By law officers are reported to be tearing out naturalized gardens they once said were in compliance.

News 100 greenBy Doreen Nicoll

September 9th,2019


Part 1 of a 2 part story.

August 15th, I published an article about Antheia, a long-time homeowner in Burlington who has been maintaining a naturalized area in her front yard since 2015. The City of Burlington has repeatedly told Antheia she is in violation of City by-laws despite the by-laws allowing for naturalized areas. According to Antheia, “Every year they mischaracterize my naturalized area as a lawn and demand that I cut everything down to less than 8 inches/20 centimetres or they will come and do it themselves and charge me.”

After discussions with the by-Law supervisor in July 2019, Antheia was assured her property was being maintained as a naturalized area and was in fact in compliance. One month later, after allegedly receiving many complaints from neighbours, the City sent Antheia a letter demanding she cut everything – all the same plants that were in her yard when the City deemed it in compliance – to less than 8 inches/20 centimetres. She had until August 20th to comply.

On August 16th while Antheia was exploring options to save her plants, the City cut six feet of her naturalized garden to less than an inch/2.5 cm in height. No plants were spared and the devastated milkweed were carted away to be composted undoubtably with Monarch eggs or caterpillars clinging to leaves and stalks.

August 18th, I published the story of Paul Raun and his garden. Three-quarters of Raun’s front yard has been naturalized and is home to over 23 kinds of wildflowers, 12 types of shrubs and vines, three varieties of wild grasses, a sycamore and a redbud tree.

GARDEN Paul Raun

Paul Raun’s garden. Has been told it is in compliance – worried that it will be torn up nevertheless.

Raun purchased his wildflowers from reputable, and qualified, nurseries who specialise in indigenous plants. But, on August 14th, Raun received notice that he was in violation of By-Law 59-2018 which states grass and ground cover must be cut to a height less than eight inches or 20 cm. He had seven days to comply.

Raun made many attempts to speak with the by-law officer, but finally heard from her the day after the article went online. Arrangements were made for two by-law officers to attend Raun’s garden on August 21st to confirm which plants constituted weeds under the by-law.

After learning about what happened to Antheia’s garden Raun took two days off work to keep an eye on his plants.

Not surprisingly, not one of Raun’s plants was considered a weed.

The by-law officers did voice concerns over a vine growing along the side of the yard and some cypress trees growing along the property line. Both the vine and the cypress trees belonged to Paul’s neighbour. No action was taken regarding these two violations.

In his backyard, Raun was asked to move rose bush and tree trimmings further away from his house and to cover them with soil. He complied with this request. According to Raun, “With respect to the wood pile, it consists of branches from a dead rose bush that had grown along the side of our back deck as well as low-hanging branches that I trimmed off a redbud tree. The by-law officer suggested that I bury it just in case a neighbour complained about it.”

Raun says, “With respect to the discrepancy between the original order and the subsequent positive evaluation that by-law officers Ibrahim and Natalie gave our native plants garden, it may have had to do with Natalie’s lack of knowledge about plants.”
“With respect to the need for a more detailed bylaw related to naturalised gardens, it is crucial to spell out the grounds on which one could have a wood pile consisting of cut branches and how far away it would have to be away from neighbouring dwellings, in addressing the issue of harbouring creatures at odds with the interior of one’s dwelling.”

Raun also believes, “With further respect, the rule for a two-feet buffer along property boundaries needs refining to consider a variety of potential scenarios. The officers raised no complaint about the wild grapevine growing along our southern fence along with wildflowers and wild prairie grasses spreading right up to it without a two-foot buffer. Why is it acceptable to have a fence running along a property line but not a row of shrubs to which any wild-flowers or tall grasses can run up, albeit kept a tiny bit back?”

Both these situations, and many more across the city, are prime examples of the current by-law being used by neighbours to harass and bully individuals embracing ecological landscaping into complying with the untenable and unsustainable grass monoculture sprinkled with a few continuously flowering hybrid mainstays that still permeates the conservative, eco-unfriendly city of Burlington, Ontario.

Doreen Nicol - Raise the HammerDoreen Nicoll is a Burlington resident who is, if anything, outspoken.  She is a feminist, an environmentalist, a free lance writer, teacher and social activist  and member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.


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2 comments to By law officers are reported to be tearing out naturalized gardens they once said were in compliance.

  • Eve St Clair

    Awesome job by City of Burlington by law who are just enforcing the by law mandated by Council. Want a naturalized yard then contain it to your rear yard. I am not a fan of this and imagine if every homeowner grew natural plants etc on their front yard. Streetscapes would look run down

  • Susan Cooley

    I love the natural beauty of these lawns. We interfere too much with nature as it is. Too many people don’t realize the importance of insects to the environment. Shame on the city for thinking that every lawn should conform to their so called standards.