Judge rules homeowner’s ‘high grass and weeds’ are Florida-friendly flowers

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A Florida judge on Wednesday ruled that a master gardener can keep more than 100 high-growing plant species in her front yard because they are not grasses or weeds.

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The ruling was rooted in the definition of what constitutes a flower or a weed. Diane Goldberg, cited by the Port St. Lucie Neighborhood Services Department in March for having “high grass and weeds over 12 inches tall,” took the agency to court, TCPalm.com reported. But when city officials could not say if the vegetation were weeds or native flowers, Special Magistrate Robert Makemson ruled the plants could stay.

Goldberg has contended that her yard is more compliant with Port St. Lucie codes than most lawns in the city, the website reported. She cited the city’s Landscape and Land Clearing Code and contends that her yard “preserves and protects existing vegetation, promotes water conservation and encourages greater use of native cold-tolerant and drought-tolerant landscape material.”

Goldberg said she maintains her plants to feed and attract birds and butterflies, TCPalm.com reported.

“Nothing in Mrs. Goldberg’s yard is a weed,” Rachel A. Streitfeld, Goldberg’s attorney, told Makemson. “Everything is deliberately planted.”

Streitfeld called the city’s actions “an example of government overstepping its bounds.”

“We’re not prohibiting any species of plant," City Attorney Sebastian Poprawski told Makemson. "We just want her to properly maintain what’s there.”

Streitfeld gave Makemson a packet of 30 letters supporting Goldberg, including one from Richard Baker, president of the Pelican Island Audubon Society in Indian River County, TCPalm.com reported.

Goldberg, meanwhile, gave Makemson a bouquet she cut from her yard on Wednesday morning.

“This is some of what the city keeps calling tall grass and weeds,” Goldberg told the judge.