Moving house: Garden relocation

The Oxonian has moved. Fortunately, well within the county boundaries to ensure the brand name is still very much relevant, but the address has changed. Long arduous months of intensive cerebral contorting led to a difficult, but lucid decision to pack and go. Moving house is a tedious, stressful activity, but for us green-fingered lot, particularly so, when it comes to the garden.

Gardens are cunning. From the moment your spade has had even a whiff of soil, you’re hooked. And with each successive season, that emotional tap root grows ever deeper, making it increasingly difficult to leave your well-tended garden for pastures new. The subsequent temptation to cut your losses and take all of one’s beloved horticultural treasures is enormous, but at the same the thought of stripping the garden is simply horrid. On that note, I agree with Victoria Summerly1 who described the digging up of a garden as, ‘the sort of behaviour that is on a par with vendors who remove the lightbulbs‘.

That being said, there are plants, that have been carefully collected after years of searching, special gifts, or are simply of strategic personal importance – part of one’s gardening soul, so to speak. There is also that niggling worry, that new owners could very easily bulldoze all of one’s prized plants in favour of decking or some other horrid end. Being of a pathetically sentimental constitution when it comes to all things plants, some prized specimens have now been relocated to their new home. However, throw caution to the wind as it’s not simply a question of uprooting the odd plant, as one could face serious legal actions.

Start on a new border
On the move....

The legal jargon

Before we even utter any of the legalities, it is of course economically silly to strip the property of any appeal before you sell, as a well tended garden can add 10-15 % to the value of a property. Agreed, plants in gardens constitute a huge investment of both time and capital on the part of the gardening owners, but one must equate that to the value of the garden in terms of the total property value.

Unless otherwise agreed, plants in the garden form part of the sales agreement and removing them without explicit permission could result in legal action and/or the invalidation of the transaction. Generally speaking, all landscaping; that is any type of plant with roots firmly ensconced in the ground, is considered a fixture. Plants in terracotta pots are excluded from the home’s fixtures and fittings inventory list, and can hence be taken without any legal recourse. Pot included that is!

Once contracts are exchanged, the people moving out are bound by that agreement and, if they take anything else from the garden, might leave themselves open to legal action. Note, the same would apply if there were no agreement in the contracts relating to garden property.

One can of course stipulate in the contract that some plants will be taken, but that does mean each plant and its location must be itemised carefully, and one must subsequently win full agreement from the buyer and their solicitor beforehand. I don’t know about you, but the thought of pin-pointing any plant in the herbaceous borders seems an impossible task!

Planning is the new black

Once the legalities are clear, you need a plan to move the plants you wish to take. We were very fortunate in that at the time of our move, the house was to remain in family ownership. Hence, we had time, free of any legal obligation to take prized plants, cuttings, divide and/or collect seeds.

Before starting anything though, consider the following;

  • Timing. Moving plants in midst their prime season is fraught with danger. If there is even a remote chance of their not surviving, leave them well alone.
  • Soil texture, structure and PH will probably be very different in the new garden. Choose wisely therefore.
  • Consider if you can, what is available in the new garden you are about to inherit. No value in doubling up.
  • Be inspired by your new garden’s location, plants, trees and so forth. What looked good in your old garden, won’t necessarily work for your new garden.
  • Anything with a tap root, should be left well alone. Unless you’re married to a man with a digger, don’t even attempt it. If your move is in winter, one could take root cuttings if so required.
  • If you’re planning to take cuttings, late summer and autumn are the best times, but it’s worth taking cuttings at any time – apart from midwinter. Do make sure you have the time to either pot on before the move, or ensure one can safely transport the cuttings when the time comes.
  • Movers can frown on taking plants as the chance of soil spillage in trucks is high, so ensure you check with your movers beforehand, or find an alternative means of transportation.
  • And finally, …. do consider the undeniably superb joy of visiting endless nurseries, looking through plant catalogues, and buying new plants for your new garden. My poor husband grows increasingly nervous with every delivery…

Our move was planned for spring. The mild winter and warm spring allowed for an early start on propagation, and by far the most satisfactory means was division. Lift, split, return a section to the garden, and pot up the remainder.

