Should I just pull it all?

alison(6b/OH)May 31, 2006

Last spring, my upstairs neighbor A asked me to "help" her spruce up her front porch; make it homey, like mine. It's a fun space, three times the size of mine, and I agreed. I okayed everything with upstairs neighbor B (it's a shared porch) then I went to town. Planters, hanging baskets, lighting -- I even found her a large table with matching chairs. I bought plants, divided some of mine, and put in things I'd grown from seed. I even figured out a system to easily get water from the back of the building to the second floor front porch.

We all enjoyed it last summer, together and individually. Neighbor A never made a move to pay me back any of the roughly $100 I spent, as she said she would -- but I didn't really expect to see any of it, so that wasn't a big deal. I was a bit more disappointed that she never watered anything, as she'd promised she would before we started anything. When I came back from vacation, all but the hardiest plants were goners.

So I was a little reluctant to put anything out there this summer. But... neighbor A was so interested in all the plants I started this year... and we already had the planters and soil there.... (At least I was a bit smarter this time, and only planted things I had tons of or cuttings.)

But it's really nice. The lilies are starting to bloom, the bees have discovered the flowering herbs, and the annual vines are just getting long enough to start climbing up the wrought iron. I like taking the cat and a cup of coffee up there in the morning after everyone has left for work, have a leisurely wake up before I have to go to work.

2 weeks ago neighbor B returned from a four month stint in Saudi Arabia. I left him a note, but I haven't seen him since him yet. Thursday morning when I went up to water the plants I found he'd shoved all the planters and containers off his side of the porch. Apparently he told neighbor A he wanted his side to be "clear".

I called neighbor A that evening, told her I was feeling a bit unwelcome up there, and asked her if she still wanted the plants up there. She said yes. I asked her if she was going to have the time to water the plants, since I wasn't planning on going back up unless she was there. She said she had to go, and insisted she'd call right back. Haven't heard from her in nearly a week.

I'm not sure what to do. I don't mind having made the investment, if people are enjoying what's up there. On the other hand, it's not my porch, and I don't want to impose my hobbies on other people. I don't want to feel martyred about sneaking up there to keep the plants alive, but I don't want to see them die.

Should I talk to neighbor B, and find out what he object to that he was okay with it last year? He's not very pleasant, and his mother seems convinced that I stole some of his porch furniture -- so I'm not relishing that logical next move.

Should I talk to neighbor A again, and ask if she wants the plants and will have time to water them? (Stressing how depressing it will be for both of us if they all die again.)

Should I remove the things I put up there? I don't want to seem petulant, taking my ball and going home, but I could probably find places for the plants and planters -- and I'm sure I could find some use for 40' of rope lighting.

Or should I wash my hands of the whole lot of it?

Sorry this is so long-winded, but I appreciate any advice!

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Oh, that's a tough one. Neighbor problems are pesky ones.

I would ignore neighbor B. He definitely doesn't sound interested based on his behavior, so I think he's out of the picture. No plants for him! So the question is what to do with the plants on neighbor A's side. She sounds like she enjoys them, but definitely doesn't have it together to take care of them. Maybe you can tell her that you know it's a pain in the butt to take care of them, so it would make it easier to do it all in your own space. Invite her to visit them any time. This assumes that you actually like her company and would enjoy having her in your own space, of course.

And how did you do all that for $100? I have spent WAY more than that on my deck so far, and it doesn't sound nearly as cozy yet. What am I doing wrong?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 6:58PM
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Curb shopping, sales, and swapping! Someone threw away the table, and I found three of the chairs beside different dumpsters over the course of 1 week. (The fourth chair just materialized in my back yard.)

1/2 price for a gi-normous back of Pro-Mix potting soil with a torn corner at the box store.

Traded matching hanging baskets for a batch of seedlings and scented geranium cuttings. I paid for the 4 18-gallon totes, and the 35-gallon trash can -- but with a coupon, it only came to $30.

