Sunday, April 29, 2012


I spent yesterday afternoon helping a friend landscape the front yard of her new home. Out came mite infested azaleas and clumps of overgrown monkey grass. Hostas, ignorantly planted by the previous owner in full sun on a hot dry slope were moved to the moist shade in the back and replaced with a small herb garden and perennials to complement the existing shrubs. Her daughter eagerly dug through a bucket of worm compost searching for wigglers while we amended the soil and designed my friend's first garden. When the last bag of mulch was finally laid, we stood back, cold and covered in dirt, clapping and cheering.

Having moved seventeen times in thirty four years, I've never understood how deeply attached people become to their surroundings. While I loved many of the places I lived, they were always just pit stops and I focused my attachments on the people I met rather than the town or landscape. But if you were to ask me where I considered my true home to be, I would have drawn a blank. Home was where ever my husband, children, and dogs were, regardless of the state abbreviation at the end of our address. It wasn't a fixed location but rather a fluid course that was guaranteed to change.

I've lived in the same house in northern Virginia for nine years, longer than I've lived anywhere, and the idea of moving again brings nausea and the realization that I've become, for the first time, deeply attached to where I live. Home is no longer where ever I hang my hat but these walls and this garden. It's an odd feeling, as strange as it is comforting. I laid on the hammock in my back yard this afternoon doing nothing but dreaming and savored how good it was to be home.

'Johnson's Blue' cranesbill geraniums 

They grow in a moist spot near the dogwood.

Geraniums and Siberian iris

The dogwood garden in early evening. This bed is full of perennials and sweetspire 'Little Henry'.

Genie and the marguerites 

Thalictrum in bud

The flowers remind me of fireworks. 

They grow near the river birch and native Bowman's Root.

Chives have self seeded gently around my garden.

Peeking at a pot of seed grown curly parsley planted for the butterflies. 

It was too bright when I took this photo. Chives thrive in a well drained bed near white geraniums, 'Laura' phlox, and a Sceptre d'Isle rose, all grown in the shade of a massive Rose of Sharon.

'Miss Kim' lilac

These shrubs have only been in the garden a few years but bloom heavier every season. I'm hoping they'll be covered with blossoms by next spring. They grow between an American Cranberry bush (viburnum trilobum) and fragrant sweetbox (sarcocca).

I planted them near a window so I could enjoy their incredible fragrance even while inside. I think Lucy likes them, too.


  1. I can't imagine moving 17 times in 34 years. for 34 years I worked at the same company, and lived within five miles of where I worked the entire time (although I had four different houses in those three and half decades.) How truly wonderful that for several years now you have put down roots (your own and your plants' roots).

    How good it is to be home, indeed.

  2. Aw, I love the little flower for a nose on Genie! Where we feel at home is an interesting point to ponder. Although I lived in NoVa until I was 19, I never truly felt at home until moving to Texas. All our relatives were from here (2 generations) and I would spend time as a child visiting them and always hated to leave. It may sound a bit weird but I really think it's in my blood :) Va is a beautiful place to call home and the garden you've created there is such a special place. We've been in our home 13 years and my husband looked around the other night at the garden and said "we're never leaving here are we?" Sometimes I think how fun it would be to have a new canvas but then other times, I can't imagine leaving. Time will tell.

  3. Having lilac growing outside your window must help it feel like home. I've moved a few time (nowhere near like you) and I've found some places I've lived felt like home and some didn't. Not totally sure why.

  4. An afternoon of doing lying in a hammock and doing nothing by daydreaming is well deserved after helping your friend with her garden.
    Can you believe, Tammy, that I have only lived in 5 homes in all my years? Sometimes I think that my experience has made me too rooted, my life too settled and safe. Perhaps that is why I always find myself so attracted to adventure and new experiences.
    Though I have moved house infrequently, I live far, far away from the majority of my family and that helps me to identify with your experience. Distance helps you realize that it is the people who count, not the place or the things.

