any deliberate attempt by Raver or Dickey to echo Eddison–I think they’d be horrified if they thought for a minute that they were.  It’s just that many of us gardeners are doing the same thing.

I find that 15 years into my garden I do not have the energy or stamina that I had when I got to my property–and different interests are competing for my time as well.  So I too am ripping out perennials, especially the fussy or under-performing ones.  I’ll leave those to the newer, fresher gardeners.  Been there, done that, broke two feet and an ankle(literally) doing it.

My sister was horrified to hear me say I was giving up not only seed starting but growing tomatoes altogether after this year.  Well, short of growing them in the middle of a sloping lawn (and even that probably wouldn’t yield great results) I have no way to achieve good results on this property–there’s really just too much shade.  So, that’s why we have farmer’s markets, and I am blessed with 4 of them in just the next town over.

So, live and learn–perhaps someday soon I’ll write my own book.  This aging thing seems to be quite the trend.  Since none of us is getting any younger, maybe I’ll hop on the bandwagon!

4 thoughts on “Aging in Place in the Garden

  1. Laurrie November 4, 2010 / 8:54 am

    I began my garden after retirement, so I started with simple, rather than struggle with downsizing later. I knew to keep perennials to a minimum, and mostly I put in trees and shrubs. I never put in a vegetable garden, and I don’t do seeds. Even my composting is the height of simplicity if you read my latest post 🙂

    I ended up following most of Sydney Eddison’s advice, but right from the start! Good luck when you come to the point of simplifying your garden after 15 years… it will be a change for you!

  2. gardendaze November 4, 2010 / 9:12 am

    So you were fortunate! My “simplifying” began when, as a garden writer, Proven Winners got me on the Shrub program. That meant I’d get 6 or 8 shrubs every year to test for them. While this was lovely, it also meant I had to find space for that many shrubs every year in the garden. If you already have established gardens, that’s a hunk of shrubs to be adding every year–especially if you have shade and they’re sending you sun shrubs!

    So that was how my conversion began but I’m so glad it did because it means that I now have masses of hydrangeas blooming at all times in the garden–and next year, I should have some lovely double quince, which I’ve never had before. And of course it did simplify things immensely as well!

  3. Evan Williams November 8, 2010 / 7:45 am

    There are a lot of baby boomers who have taken to gardening (me included) and the timing seems to be coincident with house acquisition. Now that Im cleaning out my basement for the eventual downsizing, I am trying to minimize the chores, like lawn mowing. More pachsandra has come into my yard life in place of grass. Shrubs too.

    • gardendaze November 8, 2010 / 8:46 am

      This is so true, Evan. Even thoughwe have no plans to move (although I might like to– we have more house and yard than I think we need, although my husband won’t agree with me) we recently had the floors refinished in one of the rooms. Just in that process I did a lot of cleaning out and giving away. Not only is it very cathartic; it also leds to cleaning out of other things and reordering and restructuring–I wound up redoing almost the entire upstairs! And I gave away all sorts of things to church groups and charity groups so I hope that some good came of it as well!


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