Selling a home can be sad and stressful for gardeners leaving behind members of their extended plant family.
Many are living memories. Maybe it's the iris bulbs that bloomed in your mother's garden, or the low-slung trees your kids used to climb. It could be the shrubs marking the place where family pets lie buried, or some lovingly tended roses climbing an entry.
So why not bring them along? Two reasons: It might not be practical - perhaps they're simply too large - and doing so might void the sales contract.
"Property listings and purchase agreements specifically reference such landscape fixtures as trees, plants, bulbs and shrubs," said Ron Phipps, president-elect of the National Association of Realtors. "Many people don't read the fine print but it's in there. There are few parts of the country where those provisions don't apply."
Phipps, a real estate agent from Warwick, R.I., suggests that home sellers disclose any plants or cuttings they intend to take with them.
"Failing to do that probably won't invalidate the deal, but you don't want to be in a situation where the buyer takes you to small claims court because you didn't go along with its terms," Phipps said. "When in doubt, spell it out. List them as you would a dining room fixture or window treatments."
Many growing things don't react well to new locations. That goes for plants with extensive root systems, plants unable to cope with different hardiness zones or plants on official not-wanted lists. Agricultural states often restrict certain plants, fearing the introduction of invasive, insect-ridden or diseased species into native stocks.
So what are grieving gardeners to do? They might try:
l Negotiating trades. "I once represented a couple who had been given a tree as an anniversary gift," Phipps said. "It was a small tree but it was important to them. We brought in a new tree to replace it. We negotiated the swap as an exception to the (sales) agreement."
l Providing a detailed user's manual. Diagrams, photographs and step-by-step instructions can greatly help new owners care for an unfamiliar garden, said Mark Glenn, a self-described "Hosta-holic" and an agent with Coldwell Banker Burnet in Minneapolis. "For a short time, at least."
l Taking cuttings from favorite plants. This is not foolproof, but it can produce clones.
l Helping with the changeover. "I knew a woman who had to sell her house because of a divorce," Phipps said. The garden "had been her canvas and it broke her heart to move. She gained permission from the new owners to come back and visit, and often she did. She also did some transitional work with them for a few years."
l Taking containerized plants or yard art when they move. "In our area, the custom is potted plants can be removed because they're portable," Phipps said. "If they're in the ground, they're treated differently."
l Keeping a photographic record. "Take the best photos you can, covering as much of your garden as possible, to remember what a wonderful part of your life it has been," said Wanda Teays, chair of the Philosophy Department at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles. "Then move on. Don't drive back every week or month or year to see what's changed. You'll never be happy."