Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boundary Lines

Houzz, the on-line home and garden design resource, recently featured an article on property lines.  The author took pictures of homes in the Sacramento area showing how adjacent properties sometimes complement each other but, more frequently, collide.    I hadn't given our own property lines much thought so took my camera out for a look at the boundaries between us and our neighbors on either side.

The houses in our neighborhood weren't all built at the same time.  The earliest, like ours, were constructed in the 1950s but other homes were built at intervals stretching through the 1960s and 70s into the early 1980s.  House styles vary, as do lot sizes and shapes.  The area is hilly so many homes also sit at different elevations.  The 2 houses on either side of us are both sited below us with yards encircling the back of our house and garden.

The driveway entrance of the house on the right of us is separated from our driveway by a long expanse of hedge and a low stone wall, which the neighbors extended down along their own driveway entrance.

The neighbor's concrete wall blends in fairly well with our stone wall, as do the hedges




It's hard to determine exactly where the dividing line is between the 2 properties from the street.  The neighbor's hedge, constructed of Nerium oleander, blends into the hedge on our side of the property line, constructed of what I think is Pittosporum rhombifolium.   The line is only nominally clearer from the area behind the hedge.






Shortly beyond where the one hedge ends, another, constructed of Xylosma congestum, begins.  This hedge, which belongs to us, extends along the right side of our property, behind our backyard border, into our dry garden.

Our Xylosma hedge starts in the right side yard just outside a raised wood border that creates a narrow pathway behind the side and backyard borders

The pine trees beyond the hedge in the backyard belong to our neighbor

But the Yucca beyond the hedge is apparently ours

The hedge, somewhat taller here, creates a boundary on one side of the dry garden




When we made the offer on the property, I assumed that all the area behind the Xylosma hedge belonged to neighbors.  However, during the property inspection process, I learned that the area behind the hedge in the dry garden, extending down the slope, also belonged to us.

View of sloped area beyond the hedge




I also learned that this area had been the subject of a dispute between our neighbor to the left and a prior owner of our property.  We found evidence of where the chain link fence had been moved when the boundary lines were clarified.  The area from the concrete stairs (which were installed by my husband our first year here) to where the chain link fence now stands, bordered from the inside by yet another hedge, had previously been tended by our neighbor.  She was responsible for planting the lemon tree that stands at the bottom of the slope.  Thankfully, she bears us no ill will (reserving that for the former owner).  I drop off a supply of lemons periodically.

The neighbor had previously treated the triangular area from the stairway to the hedge on the right in the picture above as hers


Lemon tree reportedly planted by our neighbor



I'm still not entirely clear where the boundary between our yard and that of the other neighbor, on the right, lies at the bottom of the slope.  As the property drops sharply just beyond the Yucca elephantipes and as the neighbor, who religiously trims the other trees on his property, hasn't ever touched the Yucca or the plants at its base, I'm operating on the assumption that these belong to us.  One day, I've got to pin him down and ask but I rarely see him.

The sunnier area beyond the Yucca belongs to our neighbor on the right





Like the house on the right, the house to the left of us isn't readily visible from the street but our stone wall and Xylosma hedge end a couple of feet from the neighbor's driveway.  The mailbox and Strelitzia reginae belong to her.






In our case, good hedges make good neighbors.  I can't say that our boundary lines on either side "collide" with those of our neighbors.  I'm glad to say that they're relatively harmonious, like our relationships with the neighbors themselves.  Do your boundary lines say anything about the relationships with your neighbors?

16 comments:

  1. Kris, I live in a suburban tract house with neighbors that are close--all houses are fenced in . The issue I face is that the house are so close together often the neighbors plants (mostly trees and large shrubs) become a part of your garden like it or not. I have two trees to remove this winter because the neighbors trees along with mine have created an undesirable deep shade in one corner of the garden where four of our lot lines meet--my garden plans are often dictated by the desire to hide items owned by neighbors over which I have no control...vehicles are a special pet peeve of mine.My next door neighbors are very nice people and really good neighbors, but a pick-up truck as a garden backdrop does not work for me ! Hmmm. you may have inspired a blogpost on this topic !

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    1. Kathy, the situation you describe is very much like the one I faced at our old house so I sympathize. For the most part, we don't have those issues here, although I do face an issue with a pick-up truck. My husband's truck usually sits in our driveway as it's too long to fit in our garage! (I keep urging him to replace it but, so far, no go.)

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  2. That was an interesting article on Houzz and such an interesting question. I live on a pretty typical rectangular suburban lot that is separated from our neighbors by fences and walls. We all pretty much get along by being just friendly enough. The fences all needed to be replaced when we moved in five years ago. One neighbor offered to split the cost of replacement, while the other didn't, which was fine with us either way. I do sometimes wonder what they think of my obsession with my garden. I'm sure they all have their own hobbies, which maybe are not quite so visible to the world.

