It’s not easy being green
You can take cherished plants with you when you move house–all it takes is a bit of forward planning and precaution, says Carla Passino
WHEN Alan Mason of Senior Garden Advisors started his first head-gardener job, his employer, an octogenarian countryhouse owner, showed him a myrtle that was growing in her walled garden. It had come from a sprig that had originally been in her wedding bouquet. ‘When I left, I took a rooted cutting with me and, in every garden I have ever made for myself, I’ve had another cutting from that plant,’ he says. ‘It’s nice to have those memories.’
Over the years, Mr Mason has helped many people move their favourite plants to greener pastures. He finds that a rooted cutting is almost always the easiest option, as long as it’s taken in the right season and given time to root. However, not all plants can be propagated through cuttings, so the original plant may need to be transported—but this should never be done when the weather is too hot or too cold.
For these reasons, Mr Mason advises plant-loving movers to ‘have as much time as possible between knowing you need to transplant something and actually doing it’. This is especially important when dealing with trees or shrubs, which are trickier to move than herbaceous plants. ‘What we sometimes do is dig a trench around the tree, take the soil out from it and put some compost in— effectively potting that plant up. You leave it for a year and the new roots grow into the compost. When it’s time to move it, you dig to the outside of that trench. That way, you incorporate all the new roots that the plant has made.’
If there isn’t an entire year to play with, the best option is to cut down the plant’s top growth in proportion to the damage inflicted to the roots when dug up.
That said, early planning is key to a successful move for non-horticultural reasons, too. ‘People assume that a garden will be left behind— it can be quite a shock if that’s not the case,’ says buying agent Sarah Broughton of Prime Purchase. To avoid problems, she recommends vendors let buyers know as early as possible that they intend to remove some plants from the garden. Ideally, adds Lindsay Cuthill of Savills, this should be done during a viewing ‘in the same way that an agent would point out fixtures and fittings that do and don’t form part of a sale’.
The same is true for statues or vases. ‘Garden statuary might be specific to its owner, such as a personal commission,’ notes Mr Cuthill. ‘If it’s easily transportable, it’s likely that it will join the seller in their new home.’ However, sellers ought to make sure they are allowed to remove decorative pieces: ‘In period country houses, garden statues, vases and stone garden seats can be deemed part of the architectural design and thus form part of the house’s listing, meaning that they’re irremovable.’
A final word of advice from Mrs Broughton: if you do find yourself wanting to take more than a couple of plants or statues along with you, perhaps you should do some soulsearching, because ‘if you can’t bear to leave your garden behind, one might wonder why you’re moving in the first place’.