Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Goodbye to My Garden

Spring in the backyard, 2019

It’s time to say goodbye to my garden. My husband and I are moving to Houston for a job and family. My husband moved to Ruston, Louisiana, for a university job almost 15 years ago and I followed about 4 months later after selling our house in Austin. 

House and front yard, April 2005

We found this old 1930 house close to the university that had pretty much a blank slate for a yard. It was close to campus and several professors lived in the neighborhood, so it seemed like a good thing to take on. 

Backyard April 2005

Backyard April 2005

Backyard April 2005

Less than a year later with the help and design skills of friend Alexis Wreden, we took on a major renovation of the backyard. Soil was moved, decking and brick walkways were ripped up and replaced with smaller decking and a wider bluestone path. An old wooden wall was replaced with a curved rock wall and steps were built up to the concrete patio. Four 8- by 8-foot boxes were filled with yummy soil. And that was that. Or so I thought.

Work in progress March 2006

My garden took me into a world I never anticipated. I learned what it was like to have real soil instead of rocks. I experienced twice as much rainfall as I’d been used to. I learned about “southern” plants, many of which were actually Asian in origin. I found that the butterflies and bees I had been used to seeing were strangely absent.

So I decided that my first priority was to build a garden that was beneficial to pollinators. I think I achieved that. It took a while but they came. I started layering in new habitats with native shrubs and smaller trees. I fell hard for daylilies and tried to limit myself to one or two new ones a year. I also fell for cottage gardening until I realized how much work it was to keep annual seedlings from taking over. As funds permitted we gradually added new features such as a nice fence, some large beds both inside and outside the fence, a pergola, and a gravel and timber walkway. 

Hummingbird and Mexican bush salvia

Monarch on Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida)

Through the garden gate, April 2018

November 2018

In the process of gardening I found serenity and a creative outlet. I also found my voice and started blogging about my garden, meeting new soon-to-be friends at Garden Blogger Flings where I got great design ideas. I started speaking at Master Gardener events around the state and to garden clubs. I coached people who wanted a little extra help figuring out what to do in their yard. I wrote articles for gardening magazines and even edited them for a while.

Flinger friends at the Toronto Fling, 2015

I foresaw none of this when we moved here. I could say more about what Ruston has given me but I’ll probably save that for Facebook posts. Suffice it to say that my garden has been my refuge, my outlet, my inspiration, my exercise, a source of frustration, and a source of peace. I will miss it. My plans are to garden in containers for a while. We’ll see if that will satisfy my gardening itch for long. If I get a real garden going I’ll return to this blog. Or maybe I’ll blog about my containers. Meanwhile you can follow me on Instagram @jean_mcweeney. Au revoir, sweet garden!

Monsieur Jules Elie peony

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2019. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. What a big change it will be leaving your garden behind and starting over again. We did that ten years ago when we moved all the way from Massachusetts to Washington state. I hope you do get a new garden going, AND continue to blog about it (since I'm not on Facebook any more).

  2. That is a lot to leave behind but also so much to take with you. See how much fulfillment came into your life when you moved to Ruston although it must have been a very hard move. But now a new adventure to look forward to and to be closer to your mother, an added bonus. Good luck with house hunting and we'll hope to see you up in Austin soon.

  3. One thing a garden blogger can do is revisit their garden from a computer anywhere. It won't be the same of course, but it still means you don't have to totally say goodbye.

  4. You made a lovely garden and I know you will make another one when you find your next home. xoxo

  5. Your garden is a source of inspiration to many like me. No matter where you go, I know you will grow and garden there. Containers aren't bad, and as you know, raised beds are just large containers. xoxo~~Dee

  6. Gardening is a wonderful creative endeavor — it was certainly my end route back to creativity in various forms. And writing about my garden and nature observations — satisfying, too.

    I hope you’ll be back to creating another garden soon — it’s always bittersweet to leave a garden that you’ve created and loved.

  7. Oh, that's going to be hard, isn't it? As the others have said, the gardener is within you and I'm sure your next place will be amazing, too, because of your touch. Maybe it will take a little while, but I'll look forward to coverage from your Houston locale, too.

  8. Leaving our former garden was the thing I dreaded the most about moving. However, the excitement of creating a new one overcame that feeling and wasn't as earth shattering as I thought it would be. I was comforted by the fact that some really great people purchased our house and that they loved the garden. Do you already have a house or will you be renting at first?

    1. Phillip, we are going to rent at first. I'm just not sure I can do that for long because it would be hard not to refashion whatever landscape we get. The buyers of our house are not gardeners, I think, based on this question we got: "What does seller use to take care of plants and flowers in yard?" How does one answer a text like that when one has 45 years of gardening experience? lol

  9. What an wonderful transformation, both in your garden & personally as a gardener. It will so sad to leave your labour of love but I'm sure you will relish the challenge of a new garden - even if it's simply using containers at first (there is lots to experiment with on that front!)

  10. Wishing you good luck with the move, Jean! You've documented your garden here on your blog, which lives on no matter what. And now on to new gardening adventures!

  11. Awww, you had a great garden! Hope you are able to find a little bit of garden here in Houston when you settle in!

  12. Jean - I have not been a good blog visitor, but on this gray frigid day I was wandering through some of my favorites blogs and see that you have left your garden. Leaving a garden is hard. We left our country garden 5 years ago and moved to 'town' where we have a very small garden. Thank heaven. I am not as young as I was. I am sure you will find another place to make beautiful.

  13. What a lovely post — a fitting tribute to what you created. It was indeed a beautiful space. I thank you for writing about it and for being such a valuable part of the garden blogging community.


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