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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A New Journey :: The Bitter and The Sweet

Hoe and Shovel Garden June 2014
The more we live/mature the more we realize life is most often sweet but once in a while it deals out a bit of bitter. When Mr. Meems and I were making the hard decision recently about whether to undergo a major house-remodeling project or to move away from our home of 30 years, we knew for certain that leaving my garden wasn't an option. At first the idea was unthinkable. It wasn't in the realm of possibilities. No, not even a consideration. I could not sell my house which would mean I would leave my garden behind. We would bite the bullet and invest in an overdue renovation of our home. It was a decision we had contemplated for a long time and put off for even longer.
Favorite bird bath

To be fair and to complete this story let's rewind to last year. We bought the house next door April 2013. Yes, you read that right. The house next door. The one right next door to mine. Our longtime (recently widowed) neighbor bought a smaller, more convenient home (for him) and he sold us his house. Our overall plan was to update/rejuvenate the house next door with new floors, paint, and a few other essentials. We were to move into it temporarily (while ours was being remodeled) and then sell it. We moved into the house next door November of 2013 when the renovation on it was complete. That was the plan. It was going to be a sweet blessing not to be living in our house during the remodel.
Water feature in the Circle Garden
A side note is needed here: since April 2013 I've been gardening on both lots. Each of them is a little over half an acre. In the new garden I was mainly keeping up with weeds and trimming. But last fall (when we moved into the house next door) I just could't help myself.  I started planting some rooted cuttings from my garden into the garden next door. The barren planting beds were begging for my attention. I'll talk more about that fun in another blog. For now it will be less confusing if I keep this about the timeline progression of the two houses.
A view of my back garden June 2014
I think you know where this is going.

It's a really long story. For the sake of this blog, the short of it is that what I thought was the unthinkable became the reality. Have you ever noticed how time and circumstance have a way of easing into our hearts and minds and ever-so sneakily whittling away at some of the *things* we think we already have figured out in life.

A month ago we signed a contract to sell our home of 30 years. That means the garden too. I know. This is the bitter part. Bitter sadness at every thought of leaving my garden was overwhelming in the beginning. Okay, y'all know I don't like emotional drama. This was dramatic! At times I have thought I might melt into a pool of sorrow never to be recollected. It catches me off guard. It's kinda like parts of my heart are being ripped out of me while my soul watches from a distance. I had said yes to the sale with my mind and mouth, but my heart was really clinging at first.
Penelope the flamingo
Selling our home (and garden) was an unexpected turn of events. The renovation project was finally underway. We had just completed some major foundation work on our home (due to some ground settling issues) and the last nail in the new roof was hammered.  Just before the contractor was scheduled to start the remodel we thought the time was right to do some additional investigating for future planning. We spoke with a Realtor in reference to selling the house next door. (The house we bought to live in temporarily just in case you're lost in all this).
Birdhouse Garden June 2014
The Realtor gave us numbers and figures to think about for both houses in the course of our appointment with her. Within the week she called us to ask if she could bring some people by to look at our house. The one we weren't going to sell. The one we have lived in for 30 years, raised our children in and the one with the dream garden I built with my own sweat and energy one plant and one border at a time.
A shady sweep of 'Postman Joyner' Caladiums in the back garden
Fast forward to a week later. The savvy young couple who looked at it ~ even though it wasn't for sale and there was no pressure on us to sell ~ wanted to buy it ~ just like it is ~ without the completed renovation. We agreed to sell it. Our closing is scheduled for next week. Just like that.

It's a perfect house for their little family. They are super excited about the house and the garden. We are excited to have them as our new neighbors.
The fire pit seating area I built February 2014
It was agreeable to everyone that we could move most of my garden accessories (pots, birdhouses, bird feeders, fire pit.) And then there were some plants that were pass-alongs or gifts from special people. I've rooted a load of cuttings from favorite plants also. Needless to say it has been an exhausting month making all that happen so quickly. More about that in another blog.
New (current) house has an open deck we rebuilt that overlooks my new back garden
It isn't as difficult to think about leaving the house as it is about leaving my garden. The memories made in that house will be forever with me and my family. It is much more of a challenge to leave the garden. I always pictured myself still toiling in it when I was 90.

My emotions about leaving the garden have gone from devastated in the beginning days to hopeful as time passes. This is a new journey in our lives. I'm beginning to see the bright side to starting over. My new garden has some great bones (mature oaks, palmettos, and established shrubs), but after that it is a fairly plain pallet. There isn't nearly the amount of shade that I had before so I'm making big adjustments concerning sun conditions and right-plant, right place locations. I see it all as a new opportunity.
A small glimpse at my new garden. 'Celebration' Caladium in the foreground. Bulbs planted May 5. Photo: July 3, 2014
I'm going to take my time to really think out exactly how much and what I want to do in this garden. This house is a little smaller and the lot is a little bigger. We have a large open deck now instead of a screened lanai with a pool. I'm looking forward to this new adventure. Often in life you just might not know why things happen like they do. So we put on our big-girl pants and make the choice to turn the bitter into sweet. One thing I do know. I will create a garden wherever I am and it will be a reflection of me ... warts and all. Stay tuned for a sweet future ahead!
This quote really touched my heart when I read it recently.

