Keep Your Garden Out of My Face


Guest Rant by Billy Goodnick 

It was a dark and foggy summer night. Biff the Wonder Spaniel and I set out for our last neighborhood stroll, green poopy bag at the ready. It’s a good thing I didn’t have my nose buried in my iPhone, catching up on the four games of Words With Friends that Lin and I usually have running. If I had been distracted, I’d probably be sporting stitches, or worse yet, a ripped cornea.

Through the mist, I realized I was one step away from facial lacerations from a thorny rose branch arching across the sidewalk at eye level. That’s what can happen when someone plants a Cecile Brunner climbing rose on a picket fence that butts up against the sidewalk. Seems to me, you’d have to be either stupid or heartless to think you can plant a 25-foot climber a couple of inches from your property line and then let it run wild. Good thing poison oak isn’t an ornamental.

Thorny plants are the worst-case scenario, but it seems everywhere I look, somebody’s fuzzy bush is in my face. I’ve got no beef with a property owner planting this stuff along their own walkways, but when half of a public sidewalk is blocked by some thoughtless, lazy gardener’s weekend project, I get pissed off.

One block from my house there’s a wall of ivy climbing something (it’s so dense I can’t tell if it’s an old chain link fence or remnants of an ancient civilization) and taking up more than half the sidewalk. A few blocks away, crimson bougainvillea sporting inch-long spiky thorns spills out from a raised wall. Pretty? Yes. Neighborly? Hardly. Legal? No way. Arrogant and lazy? In the words of Sarah Palin, “You betcha.”

Assuming that the owners of these properties are aware their plants are blocking public right of way, I can only assume that they rationalize with “I can get past, so why ruin my weekend doing chores?”

What about a mom with a stroller? What about someone like my dad who uses a walker and is legally blind?

The image above show this week’s Two for the Price of One Special: Brazilian skyflower (Duranta species) in the parkway – some varieties reach 20-feet high and wide – and rosemary creeping in from the garden. Great for an Olympic slalom run, but vexing for someone with mobility problems.

Two blocks away on one of the main Santa Barbara thoroughfares, where I’m sure curbside parking is at a premium, some numbnut who won’t clean out their garage left their big fat tail end blocking the walk. All that’s missing is a middle-finger decal over the wheel.

Bonnie Elliott is a friend who spends much of her waking days in a power wheel chair. She’s also been active on the City of Santa Barbara’s Access Advisory Committee, reviewing submittals that go through the Planning Commission and offering recommendations to make new projects safer and more livable for a wider cross-section of the community.

“That overgrown crap shouldn’t be there,” Bonnie told me, as we sipped ice teas and devoured divine pistachio macarons on a warm afternoon at a local patisserie. “Some hedges make it impossible for drivers to see anyone on the sidewalk when they pull out of their driveways. You can’t see them and they can’t see you. There’s no way you can achieve ‘escape velocity’ when a car suddenly appears.”

As long as we’re talking about public sidewalks, what about those trash/recycling/green-waste cans? This morning, I hauled one filled with brush and bamboo, plus a blue recycling bin, off the sideway, left there, no doubt, by an indifferent, hasty homeowner. Sometimes the bins are empty, meaning that an in-a-hurry trash collector picked up the load, dumped it in the truck and ignored the company policy laid out for me by Tito Escarcega, supervisor for the local service: “We hammer the guys: do not leave the cans near mailboxes, near driveways, or on sidewalks. But I’d be lying if I said that a few of our boys don’t slip up once in a while.” I know these guys are generally on top of it and do awesome, back-breaking work, but there are a few slouches who need to appreciate the bigger picture.

If you’re in a wheelchair and there’s no way around an obstacle, many times the alternative is a detour down a sloping driveway and out into the street. Bonnie recounted a recent incident when she was almost hit, the driver slamming on the brakes just in time.

While I’m at it, what about sprinklers that go out of whack, showering passing pedestrians (and hydrophobic cocker spaniels)? It’s bad enough all that water is missing its target and flowing to the gutter, but no one should need a snorkel to take their exercise stroll.

