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Garden Photo of the Day

Pat’s downsizing garden in New York

Today's photos are from Pat DeSocio, who says, "I moved from two acres in Locust Valley, New York, where I built and cultivated a variety of gardens (perennials, shade, flowering shrubs around a long rock wall, cutting, heather-around a windmill-winter flowering) for 20 years, to an apartment with a small backyard. My daughters left for college and I lost my house during the recession. I was selling real estate and my bills were the same, but nothing sold in 2008-2010. I was heartbroken, as my renovated house of 20 years had six sets of French
doors that opened to my gardens, which had grown and changed and evolved over 20 years like my children.
     I brought some plants with me, inluding my Jack-in-the-pulpit, hardy hibiscus, a few scoops of cimicifuga, ginger, and some amazing hostas. I've started building gardens here. Although it is a rental, it is my home and the back yard is my sactuary. My shade garden is thriving, my caryopterous is abuzz with happy bees, my portulaca pops up everywhere in the cracks, my containers have nautia (like elephant ears) tubers from the grocery store and black taro from India via Ebay. We have an organic garden with everything and I share the abundance with my friends and neighbors.
     I went back to my old house recently because I felt strong enough, but it looked overgrown and unkempt. I have recently beenfeeling blessed by the freedom I have come to appreciate. I am unburdened by the high property taxes and the expense and work involved in maintaining my house, gardens, and pool. I've realized that a garden is a living thing that you live and care for, and when you move, it moves with you. It is spiritual." Oh, wow, Pat. I love this post for so many reasons. I can tell this transition has been quite an emotional journey, and that you've survived it beautifully. Good luck with your new garden–I know I would love to see updates as it evolves! That Jack-in-the-pulpit, by the way, is ridiculously cool!!

Send me photos of YOUR garden! Email me at GPOD@taunton.com

Come and meet up at the  Northwest Flower and Garden Show this year!

I'm scheduled to give another GPOD talk (A few of you will be getting emails in the next two weeks as I put together the slideshow…), and a number of people have emailed to say that they'll be at the show, and that they'd love to meet up with a bunch of fellow GPODers!

The RSVPs so far:

Glenda Curdy (Nurserynotnordstrom)
Tia Scarce
Jeanne Cronce (Greengenes)
Sheila Schultz
Shirley Graves
Chris Niblack (ChrisSeattle)
Kielian DeWitt (Annek)
Linda Skyler (Meelianthus)
Kathy Schuler

So…who else is going to be there?? Let us all know in the comments, and we can start planning an outing! Perhaps after-dinner drinks one night at the bar at the Sheraton?  I'll repeat this announcement for the next week or so, at least, and keep a running list of who's coming….enticement for even more people to come. Oh, and when you comment to say you'll be there, give us your real name so that I can plan name tags that include both that and your screen name…

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View Comments


  1. Nurserynotnordstroms 01/29/2015

    Sad to have gone through such difficult times,I'm so glad you came out of it feeling liberated and happy. It looks like you are going to have a great time planting and caring for your new gardens. You definitely have a green thumb because the plant you are sitting next to is magnificent. What kind of Arisaema?I have several but need (want)more. Ask my Grandaughter about needs and wants,but when you are a gardener they are the same thing aren't they?
    Pat I am so happy to see you are happy,makes my day. Enjoy

  2. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 01/30/2015

    Your smile says it all, Pat, you have found an admirable and enviable resilience of spirit...in a way, like the amazing physical resilience of seemingly delicate looking plants. I'm so glad your love for gardening has stayed with you and continues to enrich your life.

  3. NCYarden 01/30/2015

    Good morning, Pat. Your story is both heart-breaking and inspirational. It's good to see you can spot the silver lining, and here, maybe the grass (and Plants!) were a little greener on the other side. Much like plants themselves it appears you have persevered, and glad to see you did not lose your gardening ardor. Where there is space, regardless of the size, there can be a garden (ask your portulaca, right?). That Jack-in-the-pulpit is crazy ridiculous, by the way - you both look unbelievably happy. Garden on, as it will be a source of joy no matter where you are. Thanks for sharing.

  4. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/30/2015

    Pat, I'm so sorry for what you have lost and so happy for what you have found. You've brought some beautiful plants with you as well as a resilient, great attitude. Like everyone else, I'd love to know what species of Arisaema that is. If you don't remember, do you have a photo of the flower/spathe you can post in a comment? Thanks for sharing your encouraging story!

  5. lynn_felici_gallant 01/30/2015

    Thank you for your thoughtful and honest post, Pat. My husband and I faced a similar situation during the recession and lately I've been lamenting the loss of our dream home and gardens. Your post reminded me that there are blessings and so many things for which to be grateful in every new life stage -- not the least of which, of course, is the ability to find a way to garden even in the smallest spaces. I'm so happy you have your hands in the dirt again. Keep on growin'!

  6. wittyone 01/30/2015

    Life does throw us some difficult loops sometimes, doesn't it. It's wonderful to see how you have managed this change of direction and come out feeling upbeat and capable of handling your situation.

    Eventually we all get to the downsizing stage and how we manage the transition and go on from there is problematic. You have offered a wonderful model to follow.

