DEPARTMENTS


Backyard appeal



We've sold the family homestead.

A little more than 60 years ago, a young couple with four kids built their dream home on a plot of farmland that, at the time, sat at the very edge of a growing suburb. Dad worked in town, and between the house and his office there wasn't much but cornfields and orchards. It was the third house to appear on the street - a country lane, then - but little by little the acre-sized lots filled in with a variety of houses that ran the style gamut from Cape Cod to ranch to 60s modern.

About a dozen years ago, though, the McMansions began to move in. The quiet little street borders a country club, and "members," as the newcomers were derisively called, spread the word that large properties were to be had, all within walking distance of the clubhouse. The neighborhood changed dramatically as bulldozers and graders became as familiar as the shiny new, supersized SUVs. Mature trees were sacrificed, landscapes were flattened, and curb appeal became a study in garden-by-number.

One by one, cookie-cutter monstrosities replaced unique and carefully tended homes and yards, and new 7,000+-square-foot abodes dwarfed the tiny plants that replaced mature specimens. The welcoming canopy of maples, oaks and elms that arched over the street - all of them planted by the original homeowners - is gone. It didn't fall to disease or instability, but to "progress."

In real estate parlance, the phrase is, "The value is in the land." So when it came time to sell, we knew that the house we grew up in would be razed. What we didn't expect, though, is that it would sell so quickly. A few offers were tendered the first day, and within 36 hours of listing, we signed a contract. The reason? The buyer was so moved by the landscape that, even though his wife was out of town, he grabbed it.

Given the recent scorched earth approach, we were stunned to read, "Buyer requests that all existing plants remain with property."

Nerts. We'd planned to surgically remove some favorites. A hydrangea or two, a small tree, several perennials ... nothing that would leave a gaping hole in a well-tended landscape. Our agent said the buyer appreciated the front yard and walked quickly through the once-stately-but-now-"charming" house. When he got to the back yard, however, he stopped in his tracks and said, "I want it."

Let's be honest here. The yard is green and lush and lovely, but it's no award-winner. It's the result of years - decades - of simple gardening. Trees have grown to maturity and fallen from blight or age, then replaced by new selections. The old vegetable patch became a spot for a swing set, which then became lawn. When Mom - who's alive and well, thanks - could no longer do the work herself, she hired a service to do nothing more than maintenance. It's lovely. It's not Giverny, but it's nice.

To our buyer, though, it's his new paradise. We don't know what kind of structure will replace the house, and we don't care. It's just nice to know that someone appreciates the green.