Am I getting through? I love gardens. I make my living designing, teaching, writing, and ranting about them. But your right to grow a garden ends at your property line. Any time you buy a shrub you intend to plant near public walkways or streets, it comes with a duty to know its potential size and either give it plenty of room to do its thing, or be conscious and considerate enough to keep it the hell out of everyone’s way. If that means giving up a few hours on the weekend, or increasing your gardener’s hours, bite the bullet.

If you’re as fed up as I am with this stuff, do as I do and rat out your neighbor. I don’t start by calling out the big guns. In the case of the errant rose bush, I left a note on their door (including my phone number – I’m straight up about it) and the next day I got an apologetic phone call and the rose was pruned. Encroachments into public right of way can usually be reported to the zoning division for your town.

But I’m making one exception. Around the corner from a friend’s house is a magnificent specimen of Australian Tea Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) slithering across the sidewalk in all its muscular glory. Although there’s no way around it, the City Arborist fought to have it preserved. So the thoughtful owners have constructed a stairway leading down to the street so neighbors can get around. I’m cool with that.

Billy’s garden design book, “Yards: Turn Any Outdoor Space Into the Garden of Your Dreams,” will be published March 2013. Visit his website,, for a preview and pre-ordering links.

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Billy Goodnick

“That was too much fun,” is a typical response to Billy Goodnick’s presentations and workshops, as is: “I thought there’d be a two-drink cover charge for the entertainment….and I learned a lot.”

As an award-winning designer who worked his way up from swinging a pick to landscape architect, his presentations are enriched by years of professional design practice combined earlier life as an entertainer.

Billy turns on his stand-up comic timing and rock drummer’s attitude to keep audiences attentive and smiling. He is adept at working “live” at nurseries and event centers surrounded by plants, dispensing core design principles in a presentation resembling a fast-paced improv session. But he’s also engaging in a more traditional setting, armed with eye-catching and often humorous slides to accompany his talks.

Billy has honed his mantra of “beautiful, useful, sustainable gardens” to homeowners, master gardeners, and college students for decades. He shows audiences how to design like pros while instilling a message of planet-friendly principles. There is a lot of useful information – but it’s wrapped in an upbeat, inventive delivery. This refreshing and unexpected approach has won him fans from his speaking engagements across the country. (More at

Born in Brooklyn, he was transplanted to LA at age eight, studied music, and became an in-demand Hollywood studio drummer. “As fate would have it, I stumbled upon the exquisite art of bonsai,” he reports. “I turned my life on a dime, dropped my drumsticks, and started a journey into the world of plants.”

For 22 years, he was the City Landscape Architect for scenic Santa Barbara. His horticultural career has also included nursery sales, as well as landscape maintenance and installation. He continues to provide customized design coaching along the Central Coast and was the winner of 2005 Santa Barbara Beautiful Awards for both residential and park projects, and awards from both the California State Architects Office and the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Fine Gardening Magazine features his column “Garden Workshop” and his blog “Cool Green Gardens.”  He also writes bi-weekly SoCal-centric posts for, and contributes to 805 Living Magazine, as well as freelancing for other publications.  Billy co-hosts Garden Wise Guys, a regional sustainable landscaping show that aspires, he says “to the sophistication of the Three Stooges,” and is a founding member of the Lawn Reform Coalition, a group helping gardeners rethink the siren song of the “perfect” lawn.  Billy Goodnick also still drums for Santa Barbara-based retro-rock band King Bee.

Billy’s in-the-works garden design book, Yards: Turn Any Outdoor Space Into the Garden of Your Dreams, will be released March 2013.

“Everyone can have a garden that’s beautiful, serves their needs, and treads lightly on the planet,” he says. “Sustainable landscape design is a serious subject, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a few laughs along the way.”


  1. I feel a bit squeamish now because several years ago I planted big-leaf Petasites in the back. I suspect that it now travels into my neighbor’s back area as well.
    Glad that you had the spirit to mention the problem to the rose grower.

  2. My mum planted two Arborvitae on either side of here driveway next to the street. Those cutsey loking plants grew into monsters and last year I took them out. What a chore that was. I don’t know why people plant those as statement trees at the end of the drive near the street. I see this practice many places and they are a road hazard especially there where there is a elementary school across the street and 3 times a day insane bumper to bumper rush hour because modern day kids don’t walk to school anymore, even IF it’s around the block.

