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Neglected Garden

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I don't think she hired [the landscapers] this year. It must have been a jungle in July and August. Now itís a dead jungle. The grass is knee-high and dead-brown, littered with the husks of weeds and fallen branches. The scraggly perennial bushes are choked with dry vines. The stump of the maple that used to hold up my tree house is rotting. It's like she doesnít even know she has a backyard.
Lia, Wintergirls

Gardens are hard to take care of. They have to be watered and weeded regularly, harvested every season (if it's a fruit or vegetable garden), kept safe from hungry pests and other animals, covered up in the winter, and more. By that definition, anyone who regularly maintains a garden has to put a lot of effort into it to keep it alive. A beautiful, healthy, and vibrant garden teeming with flowers and fruit clearly has had lots of love put into it.

So, when someone falls into despair and stops taking care of their beloved garden, what happens? Plants and flowers wither and die, fruits and vegetables are devoured by pests, weeds move in to cover the soil. Dead trees with empty branches stand like guards over the place. Eventually nothing is left of the once-happy place but dead plants and weeds, yet the gardener is still too depressed to care, or perhaps they left long ago. If the garden is in a greenhouse, the windows might be broken with smashed glass everywhere.

A variation of this trope can happen when a character is trying to maintain a garden but isn't good at it (or something else out of their control is killing the plants), with the failed garden symbolizing a loss of hope. In this case, the dead garden is the cause of the character's unhappiness, rather than a side-effect of it.

A Sub-Trope of Empathic Environment and Fisher King. May be related to Horrible Housing, Empty Fridge, Empty Life, and Bad Bedroom, Bad Life. Sometimes qualifies as O.O.C. Is Serious Business if the character is usually a Nature Lover or Caring Gardener, and may be a sign of a Heroic BSoD. Compare Too Upset to Create, Too Unhappy to Be Hungry, and Silence of Sadness for other tropes about characters not doing their usual because of their low mood.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Blue Exorcist: Shiemi's grief and frustration with her mother after the death of her grandmother leads her grandmother's garden, now in Shiemi's care, to become infested with a demon.

    Fan Works 
  • eden: At the end of the story, Courtney abandons the garden that was her pride and joy for many years, and sets off to find new meaning in her life. Part of her motivation is never being able to confess to Ruby that she loves him and having to watch him instead fall in love with, and eventually marry, Sapphire. When Ruby visits, he finds the garden already dying, overrun by weeds and ivy.

    Films — Animation 
  • Trolls: The Troll Tree, the Trolls' home at the beginning of the movie, was kept caged by the Bergens so that they could eat Trolls on Trollstice and taste happiness without any problems. When the Trolls escaped from the Troll Tree, the Bergens were left depressed over time, and the tree had already died by the time Poppy and Branch show up in Bergen Town. The Troll Tree is eventually restored at the ending when the Bergens are shown that happiness was always inside them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Big Fish: Edward first meets the town of Spectre as an idyllic town covered in soft grass, to the point that everyone, including the Mayor and his young daughter Jenny, is constantly barefoot. When Edward comes back more than a decade later, a road has been built across Spectre, the town has gone bankrupt from debt, all the grass has dried, and an adult Jenny, now divorced and depressed (and resentful because of Edward's departure), lives in a run-down house with similarly unkempt bushes. After Edward saves the town and fixes Jenny's house, everything looks green again. However, after he rejects Jenny's advances and leaves forever, Jenny's house gets covered by vines, turning into the witch's house from the beginning of Edward's stories.

