Flags in Other People’s Gardens



Happy Independence Day, Americans!  Have fun, stay safe, et cetera.

Now on to our topic – flags in the garden and their impact on others.  Take my neighbor’s Old Glory above, hanging on the privacy screen between our townhouse gardens.  Like it or not – and for holidays I kinda like it there – it’s a dominant feature in my own garden and from my porch.


Above, another version of the American flag, hanging from the front porch of my old home, in a wildly anti-war neighborhood.  It’s been in storage since I moved.


The flags I’m inflicting on neighbors these days are of the Tibetan prayer variety.  Above, they’re faded and tattered and people seem to like them.

Below,  brand-new flags with their bold primary colors are nobody’s favorite, but I promise my neighbors they’ll fade soon.  (Note to flag-makers:  How about  making them in more than one set of colors?)


Above, what neighbors and visitors see from the parking lot.  If they don’t like them, sorry!

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Susan Harris

Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).
  • Also in Greenbelt, MD, writing the e-newsletter and serving on the Board of Directors for the cooperatively-owned music and arts venue and restaurant called the NEW DEAL CAFE.

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.


  1. The colors represent the 5 elements, yellow – earth, green – water, red- fire, white – air, blue – space (got curious and did a search). So using other colors would not be in keeping with that practice. Could just cut fabric, write prayers/wishes and there you go!

  2. I love the faded prayer flags! The brights are a little hard on my eye, but I appreciate the spirit.
    I think everyone has the right to fly their flags in their own space, be it old glory or the Freak Flag of their choice. If someone wants to express themselves and raise a standard, I say have at it. But I have an issue with someone doing so in a shared space. Since your neighbor has chosen to put the flag on the shared screen, they are effectively flying a flag for you as well, as nobody who passes by can tell which house put it up. Many people would have no issue with it at all, but in these times where this country is as polarized as before the Civil War, I think it leads to possibly unwanted assumptions. I, for one, have very strong issues with a recent SCOTUS decision, and would not want a flag waving in my yard this July 4th. But I would feel awkwardly about making a big deal and asking my neighbor to move the flag.
    I don’t understand why the neighbor has to put it on the shared wall. Is there a reason?
    Very interesting topic Susan! Thanks!!!

  3. Thanks for the reminder, I’m going to go put our flag out on the porch. Our country isn’t in the death spiral as some would have us believe, nor is it the single greatest country to have ever existed as others would maintain.

  4. I’m no expert, but my understanding is that the point of the Tibetan prayer flags is to leave them up until they are completely demolished by the elements, thereby speeding the prayers on their way. So it would defeat the purpose to replace tattered ones with new ones. Myself, I love their ethereal nature, and the way they remind me that nothing (including us) lasts forever.

    Flags can be purely ornamental (like flags that depict the seasons or holidays), or very symbolic, representing political or religious beliefs. They do tread a fine line between decoration and representation, don’t they?

  5. They do make different colors, they just aren’t called prayer flags then. They are called flag garlands. Flag garlands are also a popular craft project.

    • I don’t know about that. Googling “flag garland” tells me it’s synonymous with bunting. The pieces are all triangles.
      So I tried searching “string of flags” and got prayer-type and country flags. Don’t know if there’s any term for what we’re talking about. Susan

      • Yeah, those are ‘triangle flag garland”. What you want are “square flag garland”. Or bunting. Sometimes a search will turn up an offering from say Crate and Barrel but you are more likely to get an etsy crafter. I think most people that want nifty garland just make it themselves though. It is pretty easy and you don’t even need to sew well.

  6. People here like to fly the Confederate flag. They see a proud tradition and culture represented by it. I see something no different than flying the Nazi swastika, which was also supposed to represent the deep and proud tradition of the teutonic culture. So I would say, use your common sense and sense of community before flying your views in people’s faces.

  7. Susan,
    Here’s a photo of the “other” Tibetan flags, as seen in my garden this week with one of my fave plants, Turks Cap Lilies (obtained from native plant sale). I couldn’t find a way to upload a photo to your comments, so I will try this link, but doubtful it would work. So here’s a description of flags you can’t see, they are in other colors (not primary) and have the word for peace written in different languages.


