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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

FINE WEED LAWNS

Air Date: Week of July 18, 1997

What if one day you received a letter from your town telling you that your neighbors had complained about the plants in your front yard, and you had ten days to get rid of them or be fined? As commentator Andy Wasowski tells us, this is happening a lot, as thousands of people across the country are going more natural in their front yard landscapes. Andy Wasowski is a freelance writer and garden photographer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Transcript

CURWOOD: What if one day you received a letter from your town telling you that your neighbors have complained about the plants in your front yard, and you had 10 days to get rid of them or be fined? Now, that's not a nightmare dreamed up by Franz Kafka. As commentator Andy Wasowski tells us, this is happening a lot, as thousands of folks around the country are going more natural in their front yard landscapes.

WASOWSKI: Not too long ago, Tulsa resident Evelyn Connors, an 82-year-old widow and avid gardener, got an official citation in the mail stating that she'd violated that city's weed laws. Seems a neighbor thought the native purple cone flowers she'd planted along the street were weeds, and complained. Well, Tulsa soon learned that they'd picked on the wrong 82-year-old widow. Evelyn called the local paper and the next day she was front page news. Local TV stations and DJs jumped on the story, all supporting her right to garden as the darn well pleased.

Soon Evelyn's story was getting national coverage and her mailbox was stuffed with hundreds of letters of support from all over the country. In the end, the mayor came out to her home, apologized, and rescinded the ordinance.

Weed laws exist all over the nation, and they basically serve a good purpose. They make sure slovenly neighbors don't let their yards get overgrown and trashy. The problem arises when municipalities and other home owners can't see the difference between an unkempt yard and a naturalistic landscape that attempts to be environmentally correct. Neighbors see plants they're not familiar with, so they assume they're weeds. What they're seeing in most cases is healthy native plants growing in harmony with their surroundings. These neighbors also freak out and think the area will soon be infested with vermin, which is nonsense. Vermin live in garbage, not healthy habitats. In fact, every objection to naturalistic landscapes the critics raise have been proven time and again to be without merit.

The problem is simply one of ignorance and misconceptions. The critics are out of touch with nature and just don't understand the many benefits of naturalistic landscapes, such as water conservation, elimination of toxic chemicals, and creation of wildlife sanctuaries, to name a few. Naturalistic landscapes also look very different from conventional landscapes, so of course that makes them highly suspect. The thing is, if we can accept the right of home owners to have plastic sunflowers, pink flamingos, and concrete bunny rabbits on their lawns, we should also recognize the right of other home owners to have environmentally friendly, natural landscapes that are both attractive and beneficial.

CURWOOD: Andy Wasowski is a freelance writer and garden photographer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

 

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