Earlier this week, I stepped outside to receive a delivery and was quite surprised at the sight that greeted me…


There were two men and a BIG hole in my landscape.

Of course, I knew that we had utility boxes for the phone and cable companies on our property.  But, in the 14 years that we have lived here, no one has ever paid any attention to them.

Some of you may wonder if I was angry that I had a huge hole in my front yard.  

Well, I wasn’t mad.  You see, even though we own the property, I knew that utility boxes have an ‘easement’ that allows the utility companies to dig on your property without your permission.
In my work out in the field, I have encountered this often and when I design landscapes, I am careful to keep plants at least 3 ft. away from utility boxes AND keep a clear route to them from the street.

Now, utility boxes are ugly and no one likes to look at them.  But, you can add shrubs and other plants to screen them from your view.


BUT, be careful!  If plants are in the way – the utility company can pull them out.  The Red Yucca, above, would most likely be removed if work had to be done since they are in the way.

Be sure to keep a clear route to the street when hiding utility boxes.


A few of these Purple Ruellia are also in trouble if work needs to be done.

I would advise decreasing the lawn area by 3 ft. and planting the Purple Ruellia there and leaving free access for utility work that may be needed.


Utility workers will make reasonable attempts to protect your plants as long as they are not in the way.  They put a nylon tie around my Globe Mallow to keep it out of their way an put plastic down to protect the gravel.

It is normal to ignore the utility boxes, if you have them on your property and screening them out using plants is often, the first thing homeowners do when installing a landscape.

But, be careful where you place your plants.  Try to keep them at least 3 ft. off to the side of the utility boxes and NOT in front.
Because sooner or later, the utility company will have to dig a hole to repair and/or upgrade their wires.

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Yesterday, we received a box of my daughter, Rachele’s civilian belongings.  You see, as soon as she arrived at basic training for the Navy, she had to put all her clothes, shoes and other belongings into a box that was sent home.

It was a clear sign of her leaving behind her civilian life and the beginning of her military career.

In the box was also her cell phone charger.  But I couldn’t find her cell phone.  

Of course, leave it to my street-smart oldest daughter, Brittney, who simply looked inside one of the shoes where it was safely tucked away.

We are hoping to get our first letter from Rachele this week.  We can’t send her any letters until we receive a letter from her because we don’t get her address until she sends us that information.

We all have written her letters and I just bought a lot of stamps – so I am ready!

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

6 replies
  1. Holly
    Holly says:

    Great advice on the utility boxes. Sending prayers to Rachele. It's tough to be a Mama. Our future son in law comes home today from his third tour in Afghanistan. Makes this Mama proud.

  2. Susan in the Pink Hat
    Susan in the Pink Hat says:

    I would still be mad. They could have at least given you notice that they had to dig. I have an easement with the cable company that says that should they do any excavation, they have to restore the area to its original condition. Whenever I look at the stand of trees the line goes under in back, I shudder at the thought of the utility company. It's enough to make you want to lawyer up.

  3. FlowerLady Lorraine
    FlowerLady Lorraine says:

    Great advice. Glad I don't have any of those boxes on my property.

    Your daughter will write pretty soon. I remember when my husband was first in the Navy, (we weren't married yet), when he did finally get to write, he was told he had to write his parents first.

    Boot camp isn't a picnic. I hope Rachele does very well and hope she won't be too homesick.

    Love and hugs to you ~ FlowerLady

  4. David Cristiani
    David Cristiani says:

    Great post, something I try to avoid in plan, but when I am in the field, I find I should have erred on leaving space like you say. Even on a tight lot like mine, you are right to minimize plants in the easement and plant so 3'+ back from boxes at maturity.

    Treating constraints like utilities as design opportunities is really helpful!

  5. rosiemomma
    rosiemomma says:

    I just wanted you to know that I have been praying for your daughter and all of you as you miss her and hope she is ok. She must be a strong young lady to want to do what she is doing.

    NIcole

  6. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Holly, Lorraine and Rosie,

    Thank you so much for your kind and supportive comments about my daughter.

    It is hard to be completely cut off from her and wonder how she is doing.

    Your comments made me smile today 🙂

    Noelle

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