Friday, April 16, 2010

Gardens Are Not Absolute, Neither Is Liberty To Do So

Yesterday I was watering the plants -you know, the heat. My landlord comes ambling by and wonders aloud about my "activity" in the side yard. He rounds the corner, complains heartily about the "third" tree the city has cut the sidewalk for, after all two are enough he says. (Read, my telephone poles go here and that third tree is in the way).

He then says he wants to pull the stump out from the side yard. I say, just leave it because it will pull up my whole patio. He says it won't, I say it will. Now it's never a good idea to get argumentative with one's landlord. I took the liberty of planning the space without going to him first, but then I already had a garden on the side. But then he says this: I want to plant a tree right there, about where your path meets the patio. It's YOUR YARD I say.

Thanks. Thanks for mentioning this three weeks ago, before I did the work, before I got excited, before the neighbors complimented the gardening, before we planted the annual seeds, before I transplanted the perennials, before anything.

He lives 6 houses away. In his yard he parks a car and more telephone poles, the rest concrete. So why on earth does he want to plant a tree in this small side yard? Especially since three is too many in front of the building. To show me who's the owner? To mask, rather poorly, his deteriorating building? Why plant a tree 4 feet from a building? There's no good reason.

Honestly, this has always been my experience with landlords. They really don't want you personalizing their spaces because they see it as added work or cost for themselves.

  • Landlord in Williamsburg Brooklyn, circa 1994: "get those tomato plants off my roof!"
  • Landlord in Portland, Oregon, circa 1995: "You must rip out this garden before you vacate"
  • Landlord in San Miguel, NM: actually my neighbor always complained to him about the garden, and I had to hear about it.
  • Current landlord, "You can do it as long as I don't have to take care of it."
So I asked him, testily, what kind of tree he was thinking about. He doesn't know, whatever Larry at the nursery thinks. I'm thinking of seeing Larry first.


  1. Larry knows that trees are a nightmare for landlords. Larry knows that tree roots seek water, and pipes, and heave them up; and that branches drop in snow and wind and hurt people, which usually leads to lawsuits. Larry also knows that patios are attractive to prospective tenants and keep yards free of expensive, problem-causing trees.

    I am beginning to see my landlord in a better light.

  2. You are so right.
    And Larry knows who shops regularly at his nursery.

    And who never plants a thing.

    Larry, see you on Sunday.

  3. The super of my building is letting my husband and I use half of his garden. It has gone over well enough that some of the other tenants have given me seeds to put back there. The back neighbor actually cheered. Previously the area was used for dumping! I do wonder what the landlord will say when he finds out. Especially since wwe called the city to force him to fix the roof.

  4. I wonder too. Some are cool though, I am sure. Mine has generally left me alone.

  5. I can't believe anyone would refuse your beautifying their space - these landlords should be thanking you. great post!!


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