    Literature 
  • Adrian Mole: In The Wilderness Years, when Adrian lives in the somewhat chaotic and decrepit house of Dr Palmer, lone father to three children, Dr Palmer mentions that his children still believe that fairies live at the bottom of the garden. Adrian is astonished by this, noting that the garden is hardly fairyland, being covered in all sorts of rusting rubbish, and nearly tells the children that any fairy living there ought to have a tetanus jab.
  • Ghostly Towers: The reader is on a mission to recover a diamond necklace from the long-abandoned and haunted Oastley Towers estate (nicknamed "Ghostly Towers"). Needless to say, the grounds are very overgrown and untidy, to the extent that sometimes the ghosts are so ashamed that they return to do some gardening.
  • Nemesis: The Bradbury-Scott sisters' garden is run down and neglected, with particular prominence given to a collapsed greenhouse overrun with vines. The neglect started at the time of Verity Hunt's death and is partly to conceal where her body is buried.
  • The Rough Patch: Played with. Evan doesn't outright neglect his garden following his dog's death, but he does destroy it and tend to the weeds that grow in place of the flowers that once bloomed there.
  • The Secret Garden: After Colin's mother died in her beloved garden, it was closed off and unable to be tended to until Mary found the key, and it blossoms under care alongside herself and Colin as they grow healthy and strong.
  • In Isaac Watts' moralistic poem The Sluggard, the title character, among his many other vices, is too lazy to maintain his garden.
    I pass'd by his garden, and saw the wild brier,
    The thorn and the thistle grow broader and higher;
  • Unforgiven: Lilith lives in a dilapidated house surrounded by an abandoned garden full of weeds. Her single mother works a lot of part-time jobs and spends most of her time looking after Lilith's little brother, who is very ill, so has no time for the garden. Actually, everything is just part of a tailor-made Hell created just for Lilith.
  • Wintergirls: Lia's mother is stressed over her difficult, emotionally draining job as a cardiologist and her daughter's anorexia. Her garden hasn't been taken care of in a long time and is covered in weeds and dead plants.

    Music 
  • Elton John's "Empty Garden", his tribute to John Lennon, likens Lennon's murder to this trope.
    Who lived here?
    He must have been a gardener that cared a lot,
    Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop,
    And now it all looks strange.
    It's funny how one insect can damage so much grain.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: In the first DLC, Dawnguard, the Dragonborn and Serana will make their way through the bowels of Castle Volkihar and find the castle courtyard. Serana's mother Valerica, a master alchemist, used to spend her afternoons tending the courtyard gardens. In the present day, the courtyard has fallen into disarray (by design, as Valerica knew Harkon would never visit the courtyard and the entrance to her secret tower was hidden here). Serana wistfully remembers time spent in the courtyard with her mother thousands of years ago, back when their family was happy before Lord Harkon became obsessed with ending the tyranny of the sun.
  • Plantasia: A fairy named Holly has to grant a wish to a depressed man named Jack, who wishes that his estate's gardens were fixed. They're overrun with weeds, plants, pests, and rocks; you, as the player, have to plant and raise flowers while clearing rocks, killing pests, pulling out weeds, and using mana harvested from the flowers to repair the garden statuary. We find out that Jack was once a talented gardener, but fell into depression and stopped caring for the estate after his wife Julie died.
  • Undertale: The tree in front of Toriel's house is dying and surrounded by fallen leaves, and she has a dead-looking potted plant in the foyer. They represent her separation from Asgore, who loves gardening and used to take care of the plants in their home.
  • The Walking Dead: Season Four: In episode two, "Suffer The Children", Clementine, Mitch and Ruby go to gather some supplies in the school's abandoned greenhouse. Nobody's been there in years and it has since fallen into disrepair. Inside, the three find the zombified Ms. Martin, the school's nurse and the only adult who stayed behind with the pupils when all the adults left at the start of the apocalypse. Ms. Martin was also responsible for caring for the plants in said greenhouse. The player can either burn her body or give her a proper, "human" burial right next to the greenhouse she so loved so much when she was alive.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Magical Mystery Cure", the Mane Six's cutie marks have been switched around, with Pinkie Pie getting Applejack's cutie mark and being put in charge of the Apple family farm. Unfortunately, she's terrible at farming, causing the farm to fall into disrepair. She's seen looking despairingly at an empty, bare-branched apple tree as its last leaf blows away, while in the background there are dozens of similarly empty trees.
  • Steven Universe: In "Back to the Kindergarten", Steven, Amethyst, and Peridot visit the Beta Kindergarten, a desolate canyon that used to grow Gems thousands of years ago. They try to liven up the place by planting sunflowers, but the next day they return to find the plants all dead.

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