Planting in a perilous location

christinmk z5b eastern WAJanuary 25, 2013

No, I don't mean planting on a mountain slope or precipice ;-) I'm curious to know how many of you plant gardens in your front yard that are in jeopardy of being destroyed to some degree by vandals?

Yes, I am aware it has a lot to do with where you live, what the neighborhood is like, etc, etc, etc. But overall, has planting a garden where it could possibly be in the line of public fire been "worth" it to you? Have you had many bad experiences, and if so did you have to rethink the way you gardened in that location (or maybe discontinue altogether in that spot)?

There is one available location left for planting space here. It is out front by the public sidewalk. I debate over whether or not it is suitable for planting anything, partly because it is so dreadfully blistering hot in summer and partly because of the threat it might be molested, lol. I can't help wondering if I would regret doing a garden out there if many "incidents" occurred. I've had a few such events in the past, where someone ripped up zucchini plants in the old back veggie garden, and then someone smashed their way over the fence to harvest the rhubarb for me (I got some evil satisfaction knowing the stalks were old, so they had one stringy as hell pie ;-))

So, is it worth it to you to garden with the fact that it might be demolished by pranksters or downright nasty folks?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hostaholic2 z 4, MN

I don't have a personal garden along a street but I help to plant and maintain 3 gardens that are in public areas. One is in front of the Post Office, part of that one is right along a sidewalk, one is a large bed at the county fairgrounds, and the other is a boulevard garden by the high school. The worst we've experienced is cigarette butts in the Post Office bed and found a condom while weeding the bed near the high school.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 11:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
aachenelf z5 Mpls

My entire yard is garden, so I know the difficult decision you face. Over the years the most damage to my plantings has occurred in the front yard where people are walking by more frequently, but it still hasn't stopped me from doing it.

I have learned a few lessons however to minimize the damage. For me - in my situation in the city - and after years of observation, the following have proved to be mostly true:

Know your neighborhood - who lives there, the age groups, the amount of street traffic. Very young children have proved to be the worst offenders in my case. Not because they are horrid creatures (I'm being diplomatic here) , but because they don't know how to "properly steal" an occasional flower or two. Instead of simply picking the flowers, they tend to yank the entire plant out of the ground if it can easily be uprooted. Avoid annuals which are easily uprooted.

Avoid early season blooms - like spring bulbs etc. These seem to be automatic targets. My theory is that after a long winter, kids and adults are so starved for green life with blooms they go nuts when they see it and it becomes a target. I've always had the most damage to the early blooming stuff. Tulips for instance, would be picked almost immediately - especially the really bright colors. Later in the season, not so much.

The more you're outside in your garden, the more people see you out there, the less damage especially from the kids and especially if you interact with them when you're out there.

Know yourself. If you're a person who gets really, really upset by damage to your plants, it might be best to avoid putting yourself in that situation. If you can tolerate it without your blood pressure going through the roof and can take a few years to evaluate what works and what doesn't, it might be worth the effort.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 6:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

CMK, as I mentioned in another thread over the past 3 years I have, without permission, created a perennial garden in a public park. It is quite a large plot...larger than any individual garden on my "real" property. This park attracts goofy teenagers in the evenings in the summer, dog walkers all the time and there are soccer games on the adjacent field and yet in this time there has been minimal damage by humans (in fact the deer have caused more trouble). Now I am sure bad stuff will happen but I have had so much fun creating this space that it still will have been worth the effort. Now given that the space in question for you is on your property I unreservedly say go for it CMK.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 6:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

'CMK' and now I recall one of our own GW members scottyboipdx has described in detail the creating of a similar space. See his blog here:

Here is a link that might be useful: garden expansion

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 7:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I've had a front garden for over 20 years. It is the only place on our property that has full sun. I've never had any incidents in all that time. We do know our neighbors and live on a dead end street which is not near a public area, so I guess that makes a difference. We do have one neighbor who has a lot of children and as they grew up into teens, we did have a lot of parked cars in front of our house and cigarette butts, but that's it. In the pat three years, I've added a few tomato and pepper plants to the perennial bed on the house side of the bed, which have really been hidden from the street side, and I haven't seen any missing.

I guess if I were in your position, where you have already had some problems, I would still attempt a garden in the front, if you are looking to expand, but I would start small as an experiment and I would try plants that would be less interesting to people passing by. I'd avoid anything edible, or an expensive plant, or roses they would be tempted to pick, etc.

It's pretty sad that you have to think about this at all.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 7:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Hey Christin, do deer count as vandals?

I'm at the end of a quiet dead end, so I'm fortunate that hardly anyone ever even ventures up the street, let alone does any damage to the garden.

I can send you a huge batch of all different color daylilies. If you want, you can start with those and see how they fare with the neighborhood hoodlums. At least if you lost them you wouldn't feel so bad.

