Texas gardeners are good to know



That statement or something really close was the message of an NPR segment that had me tearing up—oh hell, crying—on my commute home today.

Here’s the story in brief:

Tracy Pruitt’s property manager gave her 30 days to leave her home of 2 1/2 years. But what about the lush garden of shrubs, trees and beloved day lilies the East Texas woman planted and nurtured there? Truitt posted a plea for help at an online gardener’s forum and scores of gardeners from across Texas are helping her move them to her new home.

Basically, days after she posted on the Dave’s Garden daylily forum, explaining her situation, other forum regulars gathered and organized a rescue.

Pick-up trucks filled with soil and other plant conveyances were lined up in front of Pruitt’s home well before the deadline for her to find another place to live. It’s touching—and interesting. What happens when you don’t own where you garden, as many of us do not? A cautionary tale.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Well, I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one tearing up in the drive home.

    Gardeners are the bees knees. And we’re doers.

    Landlords who don’t cherish a gardening tenant on the other hand…

  2. I didn’t hear this segment, but for me, personally – the gardens I left behind at my old homes – I thought of them as gifts to the world. I would have felt selfish and wrong bringing more than a few very favorite (or very delicate) plants along to my new home. I left my own gardens behind and simply hoped that they’d inspire the new owners to love them or to appreciate our natural world a bit more.

    Why do we create gardens, after all? Is it just like interior decorating where the plants are objects that we want to own and control? It isn’t that way for me – it is like having children – you make the best decisions you can and give them everything you can while they are with you, but at some point it is the right thing to do to release them to their new lives and not damage them by insisting that they are “ours” and must stay with us forever.

    I am not commenting specifically on this lady’s situation, because I did not hear the segment and she probably has extenuating circumstances – but more the idea that it brings up about ownership of the living things we nurture…

  3. My thought on this is maybe they were special plants that had been handed down in the family. I know my sister in law and I, take cuttings from her Mama’s plants at the old home place. We want to pass these along to members of the family and they are irreplaceable.

  4. sniff… i love living in california but i’m nostalgic for texans.

    once i was driving to dallas from austin on i-35, when it was just two lanes. i came upon a traffic jam; a pickup truck had flipped over and was blocking both lanes. no one was hurt. in the middle of nowhere, a tow truck was bound to take hours to clear the mess. the cops hadn’t even arrived yet. suddenly, a group of able-bodied men jogged past my car, away from the accident. moments later, they returned with reinforcements, and about ten strangers lifted the truck out of the road, to the applause of those they liberated. it’s still one of my favorite memories of home.

  5. If I suddenly had to transplant myself permanently away from my garden, it would be very difficult to choose what to take and equally difficult to take most of it. The Japanese Maples in containers would be relatively easy (if heavy) to move, but as for the rest, short of magically lifting up the top two feet or so of soil like cutting sod, it just wouldn’t be practical.

    Besides, if I had a whole new garden, I’d get to go through the fun of shopping for all new plants! I could tell myself that this time I’d actually do things right and PLAN my garden. Then I’d discard that thought and just cheerfully buy way too many plants, way too many bulbs, way too much of everything and plant it all, willy-nilly, and have a wonderful time doing so.

  6. It seems to me that she was intent on moving the plants because she was living in a rental, and it makes sense to me to take as many as she could. Most people who are renting aren’t going to invest a ton of time in a garden–they generally don’t expect to be there long enough to enjoy it. I know that in my little neighborhood, most of the houses sold are now going rental. I completely plan on taking as many of my plants with me as possible. I’ve seen what the new landlords to to the few gardens that were left: mow them down and plant grass. I’ve put too much time and money into plants to have that done to them, and I bet it was the same for her.

    This is a great story. Gardeners truly are the best.

  7. No slight meant towards Texans but I think it’s more about the camaraderie of the DG forums than anything else. They’re not just virtual. People meet up and do things together. Glad they were able to help her.

