This Birmingham Woman May Get Arrested for…WHAT?

Friday, May 1st was Ana Sullivan’s birthday.   But not even the gorgeous weather we’ve been having could brighten up this major birthday bummer

On that very day, the City of Birmingham gave her a “present” in the form of a notice.    It was a warning that if she didn’t correct a certain something within 14 days, a warrant would be put out for her arrest.

The offense?


These flowers to be exact:


Ana planted them in her front yard, located in the Avondale neighborhood, along with some cosmos and poppies.

What’s the catch, you may be thinking?  Certainly, there is something else going on, right???

I went to her house to check out the situation and get a closer look.  Surely, someone cannot be arrested for flowers!

Here is what I saw:

Ana’s house with lots of pretty flowers

To be fair, the flowers are in the “right of way” which is technically owned by the city.   I’m still not sure about the damage the flowers are doing to threaten a warrant. 

This is the view from the front porch.  Nothing offensive here as far as I can see.

Sure enough, here’s the letter:

I asked her about the jasmine that covers and shades the front porch, thinking that maybe there are some laws about that.  She said, no, that it has been there for years, and that was not what the letter was referring to, (to which I agree).   She also disclosed to me that this time last year, while attending her daughter’s end-of-the-school-year party, she came home to see her yard (oops, sorry, the right of way between the sidewalk and the street) cut — yes, CUT DOWN.  Last year, she was given no notice, no warning, and a neighbor confirmed that indeed it was someone from the City who had done it.

At least this time, the City of Birmingham had the decency to allow her to cut them herself?

Ana is currently in touch with several members of the community to get to the bottom of this.  The woman at the phone number on the citation loosely claimed that it was the “undergrowth” to the coreopsis, not the yellow flowers themselves, but Ana was quick to point out that those too, were flowers (cosmos) that just haven’t bloomed yet.  Plus I’m not sure how this logic plays out in accordance to the 2-to-4-inch rule mentioned in the letter.

It seems that there are a couple of species in her yard that are supposedly federally protected as well…which could make this whole thing even more interesting.

Spread the word!    Change takes all of us!  Ana is also concerned that 14 days is an unreasonable amount of time to figure out what to do and what her rights are.  If you can help, please email her at 

A few years ago in Los Angeles, Ron Finley was arrested for “guerrilla gardening” (this time it was food) in those patches between sidewalk and street.  ARRESTED…for gardening. 

But because of the outrage of the community, the pressure caused the city to change these ridiculous laws!  Now you can grow veggies (as well as flowers) in the areas technically owned by the city.  Note that Finley was planting in food deserts; it’s a good thing that men like Finley are working to make our cities healthier and more livable!  

Here’s his Ted Talk if you need some mad inspiration.

Showing 10 comments
  • James Clark

    If my next door neighbors empty overgrown lot looked anywhere near this good I would kiss them. City says nothing to them. Maybe if she plants weeds they will leave her alone?

  • Katie Feng Shui

    Agreed, James — there are plenty of properties that need citations much more than hers!

  • Anonymous

    I have always thought her yard was lovely! But guys, the point is not to make the city get after others… it is to get them off HER back, so careful about pointing fingers! We want them to respect planters… Respect people who obviously take pride in their HOMES, like Ana does.

  • Anonymous

    Please tell her to contact Verna Gates. The city went after her yard in Crestwood a few years back.

  • Anonymous

    Agree with above – contact Verna Gates. She heads up an organization called Fresh Air Family and has been through this before.

  • Ana Sullivan

    Thank you to everyone for your support. As of Wednesday I am supposed to be getting a call from the City Inspector to schedule a meeting to look at my yard but I have not heard anything yet. I plan to call again today since the deadline of May14, 2015 is approaching quickly!

    Since the city notice was my birthday present from the city I hop ether do not decide to give me a Mother's Day present!

  • Anonymous

    This is such as silly overreach by the City. This is a case of keeping to the letter of the law, not keeping in the spirit of it.

    Consider this:

    The effect of nature in the home and in the workplace serves to stimulate both the senses and the mind, improving mental cognition and performance. (Bisco Werner 1996; Brethour 2007; Frank 2003; Pohmer 2008; Serwach 2008; Shibata, 2001, 2004; Yannick 2009).

    Perhaps the person who issued the complaint could benefit from some nature himself or herself? #liveandletlive

  • Astrid Zhangsun

    This probably has to do with a complaint from a real estate agent. How many houses are for sale close to you?

  • Anonymous

    Soe more research on ornamental plants here:

    Ana may not know it but her front yard flowers improve relationships. Research shows that people who spend extended lengths of time around plants tend to have better relationships with others.

    Ornamental plants affect the levels of compassion. Folks who spend more time around plants are much more likely to try and help others, and often have more advanced social relationships. People who care for nature are more likely to care for others, reaching out to their peers and forming shared bonds resulting from their common interests. Extended exposure to nature and wildlife increases people’s compassion for each other as it increases people’s compassion for the environment in which they live. In short, being around plants can help to improve relationships between people and increase their concern and empathy toward others. (Brethour 2007, Etcoff 2007, Frank 2003, Hagen 2009, Haviland-Jones 2005, Pohmer 2008, Rappe 2005)

  • Ana Sullivan

    Just did another interview w ABC. No one from the city has notified me yet but they told the reporter that they had a horticulturist come out yesterday and I am now in compliance! Will be on the news at 5! Would like something in writing from the city but still time to celebrate! Thank you, thank you to everyone who cared and offered support!!! Thank you Katie Rogers for writing the blog that got things rolling! You rock!!!

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