Fawzia Ahmad's prolific Burnaby garden is a source of pride and joy for her.
Ahmad and Rosanne Johnson spent the last 14 years at their Pandora Street home caring for the plentiful plants, such as butterfly bushes and pussy willows, in an attempt to improve the ecology of the neighbourhood and connect with the community.
"It's certified as an urban wildlife habitat," Ahmad said. "A lot of the plants in the front garden attract hummingbirds and finches. We've counted up to 26 species of birds over the years."
Which is why they were upset when neighbours began complaining to the city about the foliage about five or six years ago.
"A couple of them over the years as the garden matured started objecting to it, but the community as a whole really loved the garden, walked by all the time and really enjoyed it," Johnson said.
The garden went right up to the edge of the sidewalk, and Ahmad had also planted on the boulevard on the other side of the sidewalk, with butterfly bushes creating a canopy over it.
The first letter they received from the city stated that plants were encroaching two inches over the sidewalk, so they cut them back, Ahmad said.
None of the neighbours have spoken to them directly about it, she added, but there has been back-and-forth with the city over the years.
While city staff have expressed admiration for the garden, Ahmad said, they have also said they have to respond to the complaints because the encroachment goes against the city's street traffic bylaw.
"Every time we cut it back and ensured things were off the sidewalk, the city still came and cut it even more than we had," she said.
Most recently, Ahmad and Johnson were told the city was going to come and cut back the garden on Oct. 22. But city staff showed up on Oct. 12 instead.
"The city came two weeks early," Ahmad said. "I was going to try to save some of those plants because they're well-established, they're mature, and before I knew it, they were gone."
City staff cut down the plants on the boulevard completely and cut back about two feet along the side of the property.
Ahmad would like to see more cooperation between the city and residents on beautifying and maintaining boulevards, as is done in other cities with programs such as boulevard adoption.
People who pass by are generally supportive of the garden, but not those living nearest the property, according to Ahmad and Johnson.
"People can come by, slow down, stop and admire, which a lot of people in the neighbourhood do," Ahmad said. "I think it's just not our immediate neighbours."
The conflict and resulting clear-cut of the boulevard have left the two residents feeling upset.
"I feel pretty sad actually, more than angry," Ahmad said. "I think what we created was a really nice environment."
There is a difference in philosophies regarding lawn care and outdoor spaces in the neighbourhood, Johnson said, with neighbours focusing on well-maintained lawns and not gardens.
"The grass is cut, and it's (the garden) trimmed back on a regular basis," Johnson said. "It's not like it's out of control."
But both acknowledged the flowers of the butterfly bushes do get heavy and hang down after it rains. They trim back the flowers when that happens, Ahmad said.
It was the low-hanging butterfly bushes that necessitated the work by the city, according to Burnaby's acting engineering director Barry Davis.
In this case, the vegetation's very extensive. It's actually much more than even a typical case," he said. "The vegetation has come up, and it has grown up over the road and over the sidewalk, and it has actually created a vegetation canopy."
The city usually responds to complaints about vegetation encroaching on the sidewalk with a letter, and if the resident doesn't cut it back, the city comes in and does it then, Davis said.
But in this case, the heavy rains last week brought the canopy down, and the city received a complaint about the sidewalk being blocked, he explained.
"With the heavy rain and the fact that the vegetation had grown right over top, it had all started to collapse in on the sidewalk and also to collapse over the cars on the street that were parked there," Davis said.
"Given that urgency, that's why we did it," he added. "Normally we would give them the full time before we go in there."
Davis is checking with staff to see if the property owners were contacted or notified that the work would be taking place on Oct. 12, he said, and added the residents will not be billed for the work.
"We don't normally bill them for it unless it's really, really excessive and it's unsightly premises and they haven't cooperated," he said.
Burnaby does not currently have a boule-ard adoption program, Davis confirmed.