    Very fun article and lots of great points, thanks

  3. I think often (though not always) the issue is that people see a cute plant in a nursery, and experience a kind of denial. They forget about a basic concept of plants: growth. An arborvitae or rose might look cute and manageable in a pot, and become a beast after a few years in-ground. I think this is a problem that could be addressed by better education. As you point out, Billy, the public should be more actively aware of those folks using sidewalks who have mobility issues. I think another type of education should happen at the nursery, whether it be signs clearly illustrating how large the plant can be expected to grow, or employees at nurseries/garden centers who chat with the customers about where they are going to plant something and how big it will get. Though employees who want to sell plants are often wary of approaching the subject, they should probably also attempt to instill the idea that plants will require some modicum of maintenance.

    • Liz: You’re spot on. Most nursery shoppers react on impulse to pretty flowers or foliage. A few read the label (some could be candidates for a science fiction writing award), and often, nursery employees are either ignorant of the real-life potential of a plant, or downplay it for fear of scaring off a sale. And factor in that plant sizes have so much variability depending on the cultural conditions; it’s not like you can exactly predict the height and spread.

      But if all the best intentions still lead to an overgrown, obnoxious plant, it’s still the owner’s responsibility to keep it from becoming a nuisance.

      • Good point, yes, it is hard to say precisely what size a plant is likely to achieve, there are so many limiting or augmenting factors.
        I think you’re right about homeowner responsibility. Though gardener-consumers should be able to trust the information offered by garden center employees, it is always a good policy, I think, to do your own research before shopping. As a former garden center employee, I know I didn’t always have exact answers to cultural questions, and as a gardener-consumer, I know that doing research before shopping can help curb impulse buys that don’t work out!
        Might I add that, living on a semi-rural street as I do, mostly without sidewalks, there exists a similar issue as on more urban/suburban streets, but with an added itchy, inflamed twist: poison ivy. I enjoy running in the neighborhood, and make an effort not to brush against vegetation creeping into or overhanging the verge, but I’ve still gotten bit by those leaves-of-three on more than one occasion; this is definitely a DPW issue as well as an issue of homeowner responsibility.

  4. Great rant! I’m guessing that a number of homeowners guilty of this go from the front door to the driveway or garage and never even use the sidewalk in front of their home.

  5. So, what yer saying is, just be thoughtful and build stairs / sidewalk AROUND the impediment? Shoot, I wish I had this problem. Here in new-suburbia hell, its lawns lawns lawns. No trees. No shrubs, No flowers. And if there are foundation plantings they are butt ugly degenerate Home Depot crapfests that will look even worse in a year or two when the feigned ambition of the homeowner fades back to just the gurgling lawnmower. Amen.

    • Neither house we have bought, first in Santa Cruz, next in Campbell, had much in the way of lawn, for which I was grateful.

      In the first, I was blessed with essentially a blank canvas, as little had been done short of almost-maintaining the backyard, and whatever invasive vining groundcover on the northside, not at all by the *owners*. Were the neighbors ever surprised when I took that awful stuff out and asked them what they’d like to see there, since they’d see more of it than we would. We also took up the “waterwise” crushed white rock in the front to find healthy soil underneath, and scattered rosebushes over it. At the curb and doorpath sides of the bed, lavendar was planted so that, should the city ever put in sidewalks, I wouldn’t lose something I valued. It only got the runoff from the drip from the roses in dry season, and it was soft, but no-one walked that close to the curb in the street.

      Up to Campbell. Place was planted with generica which could be dealt with by the mow/blow/go crew. Bleah. First to go were the troffula trees (aka yucca), then the privet and the landscape roses, to be replaced by Real Roses with names, and a hedge of lavenders and rosemaries.

      There is a lovely spruce that was planted in the late 50’s at the earliest. Underneath it, at the corner, is a street sign. One of MY bugaboos is not being able to see street signs–some on City/State property!–in order to know where I am. Thus, my gardeners have always been told to keep the skirt of the spruce ABOVE the sign…and the skirts of the other trees above van height.

    • “Butt ugly degenerate Home Depot crapfests.”

      What a beautiful adjectival phrase! I can replace “Home Depot” with Wal Mart, Lowes, or any other big box store name!

