Gardening outside the lines

Published 10:12 am Saturday, September 17, 2022

By Felder Rushing

Hard core gardeners often color outside the lines, don’t always fit in neatly. It may help with neighborly relations to literally spell out what we are attempting, make intentions more obvious.

I was reminded of this while helping a friend prepare his rogue garden for a revisit from his city’s code inspector. In spite of the masses of flowering plants, including a few rare ones, nearly all smothered in butterflies and hummingbirds, the place was more than a bit untidy.

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And, of course, someone had complained that his garden was an eyesore, and the inspector, following his guidelines, made a few, um, recommendations, which basically meant “do these things or you will be fined.”

Some parts of his letter made sense. “Pick up the scattered black plastic pots and empty potting soil bags littering the front yard. Pull the plants spilling over the curb back a bit. Remove the shrub blocking the stop sign. Mow the lawn a bit more often. Stop piling mulch on the driveway so it won’t keep washing into the gutter. Stop calling me names for doing my job.”

As I worked with the homeowner to resolve these mandates (and getting loads of free plants in return), I remembered an official looking sign I saw decades ago in a McComb garden, that proclaimed the landscape “Area Yard of the Season.” Curious, having never heard of such an organization, I stopped to inquire.

So, once we unruffle the features of both my beleaguered cottage garden friend and the city inspector, neaten up the front yard potting area, and move a few plants away from the city’s right of way, I think it’ll be appropriate to put up a sign for the neighbors whose personal preference ends at the street. 

Rather than poking everyone in the eye with a simple statement such as “Garden Is Up To Code” I have given him a garden medallion proclaiming the resident to be a DIGr – a Determined Independent Gardener.

Won’t prevent him from trashing it out again, but for now it conveys good intentions, reminds the gardener to respect neighborly relations, and hopefully also allays the inspector’s concerns.