Happy gardening,

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All material © 2007-2014 by Meems for Hoe and Shovel Gardening Blog. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.


  1. Wow. I am facing the same thing only not really by choice (job relo).
    My house and neighbors will be missed, but my garden... oh my garden... years and years of building and removing and toiling and reveling in the beauty.
    Part of me, at my age, wants a house with bones already in place, somewhere just needing my own personal touch but part of me would love that blank slate to start anew. It tires me to think of that! haha.
    I wish you all the best in the new place and look forward to your work on the new lot.

  2. Wow!Lately,I have been giving serious thought to selling this place.Something smaller,perhaps.But I love my neighborhood and my neighbors.And it is where I raised a family.But,like you,I think it may be time to move on.Something smaller and closer to the beach.But there is one more reno to do,before it's sell able.

  3. Hope the Bitter will become sweet quickly for you as you plan the new garden. Best wishes to you and yours on this new journey. I'll be looking forward to your pictures of the new garden with some of the old stuff in it!!!

  4. Well I never ! Still trying to wrap my mind around that incredible story. So happy that it worked out for you.
    I know words can't adequately express the feelings of leaving one's home and garden behind, in my case one of 45 years, pulling up stakes and moving back South. But here I am 3 years later , happily settled into a cozy little cottage in the North Carolina woods . All due to a pixie 5 1/2 year old granddaughter that stole our heart and moved here .

  5. Laura ~vitaminseaJuly 7, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    Meems, I know you're not dramatic, but I remember reading your posts way back when I had the VitaminSea blog in 2004, and I feel like I've grown old with your garden all along the way. I just wanted to give you a big old hug the entire time I was reading this story!
    Many years ago, we left Gainesville for Tampa bay in a rather bittersweet move, also. The house on an acre and a half that we had designed over many late nights at the kitchen table, the one our children were supposed to grow up in, was to be sold as we moved to Tampa for better job opportunities. Sold, so we could move to a house in the suburbs.
    Only, I couldn't let it go. The emotional attachment took it's toll, and I couldn't stand to sell it, which was very hard on the real estate agent who urged me to see it as a business decision instead. ;)
    So I can fully understand, with a garden like you've created, what an absolutely monumental decision this must have been. I have been in many botanical gardens. I think yours could hold its own with any of them.
    But I look forward to seeing what you come up with in the future, as instead of becoming settled, you forge the way for a whole new set of new and exciting gardens to share with us.
    I can't wait to see what you come up with this time around.
    Good luck, and much inner peace in the meantime. ;)

  6. Oh Meems I know the feeling too well. I am still not ready to sell and now I have done the renos I want to enjoy some of it. My head says sell my heart says stay a bit longer. At least you are next door but it can be bitter sweet.

    Hugs my friend.

  7. well I hope you got an offer that far exceeded your expectations. I don't think I could have done it myself. So, about creating a garden wherever you live--how about coming and staying at our house for a year or two? I could sure use some good FL gardening advice! I don't think you are too far away--I am in Bradenton. I admire your gardens all the time from your pictures. I am amazed how beautiful they are in such heat here... Can't wait to see your future journey in mostly sunny areas--like our lot... :)

  8. Oh Meems, you're leaving the garden that I visited when I met you for the very first time. I'm just going to have to visit you in your NEW garden! I know you will have some good times, living next door and helping your new neighbor with her gorgeous yard. I see all kinds of wonderful mentoring there and it will be all kinds of good. I just know it. But I also understand how you're feeling about leaving. I wrote a blog post about that once. "What Will Happen to the Garden?" It's hard to leave a place that holds so many memories and has so much of your blood, sweat, and tears invested. But you'll make this new place just as lovely, probably even more so. Big hugs to you and I hope to visit your there soon! xoxo

  9. My goodness, how things can change so quickly. I think all gardeners know just how hard it is to leave a beloved garden behind, but it's wonderful to hear that you've taken elements of it with you already. Hopefully planning your new garden will lift your spirits and I'm sure your new creation will be even lovelier. I'm looking forward to seeing the photos as your new garden comes to life.

  10. Oh my goodness Meems! My heart goes out to you as you embark on this new adventure. At least you are next door, and you are having the fun of starting a new garden. Bless your hearts!

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  11. It's a tough thing to endure, I know, but think of the fun you'll have putting a new garden into place. I left a garden behind once too, and with ten years gone by, I barely give it a thought because I'm so happy here with my NEW garden. So comforting thoughts on your loss, but excitement too as you rebuild!

