Petal Pushers

As I have noted repeatedly, ad nauseum, my yard, when we moved into this house, was a disaster. When we came to see the house with our real estate agent, we pulled up at the front sidewalk and could not see the house itself from the street. It looked like a city-scaled lot in a Jurassic rain forest. When we made our way to the front door and inside the house, we had to immediately turn all of the lights on because although it was the middle of the day, no sunlight was able to make it into the house because the flora in our yard was covering all of the windows. I shit you not, it was like our house was inside frickin’ Jumanji.

Despite this, we loved the house and the neighborhood, and so we were those people that buys the eyesore house on the otherwise super cute street and started to rehab the shit out of it.

The first weekends we were there, we called up all of our homies to come over with their chainsaws, machetes, and weedwackers (that’s right, I said machetes, effers) to try and unearth the house from under all the green. It was an epic battle that yielded over TWO HUNDRED yard waste bags full. We had to get a U-Haul truck with which to cart it all away. And when we started doing this, we were the neighborhood heroes. The neighbors came from up and down our street to say what a great job we were doing, and how they were so glad someone was saving this house, and la la unicorns and rainbows. We felt downright beloved.

Well, now it’s been a few years since all of that acclaim, and our front yard looks halfway decent. It’s got pretty flowers, and it frames the front of our house nicely, and we keep our walkway swept and purty. One of the lovely things we have going in our yard is a big camellia plant. And when spring arrives (which it sort of has here, kind of), it blooms. Here it is.

The camellia plant is right down by the sidewalk and borders our yard with our next door neighbor’s. Our next door neighbor is Margie, a woman in her 80s who has lived in her house forever, and before I go on with this story I have to emphasize that Margie is the sweetest neighbor you’d ever want to have. Truly, we love Margie, and Margie loves us I am sure. However, that camellia plant? Drives sweet Margie frickin’ bananas.

The problem with the camellia plant, apparently, is that it drops its petals like a brazen hussy.

And when it drops those petals and there is a breeze, some of those petals, god damn them, mosey over to the part of the sidewalk that is in front of Margie’s house. This is a problem for Margie.

I first realized that this was a problem for her a couple of years ago when I came walking up my street and saw Margie on her sidewalk, picking up the petals, one by one, and walking them over to the strip of sidewalk in front of our house and placing those petals back on our side. Her back was turned to me as she did this, and when I called out “good afternoon, Margie!” to her, she had the sense to look embarrassed by this behavior. Still, those petals. They irk her, I know.

I should also point out that Margie’s yard is spotless and professionally manicured. Not a branch out of place. So I know that Margie has high standards for yard management. And there is no place for fallen hot pink petals anywhere in her jurisdiction because she obviously finds them gauche. And we do our best to sweep up the petals, but really, there is only time on our docket to sweep our walkways maybe once a week. And these petals are on a 24/7 release plan. Sorry, Margie, but you might have to live with the petals.

Last week, she swept all the petals up off her sidewalk and placed them in a neat little pile at the bottom of our front steps, just waiting there for us when we got home from work. HINT HINT, young couple who lives next door to the Margster. CLEAN UP YOUR SHIT.

Have you ever been scolded, silently, via yard waste placement? I tell you, it is not ideal.

This weekend, we were out in our yard pruning some trees when Margie came over to Nordic Boy. They exchanged very nice pleasantries about the gorgeous weather and other neighborly talking points. Then, she sweetly asked Nordic Boy if, as long as he was pruning anyway, if he might consider cutting back the camellia plant, as it tends to pee petals all over her sidewalk. Nordic Boy said that he would be happy to do that, but that short of cutting off all of the flowers one by one or taking the plant out altogether, that there was bound to be some petal pee pee that got unleashed. Margie looked very downtrodden at this news. She actually hung her head a little bit. I sort of felt bad for her and for the fact that our camellia petals were clearly breaking her heart. Until I stopped myself and realized that THAT IS NUTSO.

Does this sound nutso to you too? I thought that Margie was clearly in the minority when it comes to judgment about camellia petals, but yesterday, something happened that made me think that perhaps Nordic Boy and I need to be more diligent about our sidewalk petal pollution.

Our street gets a fair amount of foot traffic and bike traffic, as well as car traffic. Yesterday, as we sat on our stoop after finishing the pruning, a woman walked by with her dog.

Her: Beautiful day, isn’t it?
Nordic Boy: Yes, it is!
Her: Are you enjoying it?
Me: We certainly are! You?
Her: Yes! (looking at our camellia plant as she walks by) Ooh, I love this. So pretty!
Nordic Boy: Thanks!
Her: (looking down at the petals on the sidewalk). Oh, except for that.

And then she was on her way.

Really lady? You too?

So I need you to tell it to me straight. Because maybe we are too enamored with ourselves from taking Jumanji yard and turning it into regular yard, but I can’t help but think “doesn’t anyone in this neighborhood remember what this place looked like when we moved in? Because if there was a Nobel Prize for yard rehab, then we would WIN, and you guys should be GRATEFUL WE SAVED YOUR BLOCK AND RAISED YOUR PROPERTY VALUES.” And now the petals are too much? How did this happen?

