Worst City/Gardener Clash Ever.


UPDATE:  Thanks to our alert readers for pointing out this Change.org petition you can sign.

Meet Denise Morrison, a Tulsa gardener who carefully read the city code and followed it, planting nothing in her front yard that exceeded 12 inches in height unless it was edible. She grew an assortment of medicinal herbs, food crops, edible flowers, etc.

And when the police showed up, she explained that to them.  Nicely.

And when the whole thing finally went to court, the charges of illegal gardening were dismissed.

But not before city workers cut down and destroyed all her plants.  Seriously.

I know we’ve got some readers in Tulsa.  Anybody have a more updated report?  Are there any efforts underway to help her replace some of the plants she’s lost?

I can’t tell for sure who her city council representative is, but a close watching of the video reveals a fragment of a street address, and using the Tulsa City Council’s district finder tool, I believe she lives in District 1.  Click here if you’d like to email her City Council member and let him know what you think about city employees destroying a resident’s front yard garden in violation of their own codes.  And if you’d like to contact the mayor, here’s a way to do that.

Can this possibly be Tulsa’s biggest law enforcement priority?  Or even its biggest code enforcement priority?

Is it even remotely possible that Tulsa should be encouraging and rewarding people who grow food in their front yards, not punishing them?  According to the news report, Denise has high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, is recently unemployed, and has no heath insurance.  Could anything (short of a job and health insurance) be BETTER for a woman in her situation than planting a garden that puts a little fresh, healthy food on her table?


[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7VN123cW2k&feature=share’]


  1. What an insane world this is coming to. This also is NOT the first time across the USA has pulled this stunt. There are a number of questions which come to mind.

    What went through the mind of the actual Cops who were assigned to deal with this criminal activity to put a stop to it ?

    Who was the actually Whistle Blower, a nasty jealous neighbour ? A city Employee paid from wasted Tax dollar$$$ to be a professional Garden Stasi Agent ?

    Do they ever check out the people whose yards look like they don’t give a rat’s rear-end where weeds and overgrown plants are the norm ?

    What part does the larger USA government have in this to put a stop to home gardening food and force them to buy Monsanto wares which both political parties over there are on the same page with, but otherwise hate each other’s guts on everything else ?

    This is not unique to the USA, over here in E.U. Socialist Fatherland paradise the Ag Police here have insane rules on what can be grown or not grown and sold in supermarkets. Like only one straight long variety of Cucumber. Only certain types of wines may be produced and only certain kinds cheeses, and it doesn’t matter if these over products were traditionally created and manufactured for centuries.

    Of all the countless innumerable problems governments today need to be working on, this is totally insane. It must be the perfect town to commit felonies, I mean with the Cops so tied up with enforcing Soylent Corporation’s Utopian Agendas


  2. Wow. That is horrible. Welcome to modern America. I hope she sticks it to them for every single seed purchase and all the time she spent watering,nurturing, fertilizing, etc.

  3. The city should be falling all over itself with apologies and efforts to correct what can be corrected. It’s time for judges and juries to hear these cases and make examples of these cities. Such a shame.

  4. Women are scary & must be controled.

    Haven’t you noticed?

    Matriarchal gardening scares police, mayors, cities …….

    I know, have had 2 police with GUNS in my garden coming after ME.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  5. Well said, everyone. Apparently there’s a memo that citizens growing their own food is a dangerous political act. It could be you know–getting off corporate junk food and big pharma–with healthy, clear minds and strong bodies we’d be so much more of a threat!

    Hang in there and fight the good fight, Denise. There are millions of Americans cheering for you.

  6. I heartily agree with everyone’s comments, well said. We’re rooting for you Denise, and here’s hoping that the city of Tulsa will pull it’s noggin out of its bottom and see the light.

  7. This is terrible. I would be devastated. It is such an invasion. Certainly Tulsa has worse things going on?

  8. See, Citizen, it doesn’t matter whether you are right; we still won because we cut down your plants BEFORE we took you to court. Any surprise there? It happens all the time with property seizures for “suspected crimes”…just ask anyone who tried to get back their confiscated cars, cameras, or guns after being acquitted of drug charges. Welcome to the fascist state!

