10 Jan 2017

Digging up the past

Agapanthus

Hello and Happy New Year!  I'm wondering should I retitle my blog 'The Absent Blogger'?  I've not been around much recently! My 2016 stats show that I started twice the number of posts as were finished and published, leaving lots of good ideas and lovely experiences still sitting in my intray. Hmmm, not good. Writing went on the back burner for a number of reasons, the most recent of which was making the time to clear my parents' home before it was sold just before Christmas.  So why 'digging up the past'? Because I was allowed to dig up several plants to bring back to London as a living reminder of the garden that my mum loved.




My mother now lives in a care home since Dad died last year and, although it was fab having the use of their seaside home for visits, the house wasn't being used enough to warrant keeping it on. And so I spent quite a few weekends driving to Hampshire to reallocate a lifetime of their possessions. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Sounds better than clearing the house, doesn't it, but it's still sweeping away the past however you call it.  It's an emotional process that the majority of us will go through at some stage in our lives; in this case, it was good to have the time to properly acknowledge the past before letting go without being too overwhelmed.

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining; each of my siblings took away things that held treasured memories for them. For me, that included my mum's garden tools, naturally :o)  She'd been a very keen gardener and, in recent years when she was less able to maintain the garden, I planted perennials and bulbs to bring colour to the garden in place of the annuals that she loved.  We'd take a gentle stroll around the garden to name and admire all the flowers, interspersed with her directing me how to prune her shrubs! One of her favourite plants was the agapanthus that I put in about five years ago. She'd always admired them since visiting my sister in South Africa many years ago. I found a retailer at one of the RHS shows and planted three with fingers crossed that she would live to see them flower.  She did, and loved it. Those plants now hold huge sentimental value for me and, luckily, the buyer of the house was a friend who was happy for me to dig up anything I wanted. (Within reason, of course.)

Pieris

So, silver lining number two. Winter is the perfect time for moving shrubs and perennials. Most of them are dormant or resting and the weather on the south coast was mild enough to be out in the garden digging.  I took a couple of bags of John Innes no 2 so I could pot up the plants as I went. They had to survive a long drive and possibly a week before being replanted so it was important that the roots didn't dry out. There were several night-time gardening sessions back in London as some plants were too big for pots and had to be transported in sturdy garden waste bags; I needed to get those settled into the soil asap.

Was I like a kid in a sweet shop?  Ooh, yes. I'm planning the planting for the middle garden (another casualty of 2016's time restraints) and can now add a Pieris japonica, Agapanthus, Eucomis (pineapple lilies), Leucanthemum daisies, Heuchera, Geums, a Cyclamen, an Iris, some Stachys and what I hope will be Lily of the Valley judging by the dried leaf shape. My car was rammed but, strangely, the garden didn't look depleted (apart from the large agapanthus).

It's a fabulous idea to bring treasured plants from one garden to another - although it would be philanthropic to leave most plants and mature shrubs behind (some buyers insist on it), our buyer has plans for the garden which include digging over several beds to plant her roses (dug up from her previous garden!). So it was a winning situation for all with no guilt involved and I'll have some wonderful plants to look forward to in the months ahead.

Fern
This fern is growing too close to the fence for my spade to get at the rootball so I had to leave it. Pity as I need a huge mature fern in my shady corner!

A few tips for digging up plants before moving:
State the plants you want in the contract or, less formally, ensure the new property owner is happy for specified plants to be removed. (Best to get this in writing if you don't know the buyer well.)
Don't leave a big hole in the garden! Replenish the soil ready for new plants to go in.
If you know in advance that plants will need to be moved, root prune in preparation.
Established plants will have quite a large rootball.  Dig wide and deep to minimise damage to the roots. Plants will quickly heal if you have to lose a few of the deeper roots.
Plants are heavy! Get help with lifting if you can.
Have a container/soil, hessian sacking or sheet of plastic ready to lift the plant onto - and, if possible, prepare the new site for the plant beforehand. (Even if that's a large pot in the interim.) The aim is to minimise stress to the plant.
Most important is to try and do it while the plant is dormant, between October and mid-March. Evergreens will need to have their roots resettled as quickly as possible so these should be moved while the soil is warmer, in either October or March if possible.  In a harsh winter, move the plant to a large pot and wrap with horticultural fleece until it can be replanted.


