All’s well that ends well



Jean’s garden is safe. Apparently the emails you all sent were read by the mayor, and, according to what I was told yesterday, these emails were the first he had heard of the whole matter. Our commissioner of inspections went out personally to Jean’s house to look at the garden and this is what he reports:

I personally observed (today September 25, 2007) a very nice garden with what appears to be a mix of wildflowers. It is in very good condition for the end of our growing season. There are several narrow paths between groups of plantings, the paths are well maintained and cut very short, the plantings are still in bloom and are very colorful. The plantings do not intrude into the city’s right of way and they do not obstruct any line of sight. The unique location of the property on an almost dead end section of the street and the complete lack of pedestrian and vehicular traffic that can pass in front of the garden obviate any concern about blocking a line of sight for a car…
any enforcement action that may have commenced should and will be terminated.

(This report was sent to some of you who emailed, so I feel comfortable publishing this excerpt.) I honestly think that Jean would be in court, facing heavy fines and the possible destruction of her garden, if the flurry of emails, listserve messages, and blog posts that have happened over the past ten days or so had not occurred.

The fact remains, however, that the inspector was very persistent (5-6 visits over an overgrown garden are unusual, given the other problems Buffalo has) and it took the major’s intervention to make this go away. I don’t think it should have needed that and I still believe that much education about sustainable gardening is needed by municipalities and bureaucracies such as this and those in other cities.

What almost happened to Jean can still happen to others in Buffalo and many other places. But for now, I’m very happy her garden has been vindicated. My main concern now is which champagne to buy for the party. To all of you who emailed and offered support, thank you.

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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. So glad to hear that someone in city hall finally came to their senses. That inspector should be charged with harassment. What nonsense.

    Pam, the party idea is great, but who wants to take bets on the neighbor who originally complained about the front yard then calling the cops to complain about the noise?

    It’s too bad Jean has to live near such a grump. I hope he also received a copy of the report. (Someone did tuck a copy in his mailbox, didn’t they?)

  2. I did receive an email from the Mayor of Buffalo. Giddy with relief.

    I am so glad that Garden Rant is here for those of us who are thinking outside of the box so to speak.

    Never expected to hear from Mayor Brown much less read the emails.

  3. Given the possibility of a politically motivated backstory here it seems to me that the gardener would be well advised to take steps to avoid similar hassles in the future. Something as simple as participating in next summer’s Garden Walk would be helpful in establishing a defense if this problem pops up again.

  4. Mayor Brown actually called me. I had sent an email and it was one of the very few that had a phone number. I am also very actively involved in Garden Walk Buffalo, so I’m sure that had something to do with the call as well.

    He did not know anything about this issue until he started getting the emails (thank you to all). He visited GardenRant to find out more.

    He also thought this was a non-issue. His father was a great gardener. The mayor himself helped to organize a garden tour in his own neighborhood years ago.

    He drove by Jean’s garden and told me, that while it wasn’t his personal style of garden, he thought there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. He gave me his office phone number to share with Jean.

    As far as this being “politically motivated,” he told me was not the case, to the best of his knowledge. There is a city hall employee living on the street, but he also knew nothing of the complaint(s) until the mayor shared your emails with hiim.

    If you’d like to see a GREAT video on the garden by our local gardening guru, Sally Cunningham, visit:

  5. Thank-you to everyone who wrote to Mayor Brown, and thanks to Mayor Brown for giving this issue his personal attention! I am so relieved and happy that I don’t have to go to court!
    Elizabeth’s suggestions of better training for inspectors, especially those whose expertise is more about drainpipes and tuckpointing, is really important. And clearer ordinances would be an important improvement. The existing words, which I assume would have been used against me in court, are in Section 7.09 Regulation of grass, weeds and trees: subdivision 3: Duty of property owners to cut grass and weeds and maintain trees and shrubs. (Actually, even now I don’t entirely understand the requirements, which seem to apply to trees hanging over streets Here is the URL:
    The other problem is the definition of “weeds.” It reminds me of the words “religion” and “mythology.” One person’s religion is another person’s mythology. Likewise, one person’s weed is another’s herb or wildflower.
    Thanks again, everyone!! I will keep up with this blog as much as I can. I had no idea that there was so much solidarity among gardeners! It makes me want to break out in an old union song.
    Happy autumn!
    Jean Dickson

  6. 50 percent of Buffalo is a complete disaster of broken down properties and dangerous property. The fact that they go after this innocent home owner for something a neighbor does not like is CRAZY! Do these inspectors drive around the city they are inspecting and see the disasters???? How could this even be happening! The zoning board is filled with pin heads! Mayor Brown needs to fire these guys over this..starting with the head inspector LOU P., where is the oversight for these guys? I could not imagine what she was going through having to deal with their threats and threatening her security like she is a criminal. Someone needs to get fired for this! This sounds like some kind of corruption…

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