Who will buy my lawnless garden?



Breaking news – to anyone who knows me and assumed I’d never, ever leave my garden – I’m selling it and the house it surrounds.  Time to move on.

Selling the Complicated Garden

Any realtor will tell you that nice gardens may or may not be advantages in selling a house – because most buyers just want what’s easy.  So I’m prepared to hear that, and I’m ready with some assurances that mostly-shrub gardens are really easy, and I’ll even teach the buyer how to prune and otherwise take care of this low-maintenance garden (really it is, I promise).

But then there’s the problem/advantage of the totally lawnless state of the garden, front and back.  Above you see what it looks like today, a two-species combo of Sedum sarmentosum (sometimes identified as Sedum acre) and Liriope spicata. Neither needs any maintenance except a bit of edging to keep these vigorous spreaders within bounds.  No mowing, feeding, or even weeding required.

(I recently posted photos of what this looked like a mere month ago when it was mostly bare soil – scroll down to the second photo.  Since  the heat wave has ended, the Sedum has filled in vigorously, and for the bare middle section I’ve filled in with Liriope for instant erosion protection.)

IMG_8621 But if the buyers have kids, we all know what they’ll do, right?  Rip out all these groundcovers and replace them with conventional turfgrass.  Oh, well.

Click here for more photos of my garden. The house, on a great street in Takoma Park, MD, is a 1925 Sears kit home, the “Conway” model.

Downsizing for the Aging Gardener

Like Sydney Eddison, I’ve been feeling the aches and pains of taking care of a large garden for too many years – 26 years on this lot.  But unlike Sydney, who’s converted her perennial beds into shrub beds and plans to age in place, I’ve decided to downsize both house and garden to a manageable townhouse-sized garden (end unit, of course).

So I’ll be moving to Historic Greenbelt, Maryland, a planned community built in the ’30s as part of FDR’s New Deal. (Lots more about it here and here.)  I haven’t found my new home yet but I already know I’ll be paying about a third the price of the house I’m selling.  I’m cashing out!

I hope to be settled and unpacked by spring, in time to start my new garden.  It’ll be both smaller and more visible to the public, owing to foot paths running between all the backyards, and its location on the corner.  So now I’ll confess that as much as I looooove my back garden and the woods beyond, it’s a lonely place to spend so much of my time.


  1. Good luck with your move, Susan. I did it three years ago, and I know I’ll never have my current house and garden as long as you did. 26 years is a long time. I’m always amazed if I stay in a place as long as 10 years. Starting over is fun! The town home and more community interaction sound great.

  2. Aww, that’s always a big ‘ol batch of mixed feelings, isn’t it?

    I keep telling my partner that we are going to have to die in this house because I have put too much damn work into the garden, but life is complicated, and I could see having to downsize the house at some point in the future.

    And at least in 26 years, you know that you have enjoyed a garden to the hilt.

  3. I bought a junked out farm house when the local real estate scene hit rock bottom – even though everyone around me told me not to do it. I then sold the house I was living in without putting too much effort into fixing it up (major repairs had already been done) – even though EVERYONE told me it would never sell. I got full asking price too! Found a buyer in less than two months and closed within four. It can be done. I told my realtor that a gardener would love to own my place and that is what happened. A young couple looking for a large backyard to grow their own veggies saw the ad and jumped on it.

    I offered to help them out with what to plant where and when but they never called, they wanted to handle it all by themselves. They did thank me for the wonderful soil and fruit trees and the massive compost bins I left behind.

    A garden can sell a house!

  4. My previous garden (and its house) was bought by someone who appreciated all that I’d done to establish it. I had to wait a bit longer to find the right buyers, but they realllllly wanted it. Hang in there!

    Your new community sounds wonderful. Next time I move, I will pay more attention to finding a community that fits well. Good luck on your big change.

  5. Susan, How timely~I was just listening to an NPR story about how we boomers underestimate the realities of retirement/aging. Moving to a smaller house and garden so makes sense. A smaller garden and more community interaction also makes sense. May this process be exciting and easy! gail

  6. I was just lamenting about a potential move myself on my blog, provided I can get a teaching job. I was thinking the perfect place to advertise a garden home would be on Twitter and Facebook and email listservs of garden clubs and such. Am I crazy? If you’re lonely come to Nebraska–the corn and cows will keep you company.

  7. Susan….wow. That will be a big change but I know you will embrace it and thrive in any location. What will you do with all that excess time? Party on!

  8. I’m sure you’ll find somebody who really wants an established garden. Are you advertising it as “garden featured in—” and listing all the places your garden’s appeared?

    I often think about this myself–I have no plans to move, but I do wonder who on earth would buy a place with a crazy garden like mine.

  9. (end unit, of course)

    Of course. I had a nifty little side yard with the townhouse we rented for a few years.

    I was able to build up the bed and stop the water infiltration that unit had. Ha. And I pot gardened all around the inside of the privacy fence. It was lovely.

  10. The best advice my realtor gave me was to not change anything until you have people looking and putting an offer on the table. Don’t waste time and money second guessing what you should rip out and replace until you have someone interested in buying the place. Plenty of people will give you their advice and comments on what you’ll need to do in order to sell the place – ignore them. Only pay attention to the person that is willing to sign their name and hand over some money.

  11. Susan – congratulations on embracing change! I’ve been in my home/garden here off and on for 30+ years and definitely plan on selling it in a few years. People think I’m crazy…”how could you ever leave??” and all that. Reality is I can’t wait for a change. Change is good! I hope your process is an easy one and you get a buyer who loves your garden as much as you do. btw: I sold my previous home 12 years ago to an out-of-town couple who never even went inside of it. Apparently, they had told their realtor if our house ever came on the market they wanted to buy it based off of the garden. Thank God, too, since theirs was the only offer! Hope yours is that easy! 🙂

  12. Wow, Susan, I understand what you are doing completely because I plan to do the same this spring. Hubby died 5 years ago, and I’ve been trying to manage 2/3rds of an acre & a 6 bedroom house alone. I realized I can’t do it. My garden beds are huge. (Hubby was a big time gardener too.) It’s just too much for me. Kids are gone.

    My problem is I can’t find anything half the size that costs the same or less, unless I want a cookie cutter house with an HOA and a garage attached in the front.
    (I have a 1902 Victorian.) I may have to move outside of Austin.

  13. Oh, Susan, I so relate to your sentiments. I am going through the exact same struggle with my mature, large garden and my next smaller life. Good for you for pulling the trigger and doing something. I’m planning on the big move, but stuck in quicksand in the meantime. Good Luck

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