  6. Excellent rant! I have nothing to prune in my front yard, though the weeds by the curb might be upsetting the many dogwalking neighbors who pass by it several times a day. Currently there is a pile of bulk compost out there, but with our wide street (no sidewalks) it is easy to walk around. Ahem. However, I do need to move it before WINTER. I’ll get right on it.

  7. We’ve got a couple of trees in our hellstrip that we didn’t plant, we inherited, and they are on the city’s list of approved street trees. Hellstrip trees cannot under any circumstances be removed without entering into an expensive and lengthy dance with the city. When these trees bloom the branches become so heavy and they droop so low that it’s almost impossible to walk under them. To prune them would result in a sad tree with a “shuttlecock-like” appearance once it was done blooming, something that would surely draw your ire (and other tree lovers) almost as much as the bloom heavy branches. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t, I’m just thankful you aren’t my neighbor (and I’m sure you are too!). Thanks for letting me rant back…

    p.s. I do enjoy walking on sidewalks that have a bit of plant life encroaching. Much more enjoyable than a wide open lawn on the left, lawn on the right landing strip of cement.

  8. “it seems everywhere I look, somebody’s fuzzy bush is in my face”

    (I’m just saying)

    Seriously, though, great article. I laughed several times, and you are right on about this epidemic.

  9. I’ve recently started bicycle commuting again, and though I haven’t gotten a thorny branch in my face (yet), I have had to dodge sprinklers arching over sidewalks, overgrown ugly shrubs narrowing the sidewalk to barely a bike-width, and poorly placed dense overgrowth obstructing the view of driveways or roads.

    (Yes, sidewalks. The “bike paths” are white lines within which cars park, and to get out of range of opening doors, I’d have to ride in the middle of the traffic lane — which I do when no one is barreling down at 40mph on the 25mph roads. But all the studies of “bike paths are safer than sidewalks” from the 80s notwithstanding, a few too many big-butt suv/pickup hunks of metal whooshing past me only inches away, right on that white line, have moved me to prefer sidewalks, especially at night.) /end rant/

  10. I’m with Loree!!! Give me branches dripping lazily over fences, lavender spikes brushing against my knees, and ornamental grasses tickling me as I walk by. I am guilty of making my neighbors walk around some out of bounds growth (TOO guilty right now, actually – I really should get out there and do something about it!), but nobody seems to mind ducking every once in a while. I don’t think sidewalks are necessarily things to be honored to the extent that there should be no encroachment. One of the loveliest things about a garden is that is softens the edges (literally and metaphorically), and sometimes those plants get a little exuberant. Most people in my ‘hood have more issues negotiating the huge mountains of cracked sidewalk caused by the roots of the city-planted Platanus racemosa than they do with my Rosa ‘Mermaid’ peeking over the fence and trying to pull their hair.

    • Ivette: How ya doin’, sweet cheeks? I hope I didn’t create the impression that I’m insisting on a laser-like edge for gardens. It’s a matter of judgement and being neighborly. A little edge softening is delightful. But there’s a point where inconvenience and danger come into the equation, and that’s where I draw the somewhat curvy line.

  11. Oh, Billy ! You have hit one of my favorite nerves. My kids have stopped going on neighborhood walks with me because I’ve taken to carrying pruners with me. Some days it’s the only way I can get a reasonable distance down the sidewalk without being molested by plants! The overgrown roses & jasmine & juniper & photinia & bougainvillea all reach out to strangle or scratch. Trees are planted so close to the sidewalk I don’t think the homeowners have any concept of how the limbs will grow and become a pedestrian hazard, much less the local codes aimed at such street trees.

    There’s one sidewalk corner on a major thoroughfare that has fruit trees growing over the top of the sound wall. While I applaud the homeowner’s intent to grow his/her own fruit, I do wish they would pick up all of the produce that falls & rots on the sidewalk. No – I really wish they would trim their trees so that all that fruit wasn’t wasted. Or perhaps that the city would do it for them & send them the bill.

    Some people seem completely unaware that their sprinklers have become lawn geysers. Or that the drainage from their yards is so heavy & constant that there is an algae slick on the sidewalk just waiting to make unsuspecting walkers slip (been there, done that).

    These are just the residential issues. There is a retail development that has the same visibility issues at its entrance points as the private driveways you discuss. I’m just waiting for the day someone has a serious accident there due to having to nose their vehicle out into traffic before they can see what’s coming at them – that’s the only way the city will ever tell the owners to trim the hedges.

