This just in from the bureau of you-gotta-be-kidding-me


In England, my easeway would be called a verge.

A cautionary tale about the hidden dangers of meticulous edging and mowing comes to us from the UK’s Daily Mail. Hertfordshire gardener Brain Hubbard has been ordered to cease and desist neatly maintaining the verge outside his property, owned by the city council. Its tidiness might encourage people to walk on it, or cause Hubbard to imagine the land really belongs to him. Or some such silliness.

It’s interesting, because clearly the land being referenced—patch between sidewalk and road—is what I call the easeway on this side of the pond. Others call it a hellstrip, and never was a nickname more accurate. Is it possible to go right when dealing with this patch? If you let it go to weeds, you get cited. If you grow tall perennials on it, you get cited, or your neighbors whine about it. You can’t control what trees the city puts on it and you can’t take them down even if they are vicious, water-sucking, roots-almighty Norway maples. And now this guy can’t even mow it without getting into trouble?

Lest this be written off as a fluke, I actually have a similar instance that occurred recently in Buffalo. A neighborhood activist was mowing the weedy hellstrip of an absentee landlord, and the guy had him arrested. Said landlord liked his hellstrip to look like crap; if the neighborhood improved he would have to clean up his act, and he preferred being a slumlord.

Such is the life of the urban gardener. Or at least any gardener with an easeway/hellstrip/verge to deal with.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I think it may have been Lauren Springer who coined “hellstrip.” she works with High Country Gardens, which rechristened it “inferno strip” for their catalog, presumably not to offend anyone.

    But telling people not to maintain theirs is what I’d call infernal. Happily, Denver does not discourage creative landscaping there, as long as it doesn’t block sightlines.

  2. I just got lots more plants yesterday at the Fall Garden Show (the best ferns still grown by the Weeds family) to once more attack that strip. AT&T will not defeat me, despite their horrid defoliants. Here in New Orleans, the strip in the middle of the street is called the Neutral Ground, and are usually covered by oaks.

  3. In Australia where I grew up it’s called the Nature Strip, presumably because nature is usually left to her own devices there. And I can’t imagine any government having time and money to waste on worrying about fussing at people about taking care of something!

  4. In Chicago it’s called the ‘parkway’ Now I’ve been one of those folks cited for having plants on the parkway a few years ago. The judge was reasonable at least, the town attorneys were not. They wanted it all gone but the judge had the final sayso and he didn’t see a problem with having perennials on it.

    I was ordered to have an 18″ setback from the curb so people could get out of the car safely – this I agree with. I’m supposed to keep everything about 12 inches or less but I cheat – most of it is 2 feet or less but so far for the last 2 years they’ve left me alone. I also included a flagstone path leveled in from the curb to the sidewalk for interest and safety. And I also keep any and all growth off the sidewalk so as not to them a reason to hassle me.

  5. I really can’t stress this enough but the Daily Mail is an absolute crapbag of a newspaper and nothing in there should be assumed to be the truth. It may well come to light that this chap was mowing a wildflower area into a neat 1 inch stripey lawn or some such other event that doesn’t fit the mail’s ridiculous agenda.

  6. PS if the people who reported that nice lady’s front garden to the council because it wasn’t lawn or had the wrong kind of plants or whatever it was were British and read a newspaper it would be the Daily Mail.

  7. I see what you’re saying and agree in regards to the Mail, TH. But this incident does fit in with many others I have heard and read about regarding easeways. And I actually know of someone here who was arrested for mowing. So it didn’t seem too incredible to me.

  8. Where I grew up (suburb of Cleveland) we called it the “Tree Lawn” Nobody ever did anything to them except grass and the very occasional tree…usually maples. I don’t remember there ever being an issue about them one way or the other.

  9. When our home was being built, we learned that the parking strip in our cul-de-sac was going bye-bye to enlarge the circle for firetruck access. They thought I’d be upset. I cheered! No push me, pull you shenanigans for me, hooray!

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