I guess that's my point overall. Perhaps start by planting some plants that you wouldn't miss if someone stole, trampled, etc. There's a nice hell-strip near me that is planted with spiraea, daylily and a few grasses. It's very pretty and those are plants that can take a beating and still look fairly good and you may not be too upset losing them. But I know you, and you like to have more interesting gardens with really cool plants and creativity. But, probably not the best idea for that area.

Rouge, I'll have to find your other thread. I haven't been on GW too much lately reading all the posts. The fact that you took over a public area for gardens very much intrigues me!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 8:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

'thyme' I try to keep it on the 'hush hush' re the illegal garden. I would imagine at some point someone will complain and the city will be forced to take action. But I am just hoping this event will occur (much) later rather than sooner.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 10:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

We have a large front garden - it's the only full-sun area of the yard. There are no sidewalks here and there is a fairly large ditch between the garden and the road. This is also a nice neighbourhood where vandalism is not what one would expect. However we are also near a local highschool so there are lots of teens coming and going at times. Still, we were surprised in April 2006 to find the top (seat) of the concrete bench in the front garden in this state at the side of the road:

What it looked like the previous June:

Fortunately, it was inexpensive to replace the top and, this time, we cemented the top to the legs, making it considerably more difficult for someone to be able to pick it up! The legs of the iron arbour are set in concrete below ground; the two short tuteurs flanking the bench are heavy and pinned in place with heavy iron pins driven into the ground. A later addition of a taller iron tuteur is also set in concrete. The brass sundial is screwed and cemented to a decorative stone pillar which is cemented to a wide stone base - which is buried under the soil. (If someone tried to pick up the sundial they'd have to pick themselves up too because they'd be standing on the stone support without beang aware of it!)

The ditch pretty much eliminates the flower-picking problem. The front garden at our previous house did run along a sidewalk and little kids did sometimes pick the flowers, particularly bright red or bright yellow ones. Kevin's advice above is good. It never bothered me when kids picked some flowers. Just don't put easily-damaged ones there.

Go for it....!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I've never had any problem (yet), but I've always lived in subdivisions. Where I'm at now there are no sidewalks, which probably helps - most folks aren't that ballsy to walk up the driveway onto the property to pick a few flowers.

If you're worried, I wouldn't put anything valuable out there (e.g. statuary that is easily lifted, expensive plants), and probably the best thing for a sidewalk planting is a floriferous inexpensive planting such as a mass of zinnias or vinca or whatever - you won't miss a few if they're picked or get stepped on if there's a sea of flowers, and planting from seed or even a flat or two of them won't cost too much money.

Kevin- I remember when I was a little kid (maybe 5 or 6) going down the street one evening and picking flowers to bring home to my mom - I particularly remember picking the fuzzy red brains from the lady across the street's yard - my mom had that forced, horrified smile on her face when I so proudly presented that bouquet to her! I don't know if she went over there the next day and apologized but knowing her she did - and since not many people had (or have) fuzzy red brains in their flower patch, she must have known whose house I hit...

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 10:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
aachenelf z5 Mpls

mxk - In a way, I wouldn't mind as much if kids picked flowers to take home, but with the kids around here they just pick them and throw them on the ground. It's very pointless and mind-numbingly frustrating, but what can one do? I try not to think about it.

Many years ago when I planted my Rose William Baffin, I decided to put it right on the corner in my front yard. The public sidewalk is inches away. The thought was - no one in their right mind is going to mess with that plant. The thorns are deadly even the ones right next to the blossoms. I don't go near the plant without leather gloves. Well, every year when it blooms the sidewalk is littered with rose blossoms plucked off the lower branches. I have no idea how these kids do it. Or if they do it once, why they do it again. My fingers would be a painful mess.

On a more positive note, my zinnia Blvd. garden was an experiment started a couple of years ago. The city took out a huge elm and since the grass was completely destroyed I decided to try planting flowers instead. Since the expense was no more than the cost of a packet of seeds, I thought it might be worth the effort. It was.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find people really left it alone for the majority of the spring and summer even though it was completely unprotected and very vulnerable. I'm sure a few flowers were picked, but I never missed them because there were so many.

However, the situation did change somewhat come Sept. when school started. Because there is a school bus stop on the corner, there were lots and lots of kids walking past it every day. That's when the yanking started to occur. I would find entire plants wilting on the sidewalk, but because it was so late in the season, I didn't let it bother me that much. For the peak months of summer, the garden was fine.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 2:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
katob Z6ish, NE Pa

It's always dissapointing to hear about damage like a broken bench and other vandalism. I'll second that kids are the most likely culprits, I know mine are tough on a lot of the smaller plants..... but teenagers should know better.

Here we have no problems, but my parents live on a busier street and run into more trouble. Some stolen items have been planters with contents, recently planted annuals-perennials-even a small azalea, bike, garden tools, and believe it or not a sprinkler. The spinkler was shut off, unscrewed and poof, gone.
One December night I remember going outside and finding strands of christmas lights stretched from the shrubs all the way down to the street. Either they couldn't find the plugs to disconnect or we interupted them as they were running to the car lights in hand.