    • Laura: Glad to hear it’s just pruners you carry with you. I’m sometimes tempted to find a military surplus flame thrower. And good point about the algae. Me and my Crocs did almost take a serious fall a year or two back.

      • Well, the kids do joke about the likelihood of Mom taking to “sleepwalking” with a chainsaw to take out some of the worst offenders. So far I’ve resisted. Mostly because I lent my chainsaw out & haven’t seen it since.

  12. As a homeowner and gardener, I find it frustrating that I pay taxes on my property to the middle of the street but have no control over it. If someone is injured on the city’s right of way (Sidewalk, parking strip) it is I who bear the financial responsibility because, according to the city, the sidewalks around my corner lot were not installed by the municipality but put in by a “homeowner’s association” one hundred and ten years ago when my house was built. I didn’t know that there was such a thing in my wild west territory at that time. Further, when my sidewalks buckled, it was MY financial responsibility to replace them, not the city’s.

    I admire your note leaving and advice for others to not call in the big guns immediately. If the people who have complained about my garden would simply let me know, I would be happy to address their concerns. My beef is with the folks who call the city because my 1″ high ground cover, which can easily be wheeled or walked on has encroached on the sidewalk by 2″ because I forgot to trim it for a few weeks or with the couple who like to walk arm in arm and cannot because my hedge, which is always cut behind the line of the sidewalk, necessitates their having to drop arms for a few feet. The city has also received complaints that the plants in my parking strip are too high so that people cannot fully see the street as they’re walking down the sidewalk. Really? I’d prefer to see greenery than cars anytime. And the icing on this cake of frustration was when some new growth had obscured the “P” on the corner stop sign. Truly, you couldn’t have simply alerted me to this problem but felt it necessary to waste a code inspector’s time and my tax dollars to come out and see some leaves? Further, a big red sign that says “STO” on it doesn’t give you enough context clues to guess that you should probably slow down? Yikes! In addition, passersby on my sidewalks often lean in, break off branches which are NOT in the way and throw them on the sidewalk, steal armloads of flowers, and tromp on plants. I have another invitation to people like that: Keep your face out of my garden!

  13. I am, very fortunately, at the end of a long gravel drive, surrounded by woods, and so my only concession to anyone’s access is getting the drive regravelled occasionally and cutting back the tree limbs that might whack the UPS truck.

    While I certainly feel for anyone with limited mobility, I would rather have the sidewalk’s edges softened a bit myself. Overflowing roses and spilling petunias are awesome. Prune regularly, certainly–but a straight slash to the property line would be awfully ungraceful.

  14. That tea tree is gorgeous, but for people with mobility issues, steps are not a good solution. It needs to go.

    • Deirdre: I didn’t have the space in this article to touch on that point (nor did I want to have my last paragraph grind to a screeching halt) but thanks for the opening to respond. Though it is indeed a formidable barrier, this tree is on a very short block on a steep hillside where it’s unlikely someone with mobility problems would be traversing, unless they already live on that street. In that case, I’m guessing (only guessing, cuz I didn’t interview anyone but the guy across the street) that they’d use the very accessible, less sloped sidewalk on the other side of the street. Indeed, steps down the hellstrip to the street would not be accessible to them either, but in the long view, this seems to be the best outcome for a remarkable situation.

  15. My least favorite local obstacle is, sadly, not a violation. My neighbors up the street have a 4 ft hedge lining the north-facing sidewalk. In the winter they never shovel (not a violation because our street is designated a major thoroughfare with plowing) and the hedges shade the sidewalk. It creates a months-long ice slick in the winter and is incredibly thoughtless. I don’t believe they are mobility impaired but if they are, hire a kid for $5 for goodness sake!

  16. Preach on Brother!!! I couldn’t agree with you more. In my neighborhood we have all the obstacles you mention, but for some reason it’s the cars parked across the sidewalk that irk me the most. We have an abundance of street parking here, but people are just too damn fat and/or lazy to walk those extra 10 feet from the curb and would rather park at the end of their driveway, blocking the sidewalk.

  17. Sorry. I’ll go attack the “miniature” oleander once I’ve covered all body parts that could come in contact with its toxic sap, and once I’ve finally overcome it, I promise to thoroughly research plants before trusting another plant “expert.” (I really wanted to believe there are miniature oleanders.)

