One thing I love the most about springtime in my garden is that the conditions are just right for change. After weeks of winter rainstorms, even the most clay soil in my garden is soft and easy to turn. The risk of freezing temperatures has passed but it is not yet hot and dry. This is the perfect time to take a look around my garden and see what plants might be ready for a move. There is always a plant that needs more or less sun or a bit more room to really thrive.
Moving a plant can be terrifying. If a large plant or tree has been there a long time, the whole job starts with the acceptance that you aren’t going to be able to get all the roots. You dig as deep as you can, save as many as you can, but eventually, you are going to have to cut or break some of the large roots to get the plant free. This moment always feels wrong and awful to me. The roots that I have worked so hard to care for are the very source of life for this plant. I try to quell my fears by looking at the new hole we have prepared for the plant. I admire the loamy mulch we have provided and appreciate all of the room this beloved plant will have to spread its roots as though I am reading a shiny real estate ad. How could this not work out perfectly?
Most plants do not respond to this routine by sending me a thank you note. Even in perfect conditions, most plants react to a transplant by wilting, whining and looking dangerously close to death. A few resilient shrubs will charge forward and thrive immediately, but most take a couple of weeks to settle in and accept their new place in the garden. During this whole time, I am convinced that I have killed my beloved plant. I kick myself for forcing it out of its previous home and doubt all of the gardening knowledge that went into choosing its new home. I wake up wondering if the plant is drooping because it needs more water or because its feet are drowning in a soggy hole.
Bold choices are like this in life. The moment we rally up enough courage to finally cut one of our roots or try out something completely new, the Universe predictably sends us an excruciating series of “are you sure about that?” tests. The relationship you have outgrown suddenly has an unexpected high point. That part of your job that has kept you simply treading water for years unexpectedly moves forward. You find something new to appreciate about your home just before putting it on the market.
It was hard for me to endure this in my earlier days of navigating change. Now, I have learned to expect this, and even to smile when it happens. I have come to see these moments as a confirmation that I’m ready for something new. It also affirms for me that cutting those roots was what I needed to do. Most change cannot happen without a moment of surrender. While persevering and staying the course are essential qualities in life, major growth usually requires us to completely let go of what we have been clenching onto so tightly. It feels so counterintuitive to detach in this way, but once we do, our energy changes and space opens up for progress to creep in. Others respond to this change, whether consciously or unconsciously.
So far, this spring, my husband and I have transplanted three plants in our yard. After a couple of weeks of intense whining, the first one is happily settled into its new home and even putting out new growth. The jury is still out for the other two. Every time I check on them, I remind myself that conditions were not right for those plants in their previous spots, and the changes have already been made. I give them each a little pep talk and then try to unclench my fists, let go, and wait for time to tell if they will settle in and accept their new homes.
Julie Haydon is an artist and musician living the beautiful hills of Oakland, CA who creates works of beauty that brings people together. When she is not at working, she is outside playing in the dirt or hiking with her husband and their two spoiled dogs.