Don't feel too bad, we were once teenagers too. Several mornings we would wake up to find various real estate signs and or small plastic animals or flamingos grazing across the front lawn.... courtesy of my friends.

I like to think what we did even if missguided was a little different than outright damage for the sake of damage and stealing for the sake of not paying for something yourself, but I'm sure others will dissagree.

I still think it's aways worth it to open up all and any gardening areas, even if it's a risky spot.... just plant appropriately... and keep what Kevin said in mind: if you're the type who goes nuts if something's touched, keep that somewhere safer and save yourself the aggravation. I also think I'd pick vandals over deer any day....

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 2:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wish you well with your planting. I have planted a strip between our fence and the road at our trailer. It was not very wide as it was a road in the park. Everyone on their walks loved it and made many positive comments, but about three years ago a new family with small children bought down the road from us and their idea of being at the trailer was to give their kids(young--maybe sixish) butterfly nets and let them run wild in the park. They decided that my garden--planted mostly with butterfly attractors like butterfly bushes, phlox and bee balm was the place they could have the most fun, Nothing could stop the kids who were extremely rude and mouthy for such young ones. :-( I tried everything, but with no support from their parents, it was useless. It broke my heart to see the wounded and dead monarchs or somtimes just a wing, all over the road, along with all the snapped off flowers, petals and branches whenever I arrived. I dug out every plant at the end of the season and now it is a bare strip with some scraggly grass.

A note on planting in a public area.....I personally love the idea, but our poor neighbours on the other side of our street at home put a good amount of money and effort into making a lovely garden area on the other side of their backyard fence (which is on a green space). It was really nice. Someone walking through the area one day complained to the city and they were given a short time to remove everything and put it back to the way it was---mostly dried out grass! sad!!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 3:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

I have been gardening in my front yard for many years without any damage from passerbys. Our street is part of a one mile walk around the neighborhood pond. When I am working in the front gardens I offer children a flower of their choosing which I cut or allow them to cut with my clipper. They soon become my friends and stop to chat and choose a flower and/ or help me in my gardens.

Unfortunately large groups of kids encourage kids to act in ways they might not otherwise. It saddens me to see flowers picked and thrown on the ground or items destroyed or stolen.

Mxk3' what are fuzzy red brains?

Nice zinnia beds, Kevin.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 4:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
christinmk z5b eastern WA

That is too bad for all of you that have had damage done, I feel your pain.

-Kevin, great advice. That is what I have been trying to decide, if I could handle a lot of damage if it were to take place. LOL!! Well, at least I have meds that are supposed to do something for blood pressue ;-)

-woody, love that pic. Not sure I have seen that part of your garden before...

-Doug, Scotty's blog is great, I pop over there from time to time for the great pics.

-Susan, lol. You do know me well ;-) You are right, probably not the best situation for $$ or special plants.
Deer do count as vandals... The only difference is that the authorities wouldn't have a problem if you "took care" of them, they might take issue if you did that to a two-legged flower destroyer!!! Sweet of you to offer daylilies!

-graylady, how is that even possible?? What fool would complain about flowers?! Some idiot or crusty old badger. I would have fought the city on that one for sure!

It is too bad the area is so hot n' dry, that would really be the perfect spot for that 'poison garden' I have always wanted to make ;-] If I were to do the bed, a cool, tough shrub or two would be great. Maybe some Delosperma, a variegated yucca, ornamental grass, and a select few perennials would work. Now the question is, will I feel like doing it come spring, LOL.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 5:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

christinmk, they did try to fight it...even made it to the news, but the city held firm and threatened to fine them. They were just a nice older couple.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 7:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Great photo Kevin! We have a similar strip like you have shown but I would need to be careful in selecting plants for this location as I have enough trouble keeping up with watering of my existing gardens...the last two summers have been brutal in this respect.

'greylady', I will be very disappointed if "my" garden in the public park is officially deemed illegal. But it has been uncontested for 3 full summers....maybe 'squatters' rights soon? :)

This post was edited by rouge21 on Sat, Jan 26, 13 at 21:21

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 9:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Celosia a.k.a. fuzzy brains

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 10:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ontnative(5b Can/USDA 4)

Don't abandon gardening in front of your house, just because of perceived problems. Check out this website, as well as many others on the net to give you some good tips. The key to front yard gardening, including boulevard planting, is choosing the right plants. Don't plant anything expensive (at least in the beginning) until you see what sort of damage you might get. To discourage people picking the flowers, make them less tempting. Plant some grasses, low sedums, low bulbs such as crocus, etc. I have good luck with daylilies, narcissus, and many, many other plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: boulevard gardens

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 10:31AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
true pink or purple oriental poppies
Hi, I've tried to grow pink and purple oriental poppies...
Im looking for rare edible perennials for zone 5
I want things that require vary little work and do...
PSA: Please set up messaging feature in your profile!
Not sure if you guys are aware you are able to do this....
flowers of Doc.Martin TV show
I am trying to ID the flowers on the side of the road...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™