Oh Say Can You See


Here's more on garden objects from guest ranter Benjamin Yogt/The Deep Middle


Your house is your home. You can, of course, do whatever you
want to the inside or outside. Unfortunately, in regards to the outside, the
rest of us have to look at it and wonder what you were thinking.

A home is not a school, neither is it a post office,
industrial park, nor the White House. Therefore—and this is just a
suggestion—one should not have a flagpole in front of it.


Ok, maybe, just maybe if you live on a couple acres and want
the compound effect, you can get away with a flagpole. But on a suburban ¼ acre
lot, or an urban lot that’s even smaller? Come on.

Last night I had a nightmare where one of my many flagpole
neighbors bugled revelry at 5am. The whole neighborhood marched out of their
homes, kids and dogs in tow, and stood at attention for morning inspection.

Look, nothing against being proud of your country, or any
professional or college sports team (except the Yankees, Lakers, Ohio State…).
I suppose besides a pole that’s as tall as the house, the plantings around the
base are what really push me over the edge.

Oh, look, mums! Orange ones! Daylilies! Orange ones! You
know what would look good around that 20 foot pole? Rocks. Antlers on rocks.
Maybe a bald eagle statue. Oh, and spotlights.

I had another dream, a good dream, where Jennifer Aniston
was admiring my neighbor’s flagpole and calling me over. If you want, insert
any proper noun for Jennifer Aniston: Robin Williams. Lady Gaga. Bert and
Ernie. Your favorite garden blogger (ahem).


If you have flagpoles in your neighborhood, I hope you will
recite the pledge below as you drive by them, gritting your teeth and
“accepting” freedom of expression, bearing the cross that all of us with taste
must endure.

I pledge allegiance to the crap you put in your lawn, one
neighborhood, under siege, in design chaos, with no sane covenants at all.

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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 regular 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 yahoo.com


  1. A neighbor has one of these with a spotlight. They inherited it and said it’s the sort of thing that once installed, you can’t get rid of it because you would be branded a pinko.

  2. Some people wear their feelings for our country on their sleeve – or lawn, as is the case here. While my current neighbors have only gone so far as to install the kind that attach to the house trim, I wouldn’t protest a show of patriotism like this. I certainly wouldn’t complain if they chose to plant orange (what exactly is wrong with orange ??) anything at the base – or rocks with antlers. At least they are paying attention to the lawn & landscape.

    Are we really going to become a bunch of whiners about the choices the neighbors make for their own land ? Flagpoles are not harming housing values, spreading noxious weeds or disease, scaring the children, or raising taxes. Leave the flagpoles & their possibly gaudy ground decor alone.

    Of course if they choose to replace the Stars & Stripes with a Lakers flag, we’ll have issues.

  3. Many of my neighbors fly flags, though few have flagpoles. That’s their choice of course.

    What I do mind are the emails I have been receiving from various people (all forwarded and forwarded again to huge lists) telling that it is my duty to fly an American flag this weekend. That bothers me. Especially when someone’s software went awry and I received the same flag-urging email 50 times within 10 minutes.

  4. Gardening as identity expression has been around forever. American Patriot? Add a flagpole. Religious Catholic? Plant a Virgin Mary or St Francis statue. Buddhist? A buddha, and so on. Not sure what the garden gnomes and pink flamingos represent. We have a diverse society, so I guess if we value that, we should expect to see some diversity in the garden. Still, I guess you have to want to be labeled if you put that stuff out in your front yard.

    As for antlers, I have a beautiful 6-point elk antler about 3 feet long tucked away in my mint bed, that some elk shed on my property. It’s very sculptural and I like looking at it as I work the bed or walk by.

  5. This one doesn’t bother me too much. The aesthetics are poor IMO but it seems very spirited. Or maybe I’m just having a flashback to Girl Scout flag-folding drills.

  6. So with you on this one. I live in a cul-de-sac with not one, but 3 flags! One of them isn’t even the American flag, but a red martial arts concoction.

  7. First the gnomes and the flamingos had to go now it’s no flagpoles!..(shaking head and rolling eyes)

    I’m hopeing the guest rants get better then this.

  8. Good Lord!
    This is the most ridiculous thing ever posted on this site. Not worth the time it took to read.
    The author sounds like they need to move to a neighborhood with lots of covenants on flower height, tree breadth, and fence-paint colors–his world-view would fit right in.
    Isn’t this author’s manner of thinking exactly what this site usually rails against?
    Please tell me this is a joke. A failed joke, obviously, but a joke none-the-less?

  9. I’m sorry but I’m with zone 8 and Kat on this one. And I usually like snarky, pointy-fingered, silly rants. I really do. But this seems not Rant-worthy. Just kind of small-minded.