Contrary to much online advice of using any form of temporary vehicle to move plants such as black plastic bags, I found there really is no better solution than to pot up plants properly. Use good quality, soil based compost (John Innes no. 3) with some added slow release fertiliser, and basically start a nursery. Moving house is a time consuming affair with the certainty of unforeseen problems and/or complications. One should therefore presume not having the luxury of time to plant anything in the new garden for some time. In addition, the garden may need clearing and/or designing, before anything can even be planted. Ensure therefore that the plants that you are planning to move, are able to fend for themselves as best as possible until the time to plant. The need to water is naturally a given.

Even better if your potted plants have time to settle into their new pots, as the plant and compost will be more stable, making them easier to transport.

New pastures, greener grass

There is no denying it, it is a wrench to leave a garden that has been planned, planted and nurtured over the years. In my case, it was particularly the thought of leaving behind all the plans we had for the garden, and never being able to see them through.

However, a new garden is tremendously exciting. I didn’t believe the copious ‘clean slate’ words of solace initially, but it is true. Once that garden gate closes, another opens and it is quite astonishing how quickly one leaves behind any feelings of regret.

There is truly no greater joy than starting work on a new garden. Armed this time, with more knowledge, experience, and crucially a huge mental catalogue of tried and tested plants. You can therefore, start work in your new garden with confidence, and it goes oh so much faster, as you now know what you like, what you want, and where you want it.

The other unforeseen advantage of a new garden, is that you can leave behind old problems. Thus far, we have yet to detect a single sprig of ground elder, leaving behind a forest of it. Furthermore, having replaced a seven acre garden for a one acre plot, we are free from the never-ending requirement of mowing acreages of lawn. We still have lawns, which still need mowing, but nowhere near that scale. I don’t mind mowing, and the ride-on mower proved endlessly amusing, but there is more to gardening than mowing. You don’t realise it at the time as one just gets on with what’s required, but we now relish the time we can afford on planting borders, planting and pruning trees, managing new projects, and quite novel; having the time to visit other gardens without feeling guilty for leaving work to be done. Lovely.

Oh, yes and before I forget. I have taken on an allotment too, which is all very exciting. Though, as Kirsty Wark so poignantly says; ‘More on that story later’….


  1. ‘Farewell, my lovely: Victoria Summerley bids farewell to her beloved London plot’, The Independent, Saturday 27 October 2012

Christmas Garland Fuelling my plant addiction: RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014

any comments?

Comments: 36

  1. This post is soooo, interesting! Thank you so much for sharing it!
    Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf is considered the godfather of the new perennials movement which rethought garden design in Europe last century and inspired generations of designers to view plants through the prism of changing seasons. I love what he said:” If you make a four-season garden you have to accept decay and see the beauty of it. It’s about the texture and shape, the seed heads and the skeletons. So instead of using the scissors you use your eyes. “- Piet Oudol!
    Greets from your website’s big fan!
    Patty M. ,

    • I’m so sorry, I commend the wrong article… It’s your fault- you have so many interesting articles and I have 5 opened tabs with them!

  2. What I know is that some flowers and plants are quite sensitive to changes. And we are not considering the sun. It is a whole study, literally! Otherwise you are right, having in mind the new place you can leave the old problems behind.

  3. This blog rather rings true for me! Just about to move to a more substantial place, and have been collecting my ‘legacy plants’ together before I sell. Very useful advice ….. and a very interesting blog all round!

  4. Is it hard to maintain a garden like this and how much time do i have to dedicate to the plants.

  5. What’s the name of the pink flowers?

  6. Awesome post! Love what you’ve done with you garden i have a small backyard and i really want to do something with it and i have no ideas what to do i have a small apple tree in there and thats it its just flat grass i want to put some stones and plant some nice plants like roses. Can you give me some advice?

  7. I have a question: I have an avocado seed in a pot, it has root and stem with 3 leaves, but it’s small and looks pretty fragile to me, and winter is coming…Don’t know what to do with it and I don’t want it to die :(

  8. Great post, thanks for sharing! What’s the best season for garden moving?

  9. Losing the Plot!
    After 41 years I left my beloved house and garden three months ago, and guess what, it’s the garden I dreaded leaving. I’ve been incredibly lucky and done a house swap with a lovely family in the same village. But they are not gardeners – and the look on their faces when they saw my high-maintenance borders, lawns, fruit and veg said it all. But yet when I had small children it sprouted climbing frames and swings where the wildflowers later took over. In its place I have the smaller ‘blank canvas’ every gardener must dream of. To ease the pain I potted up favourites for instant colour this autumn. Next year, with a following wind and sympathetic planners, I will have an inside-out room looking out over a completely redesigned garden. The 40 bags of compost I brought with me will be put to instant use. I can’t wait … Mollymaggoo

  10. Just to say I have recently discovered your blog, and am finding it excellent reading. I hope your new garden is progressing well, and look forward to your new posts! Kind regards, Sue.