  18. I fantasize about carrying a light sabre and slashing overhanging branches, car butts, etc. to nothingness.

    You forgot to mention the hazard of kids toys left all over the public sidwalk.

  19. I’m six and a half feet tall. There’s a whole lot of vegetation I have to dodge or duck under that most folks don’t even notice. I’m fortunate that I haven’t put an eye out, but after awhile you don’t even have to think about navigating sidewalks with vegetation that hasn’t been pruned to my preferred clearance.

  20. Oh, love me a good let-it-rip rant! I was with you until I came to the picture f that glorious tea tree and thought, “oh, god, don’t touch that tree” and so glad you made an exception.

    Probably much of the problem is that too often we don’t bother to think about other people. Doing that would solve more than just encroaching vegetation.
    We don’t have a sidewalk here, so I can be sanctimonious!!

    • Debm: The neighbor told me that Santa Barbara’s city arborist actually stepped in to preserve the tree years ago. I think there was public testimony to support keeping the tree and neighbors were allowed to weigh in.

  21. Thanks for the rant, Billy! These sidewalk hazards make me crazy, but not as crazy as a resident in my last town. He (or who knows – maybe a she?) goes out in the dark of nite to hack back offending plants in one part of town, and over several years now, has gone uncaught. Drives people nuts – partly because he hacks with no thought to aesthetics. So if people want their sidewalk-covering plants to be pruned correctly, they have to do it themselves – like they should in the first place.

    And I’ll confess to having once taken addresses and turned them into the city authorities – because having plants over sidewalks is illegal. The town DID send out violation notices (actually warning notices) and that got results, but then people went back to letting their plants become hazards again. I just gave up.

  22. Great rant, Billy. I consider myself semi-guilty. Things are pretty wild at the moment in the front garden and on the hell strip.

  23. I am the proud owner or not one but two Cecile Brunners. They have been cut back to ground level twice in the last 10 years. All that did was increase their vigor. We have about 80 feet of sidewalk with a California “stockade” fence. I dispise graffiti and the animals that do it, hence the roses. I cut them back two or three times a year to be kind to foot trafic but they do their job.

  24. The worst offense I’ve seen like this was when a former neighbor thickly planted daylilies around a fire hydrant. For about a quarter of the year, you couldn’t see any sign of the hydrant. Real neighborly!

  25. We have become too antiseptic and expect all things to be neat and tidy and perfectly placed but nature isn’t like that.. I love walking and feeling the trees drop litter on me as I walk past. Scraping past overhanging shrubs is part of connecting with other living things. All power to the untidy and natural.

    • Tony: I hear ya, but I’m not asking for an aerial Agent Orange fly-over; just a “walk a mile in the other guy’s mocassins” (or roll a mile in their mobility scooter) and some common sense. You might enjoy scraping past shrubs, but walking the street in chain mail and a welder’s helmet isn’t practical or desirable for lots of folks, nor is carrying a backpack full of bandages and neosporin.

  26. Billy, I’m glad you live on the left coast, and not in my neck of the woods.

    I’m with Outlaw. Give me something attractive to enjoy. I’d rather brush up against a nice stand of rosemary encroaching the sidewalk than see another ugly fence slammed up against it.

    We have 240 feet of hellstrip surrounding our corner lot. About 80 feet of the sidewalk is encroached by a 70 year old hedgerow, that was planted just to the north of the sidewalk, by the original owner of the house. Needless to say, the hedgerow has grown south, and has the tendency to encroach quite a bit. We’ve done the “neighborly thing” and trimmed it back to within an inch of its life. Know what? It looks like [email protected], our entire backyard is now “exposed”, and the hedge still manages to encroach.

    Guess we need a light sabre to come to our rescue. Then we can put up 80 feet of 6 foot tall fence right next to the sidewalk. I’ll have to paint it black to go with all of the trelliswork in the yard. Yeah, that’d look gorgeous! You want intimidating? That would be ugly, intimidating, and blisteringly hot on a summer day.

    Most of our neighbors will take the hedgerow any day of the week. I had one neighbor tell me that she LIKES my encroaching hedgerow, because it forces her and her walking companion to walk single file, and actually enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of the garden. The other option is the other sidewalk on the other side of the (quiet) street.