Found the rope lighting at a yard sale for $15 -- not sure where I'll put that now, but it's still a heck of a deal! A yard sale candelabra and a few barstools completed the setting.

My favorite were the inset screens on either end of the porch -- made from salvaged crib sides spray-painted green and hung from chains.

Thanks for the advice on what to do. I have to say -- whatever ends up happening, I really enjoyed making the space at least temporarily more pleasant!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 2:10AM
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You have an interesting balcony garden problem. With Neighbor B, I would just respect his right to do what he wants with his portion of the porch, even if he wants nothing there. It seems that he feels that his "area" is being encroached upon with the plant containers, even if he didn't object to them last year. I would suggest to just respect his right to have a minimalist porch area.

Concerning Neighbor A....that is a different story. I think that her silence is answer enough for you about the container plants for this summer. I think that is her way of saying that she does not want the commitment to take care of them, which is her right too. Since you have the area to use those containers in your own area, I would suggest just to take them and use them in your own area and if Neighbor A wants to visit and see them, have her come over to your porch. Don't make a big deal about it. With neighbors, it is best to stay within your own boundaries, especially after the experience you had last year. If Neighbor A questions about your taking the pots back, just say that you had room on your own porch for them and thought it would be best since you did not hear from her any further about the plants. Next time, let your Neighbor A just do the work herself if she really wants the plants. My hunch is that Neighbor A likes the appearance of the plants, but is not interested in the work needed to maintain them. Furthermore, perhaps Neighbor A would feel that you are checking up on her about watering the plants and that would put pressure on her to do something that she really has no interest in doing.

Hope this helps. Good luck with your plants :-)

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 2:10AM
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I think you guys are right. When you love plants, it's hard to imagine anyone wouldn't see them as an improvement, but it's true. I think my problem is it's such a nice space and *I've* gotten used to using it myself.

I think I will quietly start taking stuff down tonight. The big neighborhood yard sale Saturday, so if you're in downtown Columbus, you may be able to pick up some cheap lilies!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 3:19PM
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Hi Alison.

I remember your thread on these neighbours from last year.
I think you should just grab my investments and RUN!!!
Some of the things I'm sure you could put to good use. For instance the fairy lights... I once saw a Swedish gardening program on telly, where a gardener in Stockholm had made a Mediterranean garden. -He had an in-ground Lemon tree that he put fairy lights on followed by bubble wrap, during the winter... and it thrived! -Maybe the same thing could be applied with exotic containerized plants, that otherwise wouldn't make it in your climate.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2006 at 8:56PM
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I didn't mean MY investments.... Of course I meant YOUR investments ;o)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2006 at 9:01PM
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I ended up talking to both the neighbors. Neighbor A said she really liked the plants, and she'd try to water..... Neighbor B was very sheepish, and said he liked the plants and didn't mind them -- the only thing that got in his way was the large (brand new) plastic garbage can I'd put in the corner to hold water.

I told him that solved my dilemma, since that corner was the only place I could put the container in order to get water up there. He was very embarrassed and said he had appreciated the effort, and had enjoyed the vibe, which was nice to hear.

But I took down the screens, the lighting, the hanging baskets and the fancy pots. The tote planters weigh at least 100 lbs each, so I've been slowly transplanting the plants and carrying down buckets of soil. (Taking it up in 40 lb bags was a lot easier!)

Neighbor A still hasn't said anything, but I feel a lot better. It was a very nice space, but it wasn't mine, and I think I was starting to feel a little martyred ("I'm doing all this work for you..."). That's no way to live, and it gets in the way of enjoying plants and people.

The only drawback is trying to transplant all those Japanese morning glories that were just getting started -- and figuring out how to store several hundred pounds of potting soil!

Thanks all for the advice and support.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2006 at 12:21PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

Sounds like some of my travails in New York. It's really frustrating dealing with perverse and inconsiderate neighbors; yours sound well-meaning, at least.

Potting soil stores well in a covered plastic trash can with holes drilled in the bottom to drain any water that finds its way in.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 4:31AM
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