  7. LynneDale 01/30/2015

    Thank you for sharing your story. For 24 years my husband and I have created a garden, starting from practically nothing, on an acre and a third. Somehow the beds just keep multiplying! Last year I had my hip replaced and soon will have the other done. My back has suffered from too long delaying the hip procedures. Maintaining my yard has become a problem and I have a hard time seeing the gardens deteriorating. Your thought that a garden is something you can carry with you gives me hope that downsizing might bring liberation and joy. Now if I can just convince my husband!

  8. Jeff Goodearth 01/30/2015

    now that is the face of a happy gardener! had you not identified it as jack i would never have guessed what that plant is. we all must adapt to changing life situations and you have really given everyone a reason to keep moving forward. quite sure that both you and your garden would be wonderful to visit and come to know. i would like to see the flower on that jack as well!

  9. terieLR 01/30/2015

    The fact that you have turned it around by finding the positive is testimony of your healing spirit. After the heartache, you now enrich the lives of so many while encouraging all of us who will, at some point, face this very change in our lives. I love your bluebeard. After 4 attempts our area refuses to winter-over this lovely plant.

  10. GrannyMay 01/30/2015

    Pat, I am so sorry that you had to leave behind your wonderful garden and home. The possibility of something similar happening to me (and my gardening friends) is very real and creates a feeling of dread in all of us. Your strength and resilience is inspirational! Thank you for your reminder that there are positive aspects to down-sizing and that the gardening spirit lives on, no matter how small the space. Happy gardening!!!

  11. greengenes 01/30/2015

    you are a true gardener, Pat. Its amazing what is within us when we are faced with hard situations. I cant imagine what you must of had to go through but you sure came out better! I so enjoy seeing your smiling face and yes, the aresiema is beautiful too. You have so much to give to others! Thanks for sharing and teaching all of us!

  12. Cenepk10 01/30/2015

    Indeed it does, Pat !!! Brightened my day to see your new garden flourishing with you !!!!

  13. Spring_y 01/30/2015

    I'm so sorry you lost your house. I'm heartbroken because I understand how hard it must have been for you to lose not only the house but the wonderful garden you so lovingly tended. You are lucky to have a little garden, though, and are able to enjoy it. Your attitude is amazing. I wish you good luck and hope one day you can have a house, like you used to.

  14. user-7007140 01/30/2015

    Thank you x three, Pat! You look wonderfully content with your new plant children. I am struggling to face leaving our home of thirty one years and my beloved garden, but your pictures and post today have uplifted my spirit tremendously, so that there is ( at the moment) a small twinkle of excitement that I could create something new in a different place and be as enthusiastic as you are. Your kindness has helped to banish worries.
    Good luck with all you do.

  15. GrannyCC 01/30/2015

    What a wonderful story Pat and I am glad to see your smiling face. As the others have said we all dread that transition time when we know we need to downsize. That dreaded word. But you give us hope that our gardening life can go on no matter how small the space. Good luck in the future.

  16. hostamom 01/30/2015

    Thank you for sharing your sad/happy experience. I, too, will probably face what you have in the not too distant future. My one pre-requisite for a "new" place is that I have some space to continue gardening, thought it be smaller.

  17. user-5829577 01/30/2015

    Pat, you are an inspiration and I thank you for sharing your journey. In not too distant a future, our age will dictate how much we can do in the garden - where both of us find our peace and happiness. We have had a "love affair" with our home and garden of 37 years. Your statement,"I've realized that a garden is a living thing that you live and care for, and when you move on, it moaves with you. It is spiritual." If I may, this is going in the front of my garden diary and I know that it will read it often and think of your journey.....yes, you do looke very happy. Thank you!

  18. Annek 01/30/2015

    Yours is a hardy spirit. I am so sorry for your loss, but inspired by your positive attitude and persistence in continuing your love of gardening. Keep on blooming, Pat!

  19. Sheila_Schultz 01/30/2015

    Pat, you touched so many hearts today with your story. Leaving your beloved home and beautiful gardens from necessity not choice, had to be heartbreaking. It's incredible how resilient the human spirit can be, and like so many of our GPOD friends have said this morning, your story is inspiring... and your smile is contagious! Enjoy your lovely gardens and all the time you now have to just sit back, relax and enjoy!

  20. bsavage 01/30/2015

    Beautiful, Pat! Thank you for sharing your story and your new garden!

  21. user-7007327 01/30/2015

    Keeping things simple, contentment. I love your small, pampered garden, Pat.

  22. Meelianthus 01/30/2015

    Pat, both you and your garden are inspirational on so MANY levels. Thank you for your beautiful pasting today.

  23. JaneEliz 01/30/2015

    You are an inspiration to us all, Pat. I'm glad you are healed and so happy in your lovely new garden. Yes, your Arisaema is awesome!

  24. Foxglove12 01/30/2015

    So sad. The thought of losing the French doors! And your gardens breaks my heart! Both would be difficult for me to give up. Looks like you have bounced back and still gardening. Good job. Love the birdhouse!

  25. PerenniallyCrazy 02/01/2015

    Chiming in late Pat. I'm so touched by your story and as Tim said, I am saddened by your loss but happy for what you have found. Your passion for gardening has remained in your heart and hopefully, it has provided you with wonderful memories and comfort during the trying times. I do hope those trying times have passed. Your garden looks as happy as you look in the last photo. Cheers!

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