Gardening questions answered by Debra
Q: "When one buys a house that includes an established garden, how should the new owner deal with this bonus? Should you leave the area untouched for 12 months to see what grows there already? Does a ready-made lush garden influence the choice of a new home buyer? Should the new owner dare destroy that 50-year old azalea planted by the former owner's grandfather? Razing the old garden and starting from scratch should not be an option! How can a new landholder adapt personal ideas to the newly adopted garden?" ~Bonnie B, New Jersey
This is indeed a dilemma for new homeowners, but a bit of background information is always valuable. Assuming that the buyers looked at the house before the sale, they should have gotten some idea from the current owners, who would no doubt have mentioned the garden as a selling point. Some sellers even include a planting plan of the garden if it is exceptional and this truly raises the value of the property. If potential buyers are gardeners themselves, they will recognize the difference between a property planted up with colorful annuals to enhance a sale, as opposed to a garden that has been nurtured over the years and includes trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials. I suggest that you leave well enough alone for a full season, perhaps with the addition of annuals for the first summer if the property lacks color. Take photographs frequently and otherwise document the gardens so that you will have base to work from. If the 50-year old azalea isn't to your liking or is diseased or overgrown, the new homeowner should feel free to remove it.
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