(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 28, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
The real estate agent simply stared at me. Now that I am a real estate agent myself, I totally understand "the look". The look could be read as, "I can't believe that this woman wants me to look at every house to see if it has a tree before she will look at the house."
Now that I know how much work real estate is and how time consuming it is, I wouldn't dream of asking a Realtor(r) to check out the back yard now to see if at least one tree is growing on the lot. However, since pictures are worth a thousand words, I can easily see the local tree population on the internet.
I told the Realtor(r) that I would not look at a house unless it had a least one tree. I also said that if the house had plants, including flowering bulbs and fruit trees that I would be more likely to be interested. One of my other requirements was that the home be built on a bigger than average city lot. We downsized and I call my home an ugly house, but the lot is beautiful. The lot had two trees on it when we purchased it, but in the first week we added a tree and we have added at least one tree or shrub every year since.
My husband and I visited a vacant house about every week because I fell in love with the garden. The foundation was seriously destroyed and the home was in a city that I did not want to live, but I wanted that garden. This was about 9 years ago, but I still see the garden in my mind. A huge mulberry tree loaded with the sweetest white mulberries graced the front side yard. Near the mulberry tree was a medium-sized red cherry tree. Yes, I tried the fruit...after all, I had to be sure that it was good before I bought the house. Behind the house was what I felt was surely a Garden of Eden. Every sort of herb and tree and edible plant had been lovingly planted and labeled. I felt like a child in a candy store, excitedly calling out; "Here is a fig tree, chives, an olive tree, chocolate mint, green peppers, tomatoes..." I wanted that house, but the foundation report showed that multiple interior and exterior piers were needed. My husband won, but the garden lost. Someone, (the city, the real estate agent, the seller?) did not understand the treasure garden and they mowed the whole backyard. I cried. My only reason for wanting the house was gone, although a lot of it would grow back, given time.
The next house I found had a big yard, great trees and tons of flowering plants, although not any edible plants. It was sold before we decided it was "the one". I settled for the house we own now.
Here is a list of the Outside requirements when we purchased our home:
- The lot must be very large for a city lot. (Our lot is about 1/3 of an acre, in the city)
- At least 1 tree MUST be already on the lot and there must be plenty of room to add trees.
- If there are already flowering bushes, plants and trees, the house is a possibility.
- If there are already fruit trees and grape vines planted, the house is a huge possibility, regardless of the inside of the house.
- I must live in an area where dandelions are not looked upon as evil; where mocking birds sing and robins still dare to peck at earth worms.
- I must live in an area where chemical herbicides and pesticides are not seen as the answer to every ill that ever touched a green blade of grass.
- The back yard must be reasonably flat, easy to plant and must not puddle water.
- My next house? I'm going to add that the dirt must be sandy loam or some other nicely soil...not clay soil like our current property.
Before you go on your house shopping spree, write out a list of "must-have"s for your garden area. These might include the lot size, the garden area, the number of trees, the already planted flowering bushes and shrubs, the neighborhood requirements and any community common areas that include green spaces and mini lakes.
I have a hard time being happy when I look out the back door and my view of the world is simply a fence. Our current property is on a pie shaped lot. My back door faces the skinny part of the pie, so I have the illusion that my piece of the world is a little bit bigger than it actually is. Although many wonderful plants can be grown in containers and in mini garden areas, I needed a lot of room to feel free. The garden is a wonderful place; decide where you want to live, plant your plants and enjoy your world.