Landscape designer Margie Ruddick is in the running for the 2011 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award, and ironically, she’s also faced with fines for the landscaping of her own yard! Ruddick’s ecological ‘Garden of Eden’ was found to be unkempt with “weeds” by authorities in the City of Philadelphia.

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Ruddick’s lawn and gardens can be described as maintained chaos. After black cherry seedlings moved in and took root, Ruddick began introducing plants of her own, while still nurturing the other varietals that found their way into her garden. Oaks, mulberry and rose of Sharon found their way to her plot on their own, as she added pokeweed, rhubarb, hydrangea, Japanese maple, and anything else her heart desired. The look at first was completely derelict, so Ruddick hired gardener Steve Beey to gently sculpt the garden that was quickly becoming its own eco-system.

The gardener helped create a hedge of the blackberry trees, and mow paths throughout the now burgeoning mini-forest. Yet despite the attempts to minimally manicure the property, Ruddick was slapped with a summons stating a violation of the property maintenance code from the City of Philadelphia. The city saw the overgrown brush as an eyesore that would bring neighbor’s property value down. Standing her ground, she educated the judge in court, about the species and origins of all of the plants in her garden. The charges were dropped.

In reality, Ruddick’s wild tangle actually benefits the houses in her neighborhood. She uses collected rainwater to irrigate, instead of the city’s water. But what’s the neighbors can thank her for, is the lack of sewer flooding. Her mini forest maintains storm-water run off, decreasing excess water by 660,000 gallons during storms. Not to mention it is a natural carbon dioxide capture, acting as a giant air purifier.

One woman’s tangle, is another woman’s Eden. We only hope that the City of Philadelphia can see that Ruddick’s lush personal forest is more of a benefit than a burden!

Margie Ruddick is an internationally known, award-winning landscape designer.  She is recognized for her environmental approach to urban landscape design.  Please visit for more information or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Via NY Times