Guest rant from Transatlantic Plantsman Graham Rice.
And I thought Americans preferred their government, from federal to local, to leave them alone, let them to get on with their lives and not interfere… Well, it turns out that for many people in private communities—a very widespread situation here in the US and not restricted to a few affluent areas as it is in Britain—there are some pretty amazing rules about what you can and cannot plant in your garden.
For example, the community of Beverly Oaks, near Dallas, Texas, (96 homes) lays down which plants you can plant in your front yard. The list is known as the “Approved Exterior Plant Selection.” There are six plants
on the list. No no, not six hundred. Six. “Shrub species will be limited to those already in use in the community”, their website explains. The six approved plants are, in their language: Fraser Photinia, Red Tip; Dwarf Burford
Holly; Glossy Abelia; Nandina Compact; Japanese Boxwood; Variegated Pittosporum (Orange); Italian Cypress. The photos (click to enlarge) show typical homes. Doesn’t the landscaping just fill your heart with joy? And not much market for a garden writer there.
And get this. The website also directs: “Flowers may be displayed, but must be maintained in pots or planters.” You’re not even allowed to plant a penstemon or a phlox or a gazania—in the ground, in real soil!
Here’s the key to their philosophy: “Unplanned diversity in a community typically ages the look of the community, and lowers the values of the real estate.” They want all the houses to look the same. “The current focus of architectural coordination is on unifying the roof colors and the garage door design, and lighting accessories… there are now… 3 garage door patterns randomly scattered throughout the community”. Three! What an outrage!
Their website seems to have more pages than there are houses in their community.
At Belcorte (79 homes), in north east Tucson, Arizona, they’re less strict. Their “Schedule of Approved Plants for Front Yards” allows sixty two different plants although some, like Variegated Pittosporum, are mysteriously restricted to east and north walls. I notice that Euryops is allowed but not Argyranthemum, pansies and petunias are OK but not pelargoniums…
Belcorte also lists of the types of decorative rocks which are allowed, eleven kinds are permitted including four specific types of “decomposed granite”. “No rocks larger than 3in in diameter except for accent (large) rocks”.
Sorry, I can’t go on. I started looking up other communities around the country but once I discovered that the approved plant lists of some communities apply to the back yard as well as the front I had to stop. OK, I know some of this is to do with choosing drought tolerant plants in the dry south, and plants that fit into the surrounding natural landscape. What is wrong with these people who allow me to plant Mexican gold poppy (Eschscholzia mexicana) anywhere on my property but only allow California poppy (E. californica) in pots in the front yard and not at all in the back?!
What we need is a revolution. What, we’ve had one already? Time for another.