Looking at gardens

Some things in life can have a dramatic impact on the way you look at the world around you. I will take the case of the latest event that happened to me quite recently. We have been looking for the last few months for a house to rent. The place had to please both my girlfriend and I and it was the first time that we were looking for something serious together (holidays destinations don’t count).

Among the conditions were such requests as a fireplace, just outside the capital city, a garage, a kitchen that has or can have a dishwasher, storage place and of course a garden. I will not list them whole here because that is not the point and it would bore you anyway. The very important thing that even if it is just a place to rent, it was very clear from the beginning that the house had to have a “soul” or something close to that idea.

We visited a first that was a wreck and where owners were probably expecting us to redo the place before they would eventually sell it. A house that made us feel like we were in a hospital as it was completely anonymous and where touching or changing anything was a sacrilege to the owners. One were there was a real bedroom and then three spaces in the attic that were promoted as rooms. A charming one from inside but where we felt like the architect had decided to put all the rules of practicality outside and where you could not fit any piece of furniture inside due to weird angles, doors, windows or even roof.

Anyway all those were close to what we wanted and we were very close to pick one of them until we fell on the house we both loved. Big rooms, garage big enough to fit a car and park one in front, massive space in the kitchen, calm neighborhood (as far as we can tell), nice place in the basement and a garden that looked like it had been untouched for years. The person from the agency told us that the owners would take care of the garden before we moved in.

We decided to put an option on it and started the painstaking process of applying for it. The questions stripped us from head to toes and I think they know us more now than we know ourselves. It took forever to have answers from the agency they seem to have a hard time to reach the owners too. Eventually we received the draft of the proposition for the contract and decided to have a last look on our way back from a week end in the Ardennes.

That is were the world seems to be filled with strange people who do not think about the consequences of their actions. I was driving at the time and missed the house… why? Because the whole garden was gone! The owners seemed to have decided to remove everything, from the trees to the hedges including the plants, and grass. The only thing that was left was the bare ground and the house in the middle of it.

I must admit, I lost it. Was it that I was tired after the trip, the look in the eyes of my girlfriend about to cry, the fact of being powerless, looking at someone destroying nature for no reason, the fear of having to find something else in a short time, loosing the dreams we had for this garden or maybe all of it put together? On the way back I even stopped the car and started kicking the steering wheel while swearing against them for such a blunt stupid act. Needless to say that I also ended up with a worried girlfriend.

Anyway, after explaining this to the agency we got an appointment with the owners and decided to have last desperate attempt to understand what was possible and how they would fix this situation. When we arrived a new very small hedge has been planted but the rest of the garden was still a pool of mud. The owner explained to us that the previous tenants had disregarded the maintenance of the garden for the last five years and had left nature take over (great, that was what we liked!).

Unfortunately there are rules that limit some things you can do around there, like the heights of a tree, hedge and so on to a maximum of two meters and the hedges and the tree were about four meters high. Trimming them to that height would have killed them (apparently) and had led to an only possible choice, removing them.

Whether we believe this story or not is another question, the thing is that we managed to have an authorization from the owner to redecorate the garden as we see fit as long as we respect the initial convention. And thus we began surfing the net for any possible plant, hedge tree that would grow fast and give life back to this deserted ground.

Since then we cannot stop looking at the garden that we see around us, the type of hedges that we see and wonder how long it would take to grow. My view of the surrounding has been completely changed and includes even more details now than before.

I will not say that this was a positive experience yet, since we are not moving in until next month if we sign the contract. But it certainly is an event that changed the way I look at nature all around. I will probably post more once we sign the contract (I keep my fingers crossed) and start the move.