  12. OMG. I'm in shock and yet you are the perfect one for the challenge! Yes, you can conquer this! So glad for your new place and thankful you can live in the same beautiful street! I need a visit from you Meems! I need a coach! I love you dearly. LT

  13. Well, all I can say is I hope the new family makes many great memories as your family did. It's a wonderful street to grow up on, and you have always made a wonderful neighbor. The lady of the home will be blessed to be next door to you, should she need gardening advice, or you should need more clippings :-)
    I'm sad and excited for you! I think I thought you'd be in that gown when you were 90, too. But I like that you are right next door! Pretty cool, when you think about it.

  14. that *home*...
    (Not sure where gown came from - ha)

  15. Your new garden has been waiting for you. Can't wait to see the transformation. Continued blessings...

  16. Congratulations of your new garden. I have moved, and left several gardens, and I know how difficult it is. They remain in my mind and my heart, like good friends. I look forward to seeing your next work in progress. ��

  17. Such twists and turns, this life! I hear the grief in your words, rightfully so. There's also a twinkle of hope, which allows us to hope with you! A tremendous, gently change. You were walking out your transition before you knew you were in one. There are days we can only see our next step, and trust in that step forward. I believe there are good things ahead! For you, family and garden. Blessings, dear Meems, in the journey. We know you won't shrink from it! I'm sad I never got to meet your garden, but I feel I know it somehow. I've run through the paths with your grandchildren, mulched branches, laid pine straw, and planted beautiful finds from near and far. Your artistic hands have created a magnificent space, and it's documented so perfectly in your blog. I look forward to your new adventure!

  18. Oh, Meems, my heart goes out to you! I got teary at the point where you talked about the buyers being excited about the gardens. It sounds like you made a good plan with the buyers to make the best of the situation.

  19. You are so brave Meems. I know this garden will eventually become your heart. You have learned so much in the other garden. You will be able to truly have the garden of your dreams and be able to plant so you can handle it in your, ahem, older age. :) Best of luck. I will look forward to seeing what all goes on and to get to know this new garden as you unfold it to us..

  20. Honey, I was in tears as I read your post and the uplifting responses to you. I have been more able to observe the garden progress over the years first hand, and the labor of love that created it, as your Mom and a frequent visitor to your home. For those who have never seen it, Meems pics only do it partial justice, and I have seen very few gardens to equal it.
    Now however, you have already got your creative juices flowng and have made a definite impact on the new space that was just waiting for your imaginative touch. I feel sure that your old garden will be admired and appreciated for all of the beauty and design that you built into it, and you will become just as proud of the new garden as time goes on. Your heart knows that God has nothing but good planned for your future, and you can trust Him to guide your heart and mind as your genius flows into the garden of your new home. Happy gardening to you!

  21. We love our neighbors and our location which makes living *next door* to our longtime-home/garden a bit of a consolation. Each day as time passes and as I make this new garden *my own* the sorrow of losing my original garden is waning. I have faith that it is all going to work out for the better. There are so many factors and considerations involved. I know God takes care of us and that the future is in His hands.

    In the meantime, my hands are extremely busy carrying out some of the ideas spinning in my mind about what I want to do here.

    Each one of your comments has been like an arrow pointed directly at my heart to soothe and comfort my grief. I know you each have your own stories. None of us is without the surprises that life deals out.

    Thank you for following along and for speaking up when I needed you most. This is going to be a *good* new journey. We can all learn how to do it together! Hugs and love to each one of you! Meems

  22. I just discovered your blog couple of weeks ago. We moved into our new house last year and I have been busy ripping out my lawn both front and back and you have been a real inspiration (though i have to tell my self everyday that it will take me years to get there). When i read this latest article, I realize that we might face the same decision in 15-20 years. If not anything else, I have added zeal to continue creating a piece of paradise in my yard, and 15-20 years later, I would do it again. thank you !

  23. Oh my! I know you must have so many mixed emotions. I was thinking of that last year and wondering if I could take all my plants with me. LOL! I never went through with it though. I think I would have a problem living beside my old garden, I would be "now are they taking care of it' or ' they should do or not do this'. LOL! Good luck girl. LOL! No, that is just me and not wanting to give up control. Have a great time with new opportunities in gardening.

  24. Oh wow! It's great the the new owners love the garden also. I can't wait to see what you do with all the sun!

  25. Oh Meems ... how touching! Have finally had a minute to catch up after our whirlwind summer wedding and trying to piece snippets together. Now I understand ... thinking you are blessed to remain so near your beloved garden. Ah, new gardening adventures keep us young and joints lubricated :) I have run out of room (though keep revamping areas) and you have a whole new palate to display your artistic talents! ((BIG HUGS)). Have fun. :)

  26. What mixed emotions you must have, Meems, to leave the garden you have created with love for so many years! Yet it must also be exciting to begin with a blank slate. Good luck with your new journey.

  27. I feel sad for you leaving your garden. I am glad, though, that you already have new ideas for your new garden. I have a feeling that this one will be even better!

  28. Your garden is amazing! Thanks a lot for sharing!

  29. Your garden really is just jaw - droppingly stunning!


Have a blessed day,

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway