Landscaping for Fun and Profit, or How My 'Shaina' Japanese Maple is [Not] Going to Make Me Rich
Several years ago I read an article on how much landscaping can add to a home's value. Obviously a house with a pretty yard and garden will be more appealing to potential buyers than one with a patchy lawn and some scraggly hollies. But this article actually claimed that certain plantings - Japanese maples, for instance - were the horticultural equivalent of granite countertops. Take it from me: they're not.
I bring this up because we developed a sudden urge to sell our house and it's going on the market any day. The real estate agent recently did a walk-through and while she was very complimentary about the many improvements we made, she never once mentioned my Japanese maple.
'Shaina,' the Japanese maple in question, dates to 2007, or two years after we moved into our Cary home. Still a relative novice at gardening, I fell for Shaina's picture in the Wayside Gardens catalog (top photo). Needless to say, what I received (take a gander at the photo above) bore absolutely no resemblance to the tree in the Wayside Gardens picture. What it resembled - and what it resembles even now, seven years later - is a lollipop. The branch canopy has yet to catch up with the stick-like trunk, and while the foliage color has lived up to its billing, I think we can agree that 'Shaina' looks a little ridiculous.
Had I known then what I know now, I never would have ordered a Japanese maple through the mail. Now I know to pick out a Japanese maple in person so I can be sure it has a nice shape from the get-go. And next time - if there is a next time - I'm going to spring for a bigger model. Japanese maples are way too slow-growing and I am way too 1.) impatient and 2.) old to wait for them to morph from ugly duckling to swan.
But back to the subject at hand. Even if my 'Shaina' looked just like the Wayside Gardens 'Shaina,' I doubt we would be getting rich off it. Nor will I be getting rich off my Edgeworthia (a real looker), or my side garden, or my wetland garden, or any of the other thousands of things I did in the yard in the nine years we have lived here. Not that I'm complaining: I made the garden because I wanted to, period. My only problem is that I've gotten quite attached to my plants. If I knew where we were moving, I might even pot some up so I can bring them to the new house.
Not 'Shaina,' though. 'Shaina' is staying.
A friend just sold her house with spectacular garden and the new owners are taking everything out because they want low-care. Her local blogging friends formed a digging party to salvage her favorites (and we took some home too). I'd definitely get right of first refusal on the plants.
4/24/2014 12:49:04 pm
I have heard this story many times. It's kind of depressing, actually. But I still have time to pull out a few things I can't bear to part with, and that I won't kill in the process. Like the new stuff I planted last fall and haven't yet had a chance to enjoy.
4/24/2014 01:30:29 pm
That's the plan now. We're looking in and around Raleigh. Ron likes adventure, though, so I can't rule out finding myself packing my bags for Idaho.
4/24/2014 11:55:09 pm
Maybe you could add a clause to the contract having to do with maintaining/improving the garden. I'm sure it will be sad to leave all your work behind, and even worse would be if the new owner doesn't appreciate or even want to keep what you've achieved.
4/25/2014 02:35:40 am
You are so right, Anne. Even though I'm sad to leave some plants behind, I like the idea of starting over. I think I'd do it better this time. Although my soil was just getting good...
4/24/2014 02:57:01 pm
That is so sad, on so many levels. The thought that we have to have specific plants for our landscapes to be considered "current" makes me mad. And it also says so much about our weird disposable culture. We're starting to think about moving, too, so I guess I'd better get used to the fact that I'll have to say goodbye to the garden soon. I hope you can take some of your plants with you.
4/25/2014 02:42:19 am
Thanks, Beth. Sounds like you need to get your shovel out also. I am planning to start potting some things up this weekend. I'm picking things that I only recently planted so they are all pretty small and won't be missed. I just can't leave them behind to bloom without me.
4/25/2014 02:47:41 am
Thank you. Less flood-prone is a major requirement!
4/25/2014 12:36:10 pm
Please tell me that where ever you go, you don't stop blogging!! Northern VA is quite nice, ya know! I've reached the point with my garden, that it might be a liability because there is so much to maintain. I'd better get granite if I ever want to move! Maybe your next garden will be less swampy. :)
4/26/2014 12:15:47 am
Thank you so much, Tammy. I do like the DC area, but not the price or the traffic. We'll probably stay here, and I do expect to keep blogging (i.e., blabbing) about my brand new garden!
4/27/2014 07:38:40 am
I find the name of your tree hilarious. It means "pretty" in Yiddish. Wonder if it's meant to be a Japanese name or if someone was having a good joke.
4/28/2014 01:44:08 am
I suspect it was supposed to be Japanese. And it is pretty in the catalogue. Just not in my yard. But I think it will be pretty in about 50 years.
4/27/2014 07:45:21 am
Must be hard to contemplate moving and leave your lovely garden!
4/28/2014 01:46:02 am
It's depressing, but I am not surprised. I am already getting the sense that people are put off my the garden, even though mine is not all that big. I know someone who had turned his entire front yard into one massive garden (i.e., no lawn), then was told by his real estate agent to dig up all his plants (including several large banana trees) and plant grass if he hoped to sell his house.
I chuckled when I read your analogy using granite countertops. A few years back Japanese Maples were super pricy. They seemed to have come down in the word though and I now find that they are even available at the local supermarket garden centre. In other words, they have gone from granite to formica.
4/28/2014 01:47:50 am
You're right- Japanese maples are dime a dozen these days. I even saw Shaina at Home Depot. It was a lot bigger than mine, had a better shape, and was cheaper than what I had paid for my mail-order specimen. That said, a really stunning Japanese maple will never go out of style. Too bad mine isn't one!
Well, I think Japanese maples are pretty popular and will remains so, but yeah, yours probably won't add anything to the house value for another few decades :) Good luck with your move! I hope someone will buy your house who will appreciate the garden - so many people just like lawn, lawn, and more lawn, since that's all they know, sadly.
4/30/2014 03:07:09 am
You're right - so far, what I'm seeing is that people are more scared by the garden than anything. I keep trying to tell them that a lot of it is low maintenance, but they don't believe me. I guess they've never tried growing a lawn before. Now that's high maintenance!
I always miss my gardens when I move. Weird, but true. Hey, friends you can keep in touch with. I'm just to left to wonder how all my plants are faring, that I put so much thought, time, and effort into.
5/1/2014 03:04:13 am
Yeah, I'm starting to feel the way you did, and we've only got to haul a dog and our junk. But I still have a few pots ready to go. Mostly stuff that I bought last fall and haven't had a chance to see bloom yet. I refuse to leave them in there to bloom without me!
5/1/2014 03:04:19 am
You know I love Japanese maples! The Japanese maples that add such beauty to my front garden were tiny seedlings when I purchased them. That was almost 25 years ago! Over the years since then, I have purchased around 15 Japanese maples, and I tried to get them large enough so that at least people would recognize them before stepping on them! I usually put the smaller ones in a pot for a few years. That way, they look nice and don't look so insignificant. I recommend putting Shaina in a large pot and taking her with you!
5/1/2014 04:47:46 am
I love seeing all the gorgeous Japanese maples you have in your garden. I think you have Waterfall, my new favorite - is that right? Great idea about Shaina, except it's too late - it looks as if we've sold the house and since I haven't already dug Shaina up, I believe I am no longer allowed to do so. Sad! But strange to say, the house we are thinking of buying has a Japanese maple in the front - and it's bigger than Shaina.
5/4/2014 04:40:31 pm
Yes, I have Waterfall; it is one of my favorites! It is appropriate that this gorgeous weeping Japanese maple is growing over the grave of our beloved black lab. Glad your new home has a Japanese maple in front!
My brother was an avid gardener, but it turned out that his extensive native-oriented gardens were a negative as far as selling went. He ended up spending big bucks pulling out his beds and covering them over with sod. Sigh. Is the house change going along with a job change? In any case, good luck!
5/5/2014 01:03:26 am
Glad to see that you are up and about again. I have heard stories similar to your brother's many times. Sigh, indeed. Thanks for the good wishes. We're just moving to another neighborhood in the area. No job change, just time for a change of pace.
5/7/2014 02:24:38 am
Thanks, Joan. Our new house has a small, rectangular fenced in back yard. Narrow garden beds on the side with nothing in them, and grass in the middle. Sounds like I have a new project.
5/8/2015 11:32:24 pm
It was nice blog and intresting to read. It sounds good and i like your way of writing.
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The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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