Is there a code of horticultural etiquette? Since the recent RHS poll which revealed that one-fifth of gardeners discard of their snails by putting them over their neighbours fence, we have been thinking of other rules and regulations in the gardening world. 78% of those polled by the RHS said they do not throw their snails over fences, but out of that 78% how many really do and won’t admit to it? We may never know but, I believe there will be some people in that percentage that certainly discard of their snails over fence. Sometimes we never like to admit to doing something that is considered wrong or of bad etiquette, i am one of them! Etiquette is a code of behaviour that depicts what is socially acceptable, a standard of what is considered the ‘norm’, if there is such a thing. Here is what we came up with;

1)      Hedges

If planting a new hedge then think carefully about what species to choose. Fast growing conifers can get out of hand if not properly maintained and tend to block light. Just because they don’t block your light doesn’t mean that they won’t be blocking your neighbours! Consider deciduous species and slower growing hedging plants. Maintain boundary hedges. Remember that they grow on both your side and your neighbours – so if it’s your hedge then it’s only polite to offer to cut their side too. Always speak to your neighbour first to ask permission though. Keep hedges to a sensible height. High Hedges are covered under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. This defines a high hedge to be a line of two or more trees or shrubs of more than 2m (approximately 6ft, 6 inches). 

Horticultural Etiquette

2)      Trees

Consider your neighbours when planting new trees, especially if they will grow to block your neighbours light or view. If planting close to the boundary line, will the tree eventually overhang their garden? If so, choose your species carefully.  A fruiting tree such as crab apple can make a real mess on their lawn! On a similar note, any fruits which fall into your garden from your neighbour’s trees will still belong to them as they own the tree. However, they are not obliged to come and clear them up! If you want to pick fruits from branches that overhang your garden then it is advisable to ask permission from the tree owner to avoid any disputes.

Roots that encroach beyond the boundary line are deemed to be trespassing. Technically a landowner is entitled to cut back trespassing roots to the boundary line, however this may cause the death of the tree and is  likely to make it dangerously unstable which could potentially cause property damage, injury or even death! Generally trespassing roots are not an issue unless they remove moisture from the soil beneath buildings which may cause subsidence in later years and therefore become an actionable nuisance. At this point, it’s best to call your insurers and let them sort it out!

Likewise overhanging branches are deemed to be trespassing and you are entitled to cut them back to the boundary line. However in law, the trimmings still belong to the tree owner and should be offered back to them. It always best to ask before you start hacking away at trees – they may be protected by a Tree Preservation Order or be situated in a Conservation Area, and unpermitted pruning could land you in trouble! Often a simple request to your neighbour will be enough to prompt them into action and come and remove the offending branch.

Horticultural Etiquette


3)      General good manners.

Look after borrowed tools as if they were your own and always return them promptly making sure that they are clean and in good working order. Always ask permission before taking cuttings, or removing a seed heads from other people’s gardens. If you have crops to spare then offer them to friends and neighbours. They may well have spare crops of their own so you can do an exchange. Pass the time of day with fellow gardeners – particularly at the allotment. Besides being a friendly thing to do, you will often learn something new!

Horticultural Etiquette


Can you think of any other codes of behaviour for gardeners? Do you follow these or do you go against horticultural etiquette? We would love to know what our gardeners think so please post your comment below!

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