Tell me for reals. Don’t hold back. Is Margie being weird about the petals? And did she send dog lady as a secret agent to reinforce the petal argument? Or are we being terrible, terrible neighbors by not cutting this plant down or sweeping up the petals on a daily basis?


  1. We had two camellia plants at our last place and I miss them. Walking through the petals made me feel like bride (in a good way ;).

  2. Getting uptight about it is totally redic. You tend your yard and that's more than many people. Anal-retentive yards are nutso, anyway.

  3. What the hell? If your dog were leaving poo all over her yard, or your kids were throwing empty juice boxes on her front step, her feelings would be understandable. Even if you were mowing your lawn and piling up cut grass on her sidewalk. But camellia petals? THEY ARE PRETTY. AND BIODEGRADABLE. AND SUBJECT TO THE WHIMS OF THE WIND. Margie may have some control issues to work through in therapy.

  4. I do like those bushes to look at, and our neighbors have a big one just like it, but…here's my tale: I am lucky enough to be able to walk most places I go, and I try not to step in the flower detritus at all, but sometimes the petals get tracked inside and before I realize it there are clumps of pink goo ground into the carpet. That's my only problem with them. =) That said, I think you are awesomely beyond-the-call-of-duty for sweeping them up once a week (during the petal high season, our sidewalk isn't visible at all due to the thick carpet of decaying flower chunks – your photo of almost-bare sidewalk sprinkled with a few lovely petals is amazing), and I think Margie is bad-karma-ing in sweeping them up and leaving them at your doorstep! Her sweeping them up is cool with me, some people are like that, but then just throw them away! Going to the effort of bringing them to your place is just not the kind of person I would want to be. =)

  5. Maybe if you give Marge a batch of your mom's cinnamon rolls she will forget about all the passive-aggressive crap she been doing. Honestly, leaving them on your doorstep! So not classy!

  6. I'm going to assume that since Marge is 80 she simply has nothing else in life to worry about except for some stray petals. She needs to get over it. I have to clean up fast food bags, beer bottles, etc. that people throw out on my street.On another note, my dad got remarried about a week and a half ago. He's almost 70 and his new wife is 77. I asked him if they were going on a honeymoon and he said they were going to some garden down in south Georgia because it's prime blooming time for camellias and they have a lot of them there. I told him that sounds like something old people would do on a honeymoon. Luckily, he refrained from hitting me and laughed instead.

  7. I have a hard time imagining getting all panties-in-a-wad over pretty flower petals. But then I get irrationally irritated when grass and weeds from our really nice neighbor's side of the fence grow out into our flowerbeds. So I shouldn't judge, apparently.

  8. Obviously, my lawn care standards are low so I'm probably not a good representative sample. However, I would go so far as to say that petals, even on the ground, are pretty. That's right, I said it!We are friends with a couple who bemoan similar lovely, blooming trees in their yard because of the petal shedding. The mind boggles.

  9. are you serious?!? in what kind of stepford neighbourhood are you living?!?? that's supremely nutso. nutso in the ultimate sense of the definition of anally crazy….plus I love the look of colourful fallen petals on the ground. -K

  10. I think this is just a neighbor thing. They exist to drive you crazy. Camellias are lovely and they do shed. Do not cut it down. Any neighbor I've ever had has had some insane issue with something. That's just the way it is. Sweeping up once a week is fine. Think of it as giving her something to do.

  11. No, she and the other woman are being totally weird. If it makes you feel any better. One of the houses I rented had a giant front yard that was beyond repair for a rental – I was not about to fill in the craters with dirt and put down sod. I did however keep it up with regular mowings and leaf raking and put out flower pots. The biggest problem was that trees had pushed up the sidewalk in front of the house so that you had to be careful not to trip. Again, I rented so um, not my problem. But that doesn't mean I didn't get a ton of dirty looks from people who passed by – even if they had passed by a million times before.I was however, vindicated when I struck up a conversation with one of the teachers at the nearby school for the blind. I apologized for the sidewalk and said I was a renter. Her response? "Oh, please don't ask your landlord to fix it! it is a really useful teaching tool for us when we take students out to learn to navigate obstacles!"So yeah, 14 petals…not a problem.

  12. you already have so many comments you probably don't need to hear from me ~ but here I am anyway. Margie needs to get a life. Putting them on your doorstep is so passive-aggressive. Me thinks some pretty petals on the ground are a small price to pay for the lovely view of the tree!

  13. You need to hire a kid with a dog to stop in her yard and pee on the lawn. It will turn the grass yellow and she'll forget all about the petals. I promise.

  14. You can never please everybody. If you cut that plant down, there would probably be another thing that obscured her beautiful world. Margie reminds me of my mother, who is Obsessive Compulsive. She loved this huge mimosa tree they had in Arkansas but cut it down because it left flowers on the drive. That's a sad world.

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