Wednesday, May 27, 2009

But There's No Lawn

A number of years ago we decided to test the water, put our home on the market in anticipation of downsizing. Our children were all on their own and a large house on nearly 6 acres did not seem to fit into our thoughts of retirement, retirement being doing more of what is on our to-do list. A smaller place and less upkeep now seemed more appropriate in the years ahead.

Within that planning theme, we sold a 2 bedroom condo we had enjoyed for about 5 years in southern California, one that had allowed us some respite from the winter rains of the Pacific northwest. 1200 square feet proved to be too small for two active people with a continued creative and productive life style, and a room for visiting family and friends was inadequate.

Upon listing our home, we immediately had several prospective buyers, but either they had not yet sold theirs in another state or it happened to be not exactly what they had in mind. We understood that.

Everyone loved the house and gardens, and in particular this one gentleman. He was impressed with the quality of construction and all the improvements we had made. The various garden specimens were of interest to him and he oohed and awed at the beautiful landscaping. He proclaimed the view extraordinary, and after seeing all there was to see, firmly stated this is a WOW property! He paused, and as he slowly rotated his head from one side to the other, 180 degrees, proclaimed, "But there's no lawn."

Does your mind ever just go numb when someone says such to which there is no response? Clearly we were silent. We smiled, said our goodbyes and wished him well in his search, but even now we chuckle about that moment... truly there was nothing to say.

If someone wanted a lawn, there are areas where it could be created, but we chose to do it this way. Due to the elevation and slope, the outcropping of rocks and boulders, the lay of the land, we decided to adapt to it.

The acreage was an overgrown raw forest filled with fallen trees, brush, poison oak, blackberries, all that had to be cleared in order to simply walk through and additionally, removed, as it posed a fire hazard. That which you see is following months of hard work. Once the clearing was near completion, we walked along what seemed to be natural paths and marked them with cedar sawdust, and therein lay the beds for development.

A couple years following the planting of a tree, shrub, an ornamental grass, a groundcover... it will find its own footing, the roots become established, and it will require little if any water, and many of our plants are drought tolerant. Those that do get watered receive it sparingly during July, August and part of September when we have no rain, and only once a week for about 30 minutes. Some of the foliage may not get as large or look as lush if there were a fuss made about them, but we have lost very few plants using this method. In fact more died this winter due to the unseasonable cold and freeze than we lost in 15 years of gardening, and way back then I didn't even know what I was doing.

We didn't sell the house. Following the 90-day listing, we simply took it off the market and haven't thought much more about it. Each year there is another degree of maturation and as we work among the beds or walk along the paths, there is quite the joyful feeling as we view these fruits of our labor.

No, there's no lawn, but there's so much more. And one thing about the garden, it will be even better next year.

One of the most delightful things about a garden, is the anticipation it provides. -- W.E. Johns