Monday, April 26, 2010

Moving matters #5: Of philistines

We are still trying to sell our house.

Apart from a little flurry where we briefly thought someone had bought it, we have watched noses being turned up at the rate of about two a week.

This is because - and I am about to launch on a rant of Colbornian proportions (if not style) here - people are philistines.

As I have mentioned before, my garden is looking a bit spesh at the moment. Tulips a go-go, forget-me-nots smiling at the sunshine, grass a-greening and blossom sprinkling the trees. It doesn't get much more beautiful than this, and it's a great improvement on our early days of house-selling when we were trying to convince everyone that our expanse of humps huddled over chilly bare soil would eventually look really spectacular. Honest, guv.

Well, now it does look spectacular. And you know what happened the other day? This nice couple came round, made appreciative noises about the house and its proximity to a good primary school, then walked into the garden.

They traversed the tulips, skirted the wendyhouse, glanced at the industrious plant-production going on in greenhouse and shed and peered at the pond.

Then they returned to the bit where you can look over the fence into next-door's garden. Now, I adore my next-door-neighbours who are the friendliest and most cheerful family you could ever wish to live cheek-by-jowl with. But they wouldn't mind me saying their garden is basically a 200-foot long football pitch.

"Ah," said our erstwhile buyers. "Now that's the sort of garden we'd be looking for."


What IS IT with people? WHY can't they show even the teensiest smidgen of imagination? Let alone creativity? And as for connection with the soil... clearly disappeared under a coating of Dulux-painted plasterboard decades ago.

I'm not asking for an appreciation society for my garden: just some sign that it is a good thing to have outside space which is cared for and used with an eye for beauty and enjoyment of nature.

So many of the miserable, limited-horizon people coming through our door seem to expect a takeaway garden. One you can buy off the shelf, plonk behind the back door to fill up that intimidating place called Outside so it looks more or less "done" and then forget about it.

Never mind that it is a living thing with the irritating habit of growing. In fact flowers are a bit of a pain, aren't they? They come, and then they go, and then you have to clean up after them.

Suburbia is taking over the world. And I don't mean that in a nice way.

No wonder people are selling off their back gardens hand over fist so they can be built on. It's only just occurred to me, after years of making other excuses (population density, housing crisis, yadayadayada) that it's actually because they don't, in fact, want a back garden. If you build on land it's a convenient way of stopping all those annoying growing things appearing, isn't it? Hey - get this. You don't even have to mow it. Low maintenance or what?

No wonder new-builds are so popular with their itty-squitty handkerchief-sized gardens. No wonder half my writing is about how to do gardening without a garden. And no wonder people look at me as if I'm mad when I say one of the reasons I want to move away from my 200ft x 30ft garden is because I haven't got enough outside space.

I have reached three conclusions from this bruising and to be honest profoundly depressing process.

1) we're going to have a bloody tough job selling our house.
2) I live too close to London.
3) I like gardeners more than any other people on the planet.


VP said...

Oh that is a real pain isn't it?

Do you remember House Doctor? Where her solution was always to paint the walls beige and take any semblance that a house is actually lived in?

Perhaps the 'Garden Doctor' equivalent is to turf over everything.

After all, people like a 'blank canvas to put their own personaility on a place'. (yuk!)

Your rant about low maintenance et al. reminds me of the rather posh woman who used to live next door to my husband's aunt. She had her garden redesigned and 'made over' and then called the people back to the house 2 weeks later to complain the grass had grown and that weeds had appeared. She thought that nothing grew again ever once it had all been put neatly into place by some workmen!

Elephant's Eye said...

Ooh, ouch! Guilty as charged, we built in the back garden. But I promise, we have added plants - about 100 transplanted Watsonia bulbs just today - to the trees, which were the reason we chose this 'back garden to build in' That is one of the grim bits of creating a Garden, one day you have to sell it to Philistines. Hope a garden lover comes knocking on your door. And will buy it Because-it-has-a-Garden!

The Garden Wanderer said...

Hi there. I've been reading and enjoying your blog for a few weeks now. I had to comment on this post - definitely feel your pain! It blows any gardener's mind that anyone could actually prefer a fence to fence lawn after seeing a garden. It's just incomprehensible! But don't despair - I do think there's hope out there. Many people come to realize the incredible beauty and value of gardens after being 'lawn people'... but they may have to find their own slow way.

The Constant Gardener said...

VP - you wouldn't believe it but the estate agent actually suggested turfing the whole thing might be a good idea.

EE - yes, garden lover, that's what I need. And the Watsonias absolve you (almost) entirely ;D

GW - perhaps you could come and talk to some of these people looking round? Maybe that would convince them that from their humble beginnings as 'lawn people' (I like that :D) they might have a better, brighter future ahead of them...

Plant Mad Nige said...

You just can't get the customers, can you? When we were trying to sell our house, and finally managed it, my closest friend said, 'I didn't like to say so at the time, Nige, but we were afraid that that garden of yours would have been a huge disincentive to would-be purchasors.'

'Why?' I asked, rather stung at the implied insult.

'Because it's so extensive and so complicated.' he said. 'People worry about that sort of thing. They don't see your plant collection, or all your endeavours - they just see hard work and that's a downer.'

(OMG - the word verification is merdocke. Is it really him coming after me, in disguise? Just 'cos I said I'd NEVER subscribe to Sky.)

The Constant Gardener said...

You've hit the nail on the head there Nigel - again and again the estate agent is coming back to us with feedback saying 'too much work'. And I don't think they only mean the house.

Still, I shall take comfort from the fact that you sold your house in the end.

And you know that Aussie never leaves you alone if you say things like that. We also refused to subscribe to Sky and now he's taking a sledgehammer to our erstwhile employer the BBC. We should just know when to keep our mouths shut.

Christine B. said...

Wow, we're thinking of selling in August and now I'm a bit nervous about my garden. We ripped out most of the lawn and designed the garden to be lower maintenance but I guess if one isn't a gardener then a garden (whether low or high maintenance) is just seen as work. What a depressing thought.

We are planning on hanging the "for sale" sign on the same day that the botanical garden is coming to tour, so maybe that'll help....

Christine in Alaska

elizabethm said...

I think you are right, and it makes the idea of ever selling this (two acres, extensively gardened but lots of wild and rough and scruffy bits and definitely is and looks like work) a bit terrifying. Maybe we will just have to stay put for ever. That would be ok by me.
There are people out there who love and want gardens. Here's hoping they find you!

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