Not Afraid Of Change Anymore

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Not Afraid Of Change Anymore

My wife Susan and I made the big decision about a year ago. We decided to move from our old, very comfortable house to a new location in Athens, Ga. It was time. The house was too big, the stairs too steep and the commute too long.
None of those reasons particularly validated a move, and we certainly could have stayed. But after lots of waffling and indecision, we determined we should just do it. Regardless of the verdict, though, I was having a lot of trouble with it.
 
For me, the house was not the problem. I could live in a mud hut and be just fine. For me, it was our garden, a place filled with magnificent trees I could stroll with a cup of tea. Our garden was a long-term testing laboratory for so many new annuals and perennials–it was a real garden I could show industry and gardening audiences when talking about the real performance of plants. It was truly beautiful in any season.
 
Susan wanted to be “in town,” so we found an older cottage that was definitely smaller, with no stairs and a much shorter commute. I will not bore you with details of the needed repairs, renovations and money spent. But the entire project–frustrating as it was at times and financially draining as it was at all times–turned out to be a blast.

The Garden Makes The Home

We purchased a 950-square-foot shack on a tiny lot and transformed it into a livable space. We were able to start from nothing and add all those green things people talk about but seldom actually implement: additional insulation, a tank-less hot water heater, a programmable thermostat, the newest mirrored sun lights that bring in natural light regardless of the clouds. Best of all, we implemented a water pillow system that captures rainwater from the roof. Change made that possible.
 
However, the garden was tiny. It was a city lot measuring about 60 by 100 feet–far smaller than the half acre our other house sat on. But as the new house rose from the reconstruction rubble, I found I was able to do many of the gardening things I was not able to do before. There was nothing there. 
 
This starting-from-scratch-thing can be intimidating, but I surprisingly found it liberating. The soil was hard, nasty and impenetrable, so I added truckloads of excellent composted soils sufficiently deep that plants can actually flex their roots.
 
As shady as my original garden was, this one was sunny. I was able to plan for a whole new palette of plants, from roses to tomatoes that I couldn’t grow before. And the place was so small it didn’t cost much to fill it up.
 
As I was walking around with my shovel and trowel the other day thinking about where I should plant the crocuses, tulips and daffodils I just purchased, I realized I was a happy boy. A small garden, a few plants and the joy of trying new plants–what more did I need?
 
Far be it from me to preach to you about the goodness of change. I chose my change, and it was not forced upon me. Still, the unintended consequences were positive. I am no longer afraid of new, nor am I afraid of change. As one of our newly moved friends said: “The change was exhilarating.”
Allan Armitage was a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia for 30 years. He recently retired and remains an active consultant, author and lecturer.

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6 comments on “Not Afraid Of Change Anymore

  1. Anonymous

    Allan- congratulations to you and Susan on your new place. From the look of the before and after pictures, it has been quite a project and a transformation- wow!

    My dad grew up on a farm and, as I was growing up, was always a gardener. He started in a vacant lot next door with vegetables (out of financial necessity in the 70s- my mom froze a million white cardboard cartons of veggies) and once the vacant lot was built on, he had to give up the vegetables and retreat to the full shade on his own lot. So next came the annuals, perennials and groundcovers.

    In 1998, my parents moved to be closer to me and the grandkids. At the age of 75, he left his years of full-shade gardening and moved to a full- sun situation, and started from scratch much the way you and Susan have- smaller lot, packed clay soil hard as rocks, loads of challenges. He never knew a latin name for anything, but over the next 9 years he created a garden that brought much joy to him and my mom, and inspired his neighbors, his grandkids and me- the garden that is his legacy. Good luck with your new gardening adventure!!

  2. Anonymous

    Congrats on your choosing your change and your new digs and & garden. I did the same 2 years ago. While my garden continues to evolve, this has been some of the happiest gardening I have ever done. Hope you’ll have a chance to come up some time and be my guest at Mohonk Mountain House , where I garden for a living.

  3. Anonymous

    Allan- congratulations to you and Susan on your new place. From the look of the before and after pictures, it has been quite a project and a transformation- wow!

    My dad grew up on a farm and, as I was growing up, was always a gardener. He started in a vacant lot next door with vegetables (out of financial necessity in the 70s- my mom froze a million white cardboard cartons of veggies) and once the vacant lot was built on, he had to give up the vegetables and retreat to the full shade on his own lot. So next came the annuals, perennials and groundcovers.

    In 1998, my parents moved to be closer to me and the grandkids. At the age of 75, he left his years of full-shade gardening and moved to a full- sun situation, and started from scratch much the way you and Susan have- smaller lot, packed clay soil hard as rocks, loads of challenges. He never knew a latin name for anything, but over the next 9 years he created a garden that brought much joy to him and my mom, and inspired his neighbors, his grandkids and me- the garden that is his legacy. Good luck with your new gardening adventure!!

  4. Anonymous

    Congrats on your choosing your change and your new digs and & garden. I did the same 2 years ago. While my garden continues to evolve, this has been some of the happiest gardening I have ever done. Hope you’ll have a chance to come up some time and be my guest at Mohonk Mountain House , where I garden for a living.