    While you are on to pet peeves, I’ll share a few of my own:
    1) Pets: there is nothing quite as neighborly as someone thinking that all of that work we do to keep the hellstrip reasonably attractive MUST be an invitation to let their dog do its business right in the middle of it. Yes, I LOVE stepping in fresh dog poop first thing in the morning, as I’m getting into my car. Bravo, lazy pet owner! I like being late for work because you are an inconsiderate arse.
    2) Sidewalks: our city put ’em in, but does not feel the need to keep them repaired. I called the city sidewalk maintenance department two years ago to tell them that 13 sections of sidewalk around our hellstrip were broken. Not cracked…broken. More than half of one of them is gone. Most of them are tripping hazards. Still. Meanwhile, they are adding new sidewalks all over town.
    3) City maintenance: I have a couple hundred pictures of the city having overgrown vegetation over sidewalks on city property. In a couple of pictures, the sidewalks are completely impassable. And the streets are being taken over with weeds. This is who we want policing our neighborhood sidewalks and streets? I think not.

    Enjoy brushing your shoulder against the fence. I’m staying over here with the hedgerow.

  27. My husband spent some time in India, where driving on the “sidewalk” (chunks of broken concrete and rubble) is common (no, that’s not a joke) and you must be prepared to jump out of the way to save your life. Disabled people must drag themselves along on pieces of cardboard, and also be prepared to get out of the way as best they can.

    A branch in the way? Sprinkler spray? We Americans are so lucky.

  28. While I understand and share your frustration, I also wonder about your exception. Your friend who uses a wheelchair and the people with disabilities to whom I’ve dedicated the last 25 years of my professional life could not use the steps so they should just use the other side of the street? If that is the case than perhaps an able bodied person, seeing an errant sprinkler or rose cane could simply walk around.

  29. How refreshing to read so many different sides to an issue. I wish Congress could discuss issues as civilly. I personally have a lot of plants, wild ones at times, but no sidewalk. I do walk on sidewalks often though. I will continue to walk with my eyes open and my mind focused. I will think of you all and this rant whenever a branch has to be walked around. I love the soft edges, the interesting plants, and the change of scenery that sometimes pops up. I agree with Hoov, we Americans are so lucky. Thanks for the rant, Billy. And I love Santa Barbara.

  30. Well thats great. So glad to hear you don’t hesitate to notify the government officals when you have trouble with a stray branch. You’d fit in great in a communist country.

    Have you ever considered offering to help the homeowner prune? Have you ever considered they might be disabled and unable to do yard work? I suppose that level of charity has never occured to you. Typical liberal.

    • CM: Liberal, eh? Not sure how you made that leap from this article — must be the red commie background of my personal photo. But I’ll have you know I voted for Atila the Hun, was a cabinet member in Mussolini’s government, belong to the local pre-school militia, and I own a high caliber, telescopic sight squirt gun with a 30-shot clip. If that isn’t reactionary enough for you, I don’t know how to help you.

  31. CM, your opinion is welcome. Your nastiness and name calling is regrettable and sad.

    If it is possible to remove CM’s response, I hope it’s done. It ruined what was a good dialogue until then.

  32. I can’t believe I actually read through that entire thing. Listening to you cry like a little girl for the whole article was just awful. I’d much rather take a bougainvillea to the eye than read anymore of your sanctimonious whining any day.

  33. I’ve been blogging ( ) about how to keep from injuring myself in the garden, and a lot of it is about keeping pathways wide enough to accommodate myself, my walker/rollator, my tools. And yes, to look up as well as down when building and planting. Your rant is even more important, since it is the hapless passer-by who suffers, not even in someone’s garden! Living in California where anything grows makes for even greater risks! Thanks for taking time to help us see ourselves and chuckle (and maybe even fix hazards)!

  34. Shenandoah: I’m just putting the finishing touches on an article for my Fine Gardening Magazine column about designing gardens using the principles of Universal Design, making them accessible, safe, and comfortable for an aging population and for gardeners with disabilities. Not sure which month it will be in, but you might keep an eye out for it or track me down. Would loved to have had you as a resource while I was writing it, but now my editor is slashing and gashing the final copy and no time to rework it.

    Be well … garden safely.

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