  10. Kat–It is SUPPOSED to be a ridiculous post, tongue in cheek if you will. Still, a neighborhood full of flagpoles–on very small lots–doesn’t seem to quite work proportionally. I am NOT one for neighborhood landscape gestapo (visit my blog and see who I am, why don’t you), but I am one for integrated landscape design. But glad you liked the post enugh to read through it and post a comment.

  11. Laura Bell–I put good money that flag poles do hurt property value, especially in suburban, cookie-cutter housing divisions. When you buy a house, are you looking for a flag pole? Is that on the checklist next to fence, 2 baths, and a fireplace? I also put good money on the fact that 6 barberries along the driveway, 3 on a side, spread equally apart planted and in a straight line within a 2′ swath of white gravel, hurts property values. That’s two doors down from me. Now, if the barberry spelled out “Go Lakers” we’d certainly have to call the police.

  12. You could always grow some lovely bushes in front of your windows. ;^)

    Or have some fun one evening and run some underwear up their flagpole. ;^)

  13. I like the aesthetic of flags, just not flag poles. They’re loud, too tall, and are required to be lit at night, which makes it *kinda* hard to sleep with the windows open…

    Our flag is attached to one of the support beams on our front porch. That looks nice, and is perfectly to scale with the house and garden.

  14. One man’s flag pole is another man’s prairie, and the freedom of us all. I typically fly the Texas flag, but this weekend, I will be flying the American flag. Most of us have grown numb to the emotions we felt nine years ago. We can’t forget.

  15. We have several homes in our suburban neighborhood with flag poles. I don’t mind them, but I do mind that the people flying the flags leave them out 24/7 year round with no lights at night. They should at least learn to respect the flag they fly by learning the correct way to display it.

  16. I’ll put good money on this Mr. Yogt getting his jollies going around and tossing seed bombs off at these great American pole gardens with the help of this Aniston women. How disgusting to desecrate the tamed heart of America with his seed.

  17. Just for the record, it is the law to have a light shining on a flag if it displayed at night. Otherwise, the flag should be put up in the morning and take down before night. I know this because I work for a school system and they go nuts when one of the flag pole spot lights go out.
    I live in a town where every house flys a flag on holidays and some of them everyday. I don’t mind it a bit. When I see a flag, it reminds me of how lucky I am to live in this country, where people can think what they want, live the way they want, and pray to the God of their choice, because its the law! Seems like a lot of people have forgotten that other people have the same rights too. Let’s all try to remember that on Saturday when we morn the senseless deaths of thousands of people caught up in the nightmare of 9/11. A day when people of all faiths and races were killed by Hate…
    On a lighter note, one of my Neigbors has a very nice telescoping flag pole, which collapses to about 6 feet tall. Fabulous. Maybe I can get him to run some underwear up on that for Donna, HA!

  18. Who knew such a tongue-in-cheek post could get people so riled up! I’m shocked so many commenting have been quick to take offense and misinterpret this post as an attack on the flag and on freedom, when it’s clearly meant to be light-hearted.

  19. When I see the flag I’m reminded that we attacked a country that did not attack us. I’m reminded that we have senseless killed many, many more innocent people in Iraq than the 9/11 hijackers killed in New York. But on a lighter note…oh wait, there isn’t one.

  20. if this was intended to be “light” and “funny” it misses the mark. It’s snarky and a time waster. We garden on an acre and I fly the American flag in memory of my father–a military photographer for his entire career–and a British Union Jack since my mother is English–and a phenomenal gardener at 87– and I have English cousins serving in Afghanistan.

    Seriously, try to come up with some better content. There are plenty of blogs and web sites that are your competition. I’m with Zone 8. Time is important. This site was interesting when it started, but it’s getting old. If a client wants a flag pole in their garden, I’m happy to include that.

  21. I started to read the comments but then decided they would just make me have bad dreams and I stopped. I bought a house with a flag pole. I was told that the previous owner was very proud and flew the flag always. It just wasn’t my thing and I took it down. Honorably. Found it a good home, and everyone was happy.

  22. You Mr Yogt sir in the deep middle are a fu%%ing idiot.
    Now we are attacking flagpoles. Has gardening become so elitist that we mock the people who buy stuff that allows morons like you to comment.

    Talk about condescension and infighting.

    Joe:I am a reminded YOU ARE AN A-HOLE with the need of a flag pole shoved up your butt with an IED attached to it. move the hell out of the country. We were attacked by a culture not a country. A culture of 7th century towel headed bastards. 200 years of American history and we put a man on the moon. 2500 years of middle east history and they beat their women and piss in their drinking water


    The TROLL

  23. Thank god in Puercorico, the fad is to carry a made in China national flag a any kind of outdoors event, or indoors.

    The flag pole has not caught on.