20 comments:

  1. I know how much hard work is involved in sorting out parent's home. My Mum died 11 years before my Dad and we too had to pack up his home when he eventually moved into a Care Home. I think the task was easier for us because he was still alive at the time. I too replanted some of their plants and kept some tools. They are a special reminder of my parents. Sarah x

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    1. It's not easy getting rid of stuff that holds so many memories - it was my Dad's suits that got me, such good quality and worn with pride. My mum is in a care home, albeit with dementia, so it felt a weird dismantling her home but I'm so glad I have a few things plus plants to remember that phase of my life by.

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  2. I hope that your plants do well.

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    1. Thanks, Sue, me too - always a gamble but hopefully speedy potting up will have done the trick!

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  3. It sounds as though you've had quite a hard year Caro. I'm glad you managed to save some plants from your parents' garden, and the tools as well. My father moved to a flat last year, and I now have some of his old garden tools that he has been using in the garden all my life. Lovely to have them. Wishing you a very happy 2017. CJ xx

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    1. As with everything, there were highs as well as lows, CJ, but life goes on. As you have some of your Dad's tools, you'll appreciate how special it is to keep them in use. I hope there's a garden for your Dad to enjoy at his new home, even if he doesn't have to maintain it. A very happy 2017 to you too, Caro xx

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  4. How wonderful that you were able to move quite a few of your mother's special plants, they will soon make a lovely display in your present garden. You have made me think about what I would want to take with me when the time comes and I don't think I could leave my special snowdrops or my meconopsis behind. I'll have to prepare well in advance!

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    1. From what I've read, Pauline, readying plants before a move is the right way to go. So often though I move plants on a whim and hope for the best! (As I'm sure we all do) Having seen the price of some of the snowdrops at the RHS Shows, I'm not at all surprised you'd want to dig them up!

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  5. A nice, if somewhat poignant, post. Having treasured plants like is a wonderful idea. Thanks. and to you too. Flighty xx

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    1. Thanks, Flighty. I've tried to make light of it but December was an emotional month for me. We have some tough times to weather as we get older. xx

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  6. Yes it's a lovely idea to keep plants as a poignant reminder of family. I was given tools by my late sister-in-law and I get a huge amount of pleasure when using them.

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    1. There are so many ways that gardening can benefit us, including carrying forward memories of happy times and loved ones. I've been using my mum's fork in the middle garden and love the feel of it. She was the same height as me (short) so it feels good to use.

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  7. How lovely to be able to remove precious plants from your parents home, I shall look forward to seeing them all next year. I'm glad you've had the time to gradually sort the house too, and that you now have your mum's gardening tools. xxx

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    1. Thanks, Dina. It was good to be able to sort out the house without rushing too much, although the month before completion went very quickly - and having to give away so many of my parents' things was heartbreaking at times. Still, life goes on - albeit with a keener sense of my own mortality and a more focused desire to declutter my own home!! xx

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  8. Oh it looks as if you have bought some real treasures home with you Caro. Sorting through a lifetime of possessions is certainly a hard task but as you say every cloud has a silver lining. My Dad's gardening tools which have lurked mainly unused in my parent's garage for the last five years or so will soon be re-homed with me and put to good use. If what you suspect is lily of the valley turns out to be an impostor please let me know. My parents started me off with a couple or so pips years ago. I now have way too big a clump so I would be delighted to send you some. Wishing you a Happier New Year xxx

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    1. Not just plants and tools, Anna, but a couple of really loved watercolour paintings too. Thank you for the offer of Lily of the Valley, that's so kind. I'll certainly let you know if my 'clump' doesn't come true! xx

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  9. Happy new year Caro. Sounds like an emotional end to 2016. I hope your plants flourish in their new home and bring you lots of lovely memories. X

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    1. Thank you, Simone, and Happy new year to you and your family. Yes, clearing the house was not the easiest of times but I've learned that some things just have to be got through. Gardening will always bring extra memories now, with luck and good care. xx

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  10. My grandmother loves gardening very much. She used to have different kinds of flowers in our backyard. However since she is very old as of now no one is taking care of our garden. I hope one day I can replant and make as beautiful garden as it used to be.

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    1. Hello Jessice, thanks for stopping to comment, I do love hearing from my readers! I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother's garden; I wonder if there's a local charity who could spare someone to come and tidy the garden while chatting to your grandmother? Here in the UK there are several that can be accessed through information leaflets left in hospitals or charity shops. Gardens are best maintained regularly - I hope you can find time to spend in your grandmother's garden, it will be time well spent for both of you.

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Caro x

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