  9. I was cited by my city for my hydrangea hedge impinging a few inches onto my sidewalk, and when I didn’t cut it back drastically enough for the city they sent workers out to demolish it. My husband prevented at the last moment by promising I would whack it back further that evening, which I did. But the neighbors’ fence covered with poison ivy boardering the sidewalk? No, that is fine! No citation for that! Still there, to this day.

  10. Certainly this is terrible. I doubt that a conspiracy by the giant ag companies or the federal government is involved, though. Sounds like there was a nasty neighbor, and some police and local officials who freak out at the prospect of anything out of the ordinary. That Denise is African American may have something to do with the freedom the city felt in pushing her around. It’s ironic, too, because according to my son and his girlfriend, who have lived there, Oklahoma is one of the least regulated states in the country. In general, anything goes – except, apparently, vegetables in the front yard.

  11. I agree with Robin’s post: “The city should be falling all over itself with apologies. . .” and money and plants to repair Ms. Morrison’s property.

    I vote a candidate into office to develop sensible solutions to problems. The solution to this “problem” wasn’t sensible. Does the action of Ms. Morrison’s council representative and Tulsa’s mayor represent the best they have to offer to remedy “the complaint”?

    I believe that courteous behavior, respectful inquiry, and being helpful are what we are supposed to value. Sounds quaint doesn’t it? What a shame because that is what is needed to solve problems and make a better community.

    Someone out there please help Ms. Morrison. Is there a garden club in the area that is outraged by this senseless act and will do the right thing and replant her garden?

    Wished I lived closer.

  12. I would have thought that “due process” including waiting for the court judgement and abiding by it.

    For some reason, Facebook won’t let me share the link.

  13. Who the hell takes it upon themselves to cut down someone else’s garden?!?

    Meanwhile the two vacant houses on my block stand with 8″ tall grass with no city official in sight.

  14. Did those guys doing the plant butchering have any remorse? None of the council members garden-probably not.

  15. Wow, just wow. That is just stupendous. Michelle Obama – please pick this one up!!!

    The people cutting it down probably can’t tell a cucumber from poison ivy from [i]weed[/i], no surprise there. Nor do they understand the implications of cutting it down – it wastes $ and time (and health) and it won’t grow back without it. Yes, the city needs to take responsibility and recognize what an impingement on personal freedom this is.

    but a sidenote – who on earth came up with a 12″ front yard rule!!? That is just ridiculous! Forget food – what about shade trees and bird habitats and privacy screens and color and … it’s as if they couldn’t envision anything but a lawn, and then 12″ might be pushing decency.

  16. We have started a campaign at http://www.facebook.com/RebuildDeniseMorrisonsGarden to help organize replacing Mrs. Morrison’s garden.

    If you would like to help contribute, the plan is for each contributor to pick a seedling, check for duplicates with the organizers (so we don’t send her 900 tomato plants), and then ship the plant directly to the KOTV news building, which has agreed to be a collection point. Lori Fullbright, who covered the story for KOTV, has agreed to get the donations to Mrs. Morrison.

    Spread the word, and we’ll get Mrs. Morrison’s garden green again!

  17. I was going to rant about this story, but that’s been done. So instead, I’m going to include a positive progression (our town, woot!) in a city instead: http://kezi.com/news/local/249158 Yup, our city, which has already lifted the chicken limit, is now also considering goats.

    Take that, Tulsa.

  18. The Mayor of Tulsa is Dewey Bartlett Jr is aRepublican career politician and Oil Company owner with ethics accusations logged against him. Is it any wonder he would be against anyone growing anything other than their carbon footprint?

  19. I feel sorry for the poor city “grunts” that were told to go rip out the lady’s garden. I would rather have my tax money pay for them to fill pot holes.

    In our town a property owner had evergreen branches that intruded way into the road (no sidewalk). He was asked to cut them, he refused. City workers cut them back to the bole of the tree, following proper arborist practice. This meant they were on his private property. He sued, he won, so now city workers cut branches off right at the property line, leaving ugly dangerous stubs of branches that eventially die.