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    1. I'm sure that your garden is the most interesting on the entire block, Alison! And I'm sure it will be wonderful once you finish the improvements currently in process. I suspect it'll increase the property values of your neighbor's homes so they'll have nothing to complain about.

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  3. I long for the day that my boundary fencing is hidden by greenery - everything comes to those who wait, right?
    Our boundary lines are marked out with concrete markers and am surrounded by both privately owned and local authority (rented) property - on the longest length of garden that adjoins 2 rented properties I've erected new fencing on my side of the boundary - I had issues when the planners insisted I erect taller fences than would normally be used. The said neighbours came knocking on my door to complain - I politely told them that they should complain to their landlord. Those issues are long forgotten and we all get on ok. The remainder of boundary fencing has been replaced 50/50 cost wise and as they are not handy or DIY motivated - I did all the labour myself despite me not being legally responsible for any of them. I was willing to put in the effort to have a defined garden.
    I am currently trying to work out how best to 'hide' the view from a neighour's window into my kitchen - it has never bothered me before but as the old neighbours have moved out - the new ones seem to always be looking in on us. I know it's probably all in my head - but nonetheless - it's driving me up the wall! Your topic could not have been more timely in so far as I'm concerned Kris.

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    1. I faced a similar problem with the view into (and out of) the neighbor's living room at our former house, which was constructed as what is known here as a "2-on-a-lot." The house in front of ours was a rental and the owner took out all of the trees in the backyard. I put a tree in a narrow bed running along the shared driveway - it took awhile but it eventually grew large enough to break the direct line of sight between the 2 houses. Good luck with your project!

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  4. We live on a corner and have great relationships with our neighbors, even though we do not see them socially. The neighbors on one side wanted to install a fence and talked to us about it. They chose a picket fence style we like, and they wanted to face the "good" side toward them. Thus, the fence looks like it is ours, not theirs. (Their driveway is on their side of the fence, and I have landscaped and planted our side.) I have continued the same fence style along the front and side. On the other side, the neighbors string Christmas lights along their side of our fence. So, on both sides, our neighbors have taken steps that enhance the boundaries to our benefit. Lucky us.

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    1. You' are lucky in having good neighbors, Jack! I've always thought it would be a good idea to "interview" neighbors before buying a house, although I can't say I've ever done that. I suppose it would be better still if we could interview prospective buyers of neighboring properties as neighbor turnover is inevitable.

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  5. Boundary lines - the cause of so many neighbourly disputes all over the world! You're lucky that your boundaries do not clash and blend in nicely together. So far so good here but in other areas you can sometimes tell there's a dispute going on just by looking at the fences they've put up...

    Nice extra there by the way, to find out you own that extra piece of land you initially thought wasn't yours :)

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    1. Yes, the slope was a big bonus, even if I remain uncertain how best to use it (and even if my knee pitches a fit when I persist in going up and down those stairs). I dream of having the money to properly terrace the space - I'm afraid the physical demands of a DIY project of that nature are beyond my husband's and my own capacity at this stage.

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  6. You have such beautifully blended boundaries. We have nothing like that here, everyone knows exactly where there garden begins and ends and who the hedge or fence belongs to. Mankind is such a territorial animal.
    Chloris

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    1. We did have a couple of issues early on, Chloris. "View conservation" is a big issue here (actually covered by a statute). The neighbor to our left asked that we cut back a small grove of banana plants that obscured her view at the bottom of our slope - in that case I was happy to oblige as they were a mess. However, another neighbor, several houses away, asked us to remove our 60 foot Eucalyptus tree, which was a much bigger deal in terms of both impact and cost. We eventually agreed - and the neighbor actually covered the cost - so everything worked out in the end.

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  7. I live in a congested suburb and property lines are well defined. We have a fence that encloses our backyard that makes it very easy to know what's ours and what isn't. I helped landscape one of the neighboring properties and was given full access to add plants to their garden at any time. They also let me come onto their side to prune my roses and trumpet vine. I am very lucky! But I've had crazy neighbors before so I'm very grateful for the ones I have now. I like that your landscaping blends so well with your neighbors. It creates visual harmony and makes the area seem more unified, even if it isn't.

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    1. Your situation is one I'm more familiar with myself, Tammy. The sometimes fuzzy dividing lines between the homes here is something I'd never encountered before we moved into this house 3 years ago.

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  8. Yes, my two next-door neighbors and I planted a shared garden along portions of our front property line. I wish they'd gone as far with it as I have -- all the way to the back fence -- but the areas that we share, closer to the street, blur the property line and give a nice, cohesive look. Good neighbors, both of them.

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    1. That degree of cooperation/collaboration is ideal, Pam - you're lucky indeed!

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