    • I have a pirate flag (and a flag pole) for one of my grandsons who likes that flag. I have the ‘merican flag and soon will put up the French flag for Bastille Day and leave it up until the Tour d’France ends. I have flags for different folks who visit – gay flag, Columbian flag, California Bear Republic, Norwegian, Chinese, Belize, and more that I can’t think of at the moment. Also have 2 sets of prayer flags. The neighbors can think what they like.

      Liked the comment about the USA just may not be the greatest country. Ask France, Argentina, Germany, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, India, China etc. and guess what their response would be.

  8. I have a string of those multicolored peace flags (or used car lot flags, as some prefer) in my back yard and they work pretty well as deer deterrents — along with a lot of other fencing and oddball barricades. I agree with Susan: if the neighbors don’t like them, well sorry.

    But flags can be pretty powerful signals. My neighbors fly the Gadsden Flag on their front porch, and the sight of it used to make my blood pressure rise but after 5 years of seeing it every day I’m less physically reactive. They had to see my Obama posters every day for months and that didn’t stop them from being polite and considerate neighbors. And now they have become friends, more than just neighbors, which has been a very interesting process. I’ve learned that I can be close to, and actually like, people with whom I can’t discuss politics, some science, and almost no news. But that leaves a lot of other topics open: families, books & literature, music, religion, cats, wildlife, travel, food, gardening, history, TV, etc. I’m tempted to think that that hateful flag has somehow made me a more open-minded person.

        • It pre-dates the Tea Party by a couple hundred years. And it is not hateful. It was a Revolutionary War Flag.

          • But much like other flags/symbols (Stars & Bars of the Confederacy, swastikas for two examples) the Gadsden flag has been co-opted by a group and its meaning changed. No longer does the “Don’t tread on me” flag tie us simply back to the American Revolution. It is now a symbol adopted by the Tea Party.

    • You mean conservatives read, garden, and love their children and pets? My mind is blown! I thought they were all racist rednecks who want to commit genocide!

  9. My neighborhood is full of flagpoles with American flags flying day and night, rain or shine. My “patriotic” neighbors have no clue how to respect the flag. When President Obama was elected the first time, one of them flew the flag upside down. Pam J. nice that you can be friends with your neighbors, we are certainly all civil to each other here, but friends, no. We have one of those little flag attachments on the side of the house and we fly the flag on holidays and family birthdays (Norwegian tradition) but we always bring it in by sunset and don’t fly it when it’s raining.

    • Yes, I have several neighbors who claim to respect the flag & fly it constantly. Constantly. I’ve tried to discuss with them the proper care for the flag – don’t fly it in the rain, if flown at night put a spotlight on it, etc – but they don’t want to listen to it.

  10. Don’t get me wrong, I love flags in the garden, but I think I’m going to stay away from flags that indicate any political or religious preferences and stick with the more fun flags with butteries, cats and shamrocks! I know, I’m not weak and have my political and religious beliefs just like anyone else, but it’s not worth offending the neighbors to state beliefs in that way. BUT flags can be so beautiful and add color and depth to the garden and don’t need to be weeded for that purpose =)

  11. Back in the day, drying clothes lines of laundry decorated the air space in back yards. These colored flags rings a familiar scene of yesteryear reminiscent of that childhood memory. Creative and fun modern day incorporation!

  12. I guess one man’s ‘cheery and fun’ is another (wo)man’s visual pollution. I hate all manner of artificial colors and gee-gaws…I’d just rather see nature in all her beauty and leave well enough alone. I guess that’s what makes the world go around. There is so much variety in nature itself that I love it when people express their individuality with plant colors, textures, composition. Manmade stuff often seems to be so garish compared to the subtle cleverness of Ma Nature herself!

  13. Although about flags your post highlights the issue of other non natural material we have to share visually with our neighbors. It’s a real consideration. I am glad your neighbor sharing is a cooperative one.

  14. Ok, just ran into this. And I am completely shocked. One would think that it would be best to leave the political junk out of garden postings. But noooo, it had to be here as well.
    Whether you fly the Old Glory or not, should not be an issue. As each garden is a reflection of who that owner of that garden is. So please do not bring political bends into a garden blog, as I feel it has no place in gardens.

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