    Renters have to deal with it more often, but if I end up not being able to keep payments up on my mortgage, the absolute saddest thing for me will be losing my garden. Fruit trees take years to mature and they’re not easy to just dig up and truck to another location. I shudder to think what I’d lose. Since I lost my decent-paying job, it’s not like I have the money to just buy new ones.

    I agree that landlords ought to be thanking their lucky stars for tenants who like to garden.

  8. I bought and the former owner left all her plants, as is proper. I wish she had taken most of them. I killed almost all her roses and 2 lilacs; ripped out her yews and replaced them with other shrubs at great expense; killed her berry bushes–well, you get the idea. And if I were renting? I would definitely take the plants. It would be too sad to drive by someday and see the devastation.

  9. When I move I will probably take some cuttings but would not be liberating entire established plants out of the ground.

    I live three blocks away from a house that I rented for 6 years.
    I love waking past the old garden to watch its growth and tenure under the hands of new owners.

    I suppose I might feel a tinge of sadness if the new habitants had cut down all the perennials, ornamental grasses, flowering trees and shrubs, but they haven’t and it is nice to look back on plants that now have almost 20 years worth of growth on them.

  10. How great she was able to get the help. I can sympathize – last summer I had to leave my home of 40 years where I had worked the gardens since I was a kid (I’ve always loved diggin’ in the dirt). I didn’t have the time to plan what I could take, and of what I was able to take only 2 daylilies and one other perenial have survived in my new home. New place is a rental, the landlord never did any gardening but LOVED his grass so I’m into containers for now.

    The saddest thing for me was losing my pond. I was able to find another pond enthusiast who took my koi, goldfish and frogs as well as the huge jungle of waterlilies. I wanted to cry when I learned that the new owners of my house had filled in the pond, moved away the rocks and sodded.

    But, yes, we gardeners are a hardy lot and she, and I will find a way to keep making our worlds a little better.

  11. I garden a rented yard. It does affect what I do and what plants I buy. I plan to move within a year, so planted mostly annuals and vegetables this year. I potted up perennials and moved them to a relative’s house. I containerized my herbs. I took cuttings of plants I will leave behind. I hope the new tenant will enjoy and care for the perennials and good soil, but reality says that the landlord will weed-whack it. I’ve been preparing to move since last fall; I don’t know what I would have done if I were suddenly evicted. I’m glad that Texas woman got help.

  12. Yes to Colleen and Eliz. When we sold our house, the buyers said the gardens were a selling point. That was 5 years ago. Today, most of the gardens are grass. The rest are weeds. Most of the plants are gone. I took some divisions, but I wish I’d brought ALL of it. Those plants were like my children . . . . . . I’m glad I don’t have to look at it often, but I really feel sorry for my former neighbor and good friend. She cries when she talks about it – we gardened together.

  13. Odd: When I did a Google search on Ms.Pruitt’s name, this very Garden Rant article kept showing up on other sites (e.g. wikio.com and examiner.com) — news collecting/aggregating sites?

  14. If we every leave our rental (10 years and counting) I’m taking my perennials with me. I don’t know how I’d take the wildflower patch or grass, but I’m sure as hell taking everything else from the Endless Summer hydrangea to the Hakon grass with me. But there’s no question of ownership with those plants and I did it all without any participation by my landlord. I guess we’d have to move in the spring though.

  15. I gardened for years in rentals. I couldn’t stop myself. I had wonderful Landlords who loved plants and one who allowed me to come back in the fall to dig up plants b/c it would be a better time to transplant. Not everyone is so lucky. I’m glad this woman had such generous helpers.

  16. A little rent control and just cause eviction would solve a lot of this problem. Communities so protected tend to have tenants who put in gardens. I wonder why?

    My former landlady evicted us so that she could sell the building. She advertised my landscaping as “framing the building perfectly.” It did; I’d spent 13 years getting it right. I dug up as much as I could and took it with me, but some plants were too big or too delicate. My neighbors suggested that I “Roundup” the rest, but I just couldn’t do it.

    In most states any improvements become the property of the landlord, but I doubt that any landlord who evicted a tenant would want to take the tenant to court for taking her plants with her.

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