    Jason had it right. Some loud screaming neighbor kept hammering at city officials. I notice the video never shows a full yard picture, just close-ups of pretty flowers. Probably looks messy to non gardeners. Therefore it must be weeds.

  20. That’s what I love about living in the middle of nowhere. There is nobody to tell me that my garden is too tall. 12 inches!?!? So that pretty much eliminates 99% of bedding plants if they are not edible. Here in WV if someone trespasses on your property we’ll go all Devil Anse Hatfield on ya and break out the shotgun. Rock salt isn’t deadly, but it sure does hurt!

  21. I sent a letter to the mayor. Here’s what I wrote in case anyone needs inspiration:
    I am writing about the recent destruction of Denise Morrison’s garden by Tulsa city workers. I grew up in Oklahoma, and I am so embarrassed to hear that the city of Tulsa would perpetuate such violence against a marginalized member of your community. Mrs. Morrison’s garden was not only beautiful, but necessary for her survival. Her garden was food and medicine for a low-income family. It was not an overgrown, abandoned, weedy lot, although Lord knows there are plenty of those you could go “enforce” the city code on. We are living in a world where the grocery stores sell worse food for higher prices every year, more people are suffering from nutrition-related sicknesses, and we are importing food from China! Mrs. Morrison deserves delicious, nutritious food from her own yard. Oklahomans have a long-standing tradition of self-reliance. I am flabbergasted that the city of Tulsa would punish someone for hard work and creativity in the face of adversity! I implore you not only to issue an apology to Mrs. Morrison, but to send city workers out to replant her entire garden. Replace the plants that were destroyed, and use this as an opportunity to support Tulsa citizens who are trying to support themselves. It’s the right thing to do.
    Thanks for your time.

  22. As Denise Morrison herself stated on local Tulsa news blog comments it was NOT her neighbors who were the source of “complaints” about her front yard plantings.

    As of today you need to go back to ‘4 days ago’ on comments to see those of Denise.

    Her neighbors utilized items from her garden and have been her support through this nightmare according to her.

    She’s concerned about people jumping to the conclusion that her neighbors are the problem and needlessly causing a serious breach of their community where she’s lived for 35 years. Some could take the “it must be snooty neighbors who don’t understand” rantings (not so pretty on other sites) and make this situation worse for Denise and her apparently supportive neighbors.

    Seems to be the power structure that’s at work here. What I don’t understand is why the judge who stayed the front yard matter until October hasn’t cited the city of Tulsa for contempt of his order. Denise was ordered to remove an unworking truck from a property she occupies but that’s been done and, hence, the stay for dealing with the front garden involved.

    Think people should be aware that this can get out of hand with over half a million dollars so far having been pledged online to Denise Morrison. She and her beloved front yard are at risk of getting lost in the media and gardening world outrage as earned as it has been by Tulsa city officials. Denise, her front yard plantings (which included nut trees they cut down!), her neighborhood and her personal safety/security need to be kept uppermost in the minds of those who wish to see this injustice rectified.

    There are bottom feeders out there who could well take advantage of this woman and her situation…particularly when there is quite a sum of money being thrown around out there if those online pledges materialize.

    Fellow gardeners should do all they can to safeguard Ms. Morrison’s rights as well as her safety/security in a newly planted oasis for her and her neighbors.

    Kudos for including this on your blog. This is just the latest city/town outrage perpetrated on gardeners nationwide who just want to feed themselves and/or use their property in some way other than that great green mass of turf.

  23. I think we should band together and all start front yard edible gardens instead of growing grass. watch them all toss us in jail all over the USA. band together, show ’em we’re FOR gardens! I love this idea. always thought grass was a waste of time, money & energy. my ex-mother-in-law and i would go around and around on this subject~ lolol. she was so proud of her green lawn, even when we had watering restrictions. never understood that.

  24. there is a big difference between growing food in an orderly way and having a yard full of messy plants and an abandoned car.She was cited at another home and moved on to do the same thing. I have lived by people who don’t take care of their property and it’s not pretty. Half of my yard is veg and plants and I have never had anything but compliments. Be careful what you fight for.

Comments are closed.