She was visiting from Ohio when he had an open house a year ago. He returned that afternoon to find little interest from prospective buyers. “He was so disappointed because [the real estate agent] told him the house didn’t sell because of the flowers,” she said.
How could something so precious be a liability?
So he went back to gardening, to the shade garden in the back — a leafy confection of perennials, ground covers and shrubs — and the desert garden in the sunny front. One day in October, Charlie Bowman, youthful, trim, 67, died as he had lived, alone. The police found him after several days. “We suspect either a stroke or a heart attack,” said his brother Loyd Bowman, of Holly, Mich.
Seven months later, his siblings were faced with the same dilemma, though now a sadder one. How do you sell a house where the garden was so intensely planted, and so personal? Most buyers want a lawn for the kids or the dog. And a buyer who was an avid gardener would want a clean slate, said Donna Kerr, the real estate agent selling the house.
Raising arizona in Maryland
Kerr came up with an idea. What if local garden club members were to carefully lift many of the plants and grow them in their own gardens? They would pay a small fee, and the proceeds would be used to turn much of the gardens back into lawn so the house could be sold.
She called Jim Dronenburg, of the citywide Four Seasons Garden Club, and he marshaled his forces. Most of the salvaged plants will be potted up and used in plant exchanges and sales, to disperse and save the flora and to raise funds for the organization. Earlier this month, club members, along with some neighbors and Allen Hirsh, a cactus and succulent expert, spent two weekends digging and rescuing the plants and installing sod.
Kerr recently put the house on the market, and it found a buyer after 12 days. The removal of the plants “was critical in making it appealing to today’s home buyer,” she said.
The rear yard is in the lee of a neighbor’s massive old oak tree. Over the years, Charlie reduced the area of lawn, assiduously amended the clay soil with regular top dressings of municipal leaf mold and planted every square foot with shade-loving ferns and perennials, such things as epimediums, hostas, heucheras, gingers and the uncommon, yellow-flowering Corydalis lutea. For height and bulk, he planted large shrubs, including viburnums, camellias and oakleaf hydrangeas.