    • Thank you so much for saying so. Much appreciated! We are enjoying planting the new garden immensely. Tomorrow we’re talking new trees…. All very exciting!

  11. What’s the best season or month to move roses?

  12. Having moved from a much-loved and historic garden of 5 acres to a 2 acres field (yes you read that right) with NOTHING in it bar the house, I can totally relate. In the end we brought nothing with us from the garden, even leaving behind a large liquidamber given to me by many friends for a significant birthday. The JOY of starting afresh has been huge, I am totally unencumbered by anyone else’s style or taste or lack there of… Enjoy it!!!

    • Gosh, that sounds awfully familiar! We too, not left behind a historic (walled) garden, but also a beamingly beautiful Liquidambar! The latter we will be planting this year, two in fact! We are fortunate though that we have inherited a garden with beautiful mature trees, one at least 20+m high so we have some structure in the new garden. Also, unbelievably we left behind a ha-ha, but have now inherited another. Very fortunate. Thank you for great comment, pleased you are enjoying the freedom. I know what you mean, and my goodness it’s great!

  13. Petra, as lom
    As long as there is still room for that table with white tablecloth etc then all will be well! The Ladies Wot Launch will have to re-launch!

    • My dearest Ladies Who Launch (note the respectful capitalisation), this house not only has room for a table with white table cloths, but a delightful terrace to put it on…! We are working very hard to ensure the new garden is all up to scratch for your next visit!

      • Hooray. Thanks for that very respectful capitalisation. Only right & proper!

  14. I read with great interest as the Wellies may be on the move too. Too many decisions and much that is undecided and up in the air at the moment. I’d like it to be swift and as pain-free as possible, I fear it might not be in reality. Wishing you lots of flowery loveliness in your new garden and on the plot. Who needs veg when you can have flowers? x

    • Painful it was, but it is swift and you will recover very quickly. One door closes and another opens, it really works like that. In terms of plants you wish to take, be prepared, do it early and divide (by far the best means), and start that nursery. Just like me, you will enjoy planting that new garden, with all that knowledge bestowed by the first. I promise.

  15. RT @Petra_HM: Moving house: Garden relocation #newpost

  16. New gardens are exciting for the possibilities they bring. Looking forward to seeing the new one. And lovely to hear you have an allotment. Might there be space for a cut flower patch? ;)

    • Indeed. I have so discovered and am enjoying planting the new garden immensely. As for the allotment, I wonder if I will have room for a veg patch actually, as am planning a HUGE flower patch….!!

  17. RT @Petra_HM: Moving house: Garden relocation via Oxonian Gardener: The Oxonian has moved. … #GreenhouseBorder

  18. What a wrench! but an acre sounds like the perfect size to continue all your horticultural experiments. Wishing you much joy and gorgeous blooms in your new spot. N x

    • Thank you! It was difficult, can’t say otherwise but the new garden is the way forward and we’re really enjoying it! Will get it sorted soon for another luncheon….

      • Yes please to lunch!! (and to see your gorgeous garden of course!). N x

  19. Very much enjoyed this blog, good luck with the new garden, as you say exciting new prospect, curious to follow your new garden developments in the coming blogs!!

    • Thank you, very kind. We’re knee deep in garden developments as we started work as soon as we moved in. Plenty to write about!

  20. RT @Petra_HM: Moving house: Garden relocation #newpost

  21. RT @WorldofConlon: Moving house: Garden relocation – & all that goes with it! By @Petra_HM

  22. RT @Petra_HM: Moving house: Garden relocation via Oxonian Gardener: The Oxonian has moved. … #GreenhouseBorder

  23. Moving house: Garden relocation – & all that goes with it! By @Petra_HM

  24. Now – there is a very big thing to do! Best wishes for happiness and weedlessness! Xxxx

    • Thank you! Not quite weedless, especially after I distributed the contents of the compost bin we inherited, but it’s a lovely garden and we’re enjoying planting it.

  25. RT @Petra_HM: Blog has been dusted. New post – Moving house: Garden relocation #reasonforlongblogsilence