  5. I've moved countries twice and many times in between. I think eventually human features get repeated. For example the cashier at the grocery store here looks exactly like the martinet of a head nurse I worked under in England. In the check out line I find myself subconsciously bracing for some admonishment. Have you had the same experience?

  6. I have the same marguerite daisy. Is yours from High Country Gardens?

    I've left two dream homes and downsized twice because of financial considerations. We've moved 9 times. My current home is one my wife Cindy saw in a dream. Pretty cool hugh. Each new home brings on a new canvas as Cat calls it. I never tire of designing new projects, however my body takes more time to recover from construction than it used to.

  7. I can't imagine moving so much, I get far too attached to my homes. It pains me something awful every time I have to move. Glad that you've found a place to call your own that holds some dear memories for you and makes you happy. There's something special about having a spot to call your own.

  8. Very nice, TS! My "Miss Kim" is about to bloom--so I'm just a bit behind you this year even though I'm in zone 5 (probably because of our warm March). It would be really tough to leave this house/garden, too. But I know it will happen eventually. It's just too big for two people. I'm very attached, though, so it will be tough. I'm hoping I'll have enough funding when I retire (in 20 years?) to be a snowbird for part of the year, anyway. Honestly, Virginia seems like the perfect place for a gardener. And your garden is looking mighty nice!

  9. I think we live similar lives. I dread the questions "where are you from?" because I never know how to answer it...where was I born? where do I live now? where have I lived the longest?...I never had a sense of "roots" because I connect to so many places. Over the years I have embraced the fact that I have "global" roots and the earth is my home. Your garden is looking really lovely!

  10. In 1997, Hubby, kids and I moved to our current location. It's the longest I've lived in any one location and I think finally, I feel like I'm home. It took quite a few years though. Funny how that works.

    It's so nice of you to help a friend design her garden. I hope both of you have many more years of enjoyment in your gardens.

    I had to laugh at your comment about the beer on the "Danger Garden." I hadn't thought about it but I bet this is why they're doing so well. :)

  11. I become greatly attached to my home. I live in my last house for 17 years. It was heartbreaking to leave, but, of course, now I know it was the right thing to do. I always put so much of myself in my home and garden, and I find it so hard to leave it behind. We know we will not be in this house forever, but it will probably be a while before we leave.

  12. I'm right with you... I was mildly attached to my LIFE in Manhattan, and the city itself, but previous to that in Virginia, I never put down anything but feeder roots. Now, I never want to move again :)! I probably will, but still, I am at home here.

    Here's hoping that you never have to move again, until the one day that you really want to.

  13. What a nice post :-)

    How wonderful of you to help your friend get their garden going. Gardening is so wonderful when it is shared.

  14. I once moved 16 times in two years, and 'home' didn't really exist. As an adult, the longest I've lived anywhere is 7 years, but I think here, finally, we're staying put for a while. I understand what you mean about finally connecting with a place in your life that you're willing and happy to really call home. For me, some of it is a level of investment, not just in the community, but within the actual space of my home and garden. Our last house, knowing it was a 'pit stop', I never painted any rooms in the house, and didn't even bother to hang pictures on the wall...I didn't want to have to spackle the holes before we moved, but this time it's different. I agree, it's good to be home. BTW, Genie and the Marguerites sounds like a fabulous name for a band :P

  15. Wonderful post TS. And the state of "Home" is so timely for me too. We have lived in the hills here in Boerne for nearly 7 years and although I've enjoyed living here, it never truly felt like home because I knew we would only be here, maybe 10 years at the most. Now we are moving for the summers (for now anyway) to my husband's home state of Michigan. And truth be told, the more time I spend there around family, the more I feel like that is home. I even asked my husband during the construction of this house, "Do you feel like you're going home?" And he said simply with mist in his sweet blue eyes, "Yes, I do." I understand your connection to your home and your beautiful garden. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as well.


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