Cited for a code violation: A gardener’s badge of honor


You know you’ve REALLY succeeded as a gardener when you receive a citation that you’re violating local code ordinances. I’m not kidding.

Think about it: Being cited for your plants’ thriving SO well that they’re enthusiastically spilling their abundance of flowers and foliage onto the sidewalks or into the view of drivers trying to pull out into traffic is a merit badge certifying “Damn, you’re getting good at this.”

I did not at first understand this. The first time I was cited, in Lexington, for planting obstructing the sidewalk or some such, I freaked out. If stuff I’d planted was in somebody’s way, why didn’t he — if he was terrified of meeting the ogress who’d planted such monstrous, thorny, fragrant-flower-bearing brambles — why did he not just leave a note on my porch? It was only ten steps from the sidewalk.

I looked at my neighbors suspiciously, trying to guess who might have dropped a dime on me to the local code enforcement officers.

Also, remembering how Grandma, in her eighties, with her three artificial hips [one replaced in one of the earliest hip replacement operations I knew about, then later the other hip replaced as well, then the first replacement revised and the eroded bone built back up using her own bone and epoxy so that her legs were once again the same length] used to walk three miles a day using a rolling cart for stability, the LAST thing I wanted to do was to block somebody else’s grandma from using the sidewalk.

Bob, on the other hand, was delighted and entertained. He explained to me how the citation was a merit badge, how some people can’t stand to see anything enthusiastically overflowing beyond the boundaries of its box, how anybody who would call the city rather than talk to us or leave a note on our door, was a little — did not share our value of life and health and rampant enthusiasm, let us say, anyway.


In that case. . . .

So when my neighbor and gardening role model [and writer about the cultures of growing things — check out her book, Row by Row] Kate Black was cited by code enforcement for “flowers spilling over the sidewalk”!!! It’s almost poetic, and she was having the same paranoia attack I had had the first time I was cited, I could explain to her what that actually meant.

I’m proud to say I’ve been cited several times since then, both for my Lexington and my Frankfort gardens. (All the code enforcement officers I’ve ever spoken with in both places are absolutely the nicest people, BTW. Many of them are gardeners whom I’ve had great conversations with).  The big rose in the photo here, an old spring bloomer common in this area, was the object of my most recent citation badge of honor. It’s near a street corner. Apparently, for the month it was blooming, drivers in the neighborhood had to slowly inch up beyond it to check for oncoming traffic before they pulled onto the cross street. After going to the trouble of coming to a halt at the stop sign.

Heinous. No civilized society should require this amount of effort on the part of folks directing a two-ton projectile on a public thoroughfare. (*Snif!* of hauteur at the infamy).


Kate’s garden has inspired me for many years now.

Here’s an article on Kate from the Lexington Herald-Leader:



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2 Responses to Cited for a code violation: A gardener’s badge of honor

  1. featherheart says:


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