Brisbane City Council recently announced that property owners in residential areas will be allowed to plant verge gardens if they adhere to simple guidelines. Finally! Common sense has prevailed in allowing those of us who love our gardens to expand our efforts to the road edge.

In my case, my ‘illegal’ footpath garden was driven by my frustration with mowing the grass verge over protruding tree roots from Council’s street tree Syzygium luehmannii. That terrible grinding sound of blades scraping over corrugations of tree roots was not to be tolerated.

So this garden reprobate mulched the verge with sugar cane mulch to get rid of the grass and planted variegated Dietes grandiflora, dwarf Lomandra conferta and Erigeron karvinskianus. Neighbourhood friends and passers-by often comment how nice it all looks.

Will this legalisation of verge gardens inspire an outbreak of garden plantings to beautify our roads and streets? Will the 1.2 metre footpath allowance create upsets among dog walkers and pram pushers? I doubt it.

You have to be pretty keen to look after a garden on the road edge as not all passers-by are so appreciative of your efforts. I have removed beer bottles, drink cans, Halloween decorations, Christmas wrappers, syringes and discarded newspapers from mine.

Then there is the question of visitors parking on the street and trampling your plants as they get out of their car. Where will you put the bins each week and the kerbside collection of disused household items for Council pick up? On your flowering Gazanias?

As for the allegations that 1.2 metres is not wide enough for passing foot traffic, I am quite confident that Brisbane residents are polite enough to stop and wait for someone to push their pram or drive their wheelchair through a narrow space without pushing past them to cause an accident.

If there is indeed an outbreak of verge gardening, my landscape architecture students at QUT will be overjoyed as many have been proposing an expansion of community gardens to urban agriculture along streets for years. Feeding neighbourhood friends and families from publicly accessible fruit and vegetables has been a dream of many.

Certainly landscape architectural professionals have been planting public spaces along roads for decades in Brisbane. Think of James St, Teneriffe, New Farm, Clayfield, Sandgate, Stones Corner and the like. In cities in Asia such as China, Vietnam and Japan, local residents use every inch of space to grow plants around their homes and businesses.

Let’s trust in the common sense of our communities to deal with less regulation of our public footpaths.

Have you had an ‘illegal’ footpath garden too? Or will the new regulations allow you to fulfil your landscaping ambitions for your verge?

References

Verge gardens regulations

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Dr Gillian Lawson

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