Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Too much yard to handle

August 17, 2012 

Lots of people make bad decisions when they buy a house. For example, many believe they deserve a much bigger and better home than they could ever hope to afford, and if enough banks are willing to arrange loans for them, then we have a mortgage crisis.

Or something like that. I'm obviously not an economist.

But these days it's tougher to get a loan, which leaves homebuyers to invent new ways to overreach their bounds.

Take me for instance. I just bought a house with a yard more beautiful and elaborate than I could ever hope to maintain.

How nice is my new yard?

When the owners retired to Columbus about 25 years ago, they bought a wooded lot and hired a builder.

The husband had grown up on a farm in New England and spent his career working for the Department of Agriculture. The wife was a volunteer at Callaway Gardens.

They wanted a good house, sure, but what they really wanted was Callaway Gardens in their backyard. He wanted the big vegetable garden. She wanted the big English garden with plants that would surprise you in every season.

Before the house was built, they adjusted the blueprints around their dream garden. Then they spent the next quarter century planting and nurturing and cultivating.

When we first visited the house, we liked what we saw inside: a great room with fireplace, a big eat-in kitchen, and enough bedrooms for the children.

Then we went into the backyard and were greeted by plush grass, blooming flowers, shade trees, a gurgling fountain, a swing hanging from a vine-covered arbor, enough vegetables to stock a salad bar, and many plants we'd never seen before. Not to mention an elaborate sprinkler system and a network of electric fences to keep out those pesky deer.

"Wow!" Bess cried.

"Yeah," I said. "Give us six months to screw this up."

We made an offer anyway. It was not exactly the most intense negotiation in the history of real estate. We asked the owners to throw in some wrought-iron patio furniture, and they agreed, as long as we allowed them to return in the fall to harvest their persimmon crop.

I'd eaten persimmons as a kid, but they were little hard things that grew on scraggly trees in the woods and before first frost you only ate them on a dare. The persimmon tree in our new yard is as big as a mature magnolia, and the fruit looks like big orange tomatoes. And it's surrounded by a short electric fence designed to keep out raccoons.

I have no idea what to do with it. The owner told me I'd know the persimmons were ripe when birds descended on the tree.

On moving day, a friend stopped by and strolled through the yard.

"I give you a year to screw this up," he said.


Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com

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