    But I just thought that is a good way to state where one stands, against the riff raff immigrants from certain countries close by and others not so close.

  24. If the neighbors don’t complain about my eclectic yard plantings, I won’t complain about their flag poles. If the neighbors don’t call Neighborhood Code Enforcement about the meadow in my backyard, I won’t complain to Animal Control about their barking dogs.

  25. I don’t like rants like the last couple of days that are judgements on what is tasteful and what is not in other people’s gardens. It seems weird to read the Garden Rant ‘Manifesto’ at the top of the page and read the columns that basically seem to advocate exactly the oppposite. It may not be my particular taste, but I like a garden that expresses the gardener’s passions and personality, whether it’s a flagpole or an acre of gnomes or whatever. What happened to good writing, good rants, and good editing?

  26. @The Troll: We were not attacked by a culture, we were attacked by radical extremists. They do not represent the Muslim majority, and Muslim culture as a whole does not deserve American desecration. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan were just as innocent as our airline passengers, firefighters, and office workers killed in the terrorist attacks.

    There is no religion in the world that preaches death to other people. God (and Allah, who are one in the same) expresses tolerance and peace in both the Bible and the Q’ran.

    Muslims and their diaspora have greatly assimilated into Western culture and are capable of respecting women. You on the other hand do not seem capable of respecting religion.

    Joe has the right to live in America just as much as you do and just as much as any Muslim does.

  27. Dear Troll,

    You cannot deny that the United States Army has killed more innocent civilians in Iraq than were killed on this day nine years ago in the WTC. Whether I am an A-Hole or not doesn’t change that. Nice to know that you would rather kill me than admit this truth.


  28. I have a prairie garden in my front yard like Benia & Don (which a couple of people in our neighborhood aren’t too keen on) and I have a flagpole proudly planted in said garden in which the American flag flies each and every day – today it is at half mast in honor of all those who died or were wounded. I like all gardens: those with prairie plants, those with gnomes and those with flags. I am really getting tired of these rants about judging others. I’ve recommended this site to several other professionals (including some that are published) in the horticultural field for useful productive content but now it seems to be about politics, hawking books, pretend-a-gardeners like P. Allen Smith & Tracy D and the like and other nonsense. I will still visit for some of the content but I much prefer Garden Professors and GW and other less controversial websites.

  29. Remember y’all, this is a guest rant. As in, Michele, Elizabeth, Susan, or Amy did NOT write it. This is out of the ordinary for Garden Rant.

    They don’t necessarily agree with this rant. They posted it because they knew it would get y’all riled up and thinking and writing.

    And that, I believe is the point of this blog–to make us gardeners THINK and share ideas.

  30. I don’t mind the flagpole, but if you are going to utilize your freedom of speech and fly our nation’s flag – you should at least have a little respect for it.

    Is that tattered bit of fabric in the top photo the message they really want to send?

    Do *you* know proper flag etiquette? Here is a good site:


  31. geez….you weren’t kidding…people need to take a deep breath…..How could anyone misinterpret this? Clear as mud to me…

  32. I tried to get angry but couldn’t. When you’re designing a yard, a client’s desire for a flagpole can be a pain in the butt. They’re not really the ideal focal point, but they’re a 20 foot tall brilliant white stick with a flapping flag at the top. Distracting from that in a small yard is like getting a 14 year old boy to read Chekov when the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is open next to him.

  33. I am not a patriotic type of person nor do I agree with our military foreign policies but I can’t help but think that perhaps many of these people that have flagpoles have a reason. Maybe they have a loved one in active duty,you know we are currently involved in a war or whatever they are calling it these days or maybe they had a loved one die in service. It seems insensitive to me to be so judgemental. I agree with other commentors, this site is growing old. Too much narrowmindness, don’t like gnomes or flagpoles? well then don’t have them.

  34. Mary brings up an interesting point. I know that when I roll up to a new client’s house and I see a flagpole, I immediately make an assumption: older couple, husband is former military, and will still be fit and trim, wearing a polo shirt and a short mustache. It’s amazing the percentage of the time this is the case, although every once in a while the wife is the veteran, just to keep me on my toes 🙂

  35. Where did your patriotism go? I’m proud to see every flag that flies and the bigger the flag, the better.!! My aunt flies the US flag, the Washington State flag and the Texas flag. She long since left Texas, but she still remembers her roots in East Texas. They gardened to have food on the table. I garden to honor them and for the excitement of seeing the plants grow. The flag says there are people who gave their lives for us to have that right–even for you to be able to blast them for it. Please re-think your position.

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