The Constant (Need For A) Gardener

This evening we got home from work around 7:30pm and checked the mail as we always do. In amongst the magazines and bills and, rather excitingly, an engagement party invitation, was a plain white envelope with the back unsealed. On the front, in a careful hand, someone had printed GARDENER. Inside, there was a business card for a gardener---the exact words were "landscaping and maintenance"---and nothing else.

Sean and I had two very different reactions to this envelope. Wait, let me see if you can guess which reaction each of us had.

Person A was rather affronted. Person A assumed this was a passive aggressive nudge from the neighbors to take some sort of care of our small front yard, which we have, admittedly, not done a whole lot with since we moved in, aside from letting some weeds grow (in Person A's defense, for a long time Person A just thought they were just awesome new plants.) Person A felt sure that the printer of GARDENER was an elderly person---Person A could tell by the shaky hand---with nothing else to do with his or her time than stand in the window and twitch the lace curtains and remark upon how awful it was that the new young couple had let their yard go to hell, how about we drop a little hint in their mailbox, hmm, Doris?

Person B just thought the card was from a gardener who'd gone door to door, putting cards in mailboxes to advertise his services.

Person A offered again the envelope as evidence. GARDENER, it says. GET ONE BEFORE YOU BRING DOWN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, it implies.

What do you think: is this a pointed suggestion from a concerned neighbor---bear in mind that the guy next door to us did actually receive a note a few months ago threatening to take his dog away if it didn't stop barking, signed, I kid you not, from "a concerned neighbor"---or is it just an entrepreneurial gardener with a Vistaprint coupon casting his net far and wide? Does Person A need to take a chill pill already? Can someone tell Person B to go to the store and buy Person A some more wine and maybe some ice cream while he's at it? Is anyone still confused about the fact that I'm obviously Person A?

Sep 02, 2010

Dear Person A,

Is it okay that I recognized you immediately?
Does that make me a brilliant virtual stalker?
Would that make you a celebrity?
Questions, questions, questions – endless, ceaseless, meaningless!


Dear Person B,

I’d have thought the same thing but you’ve got to buy her that wine and ice cream. I think she’s kinda traumatized.

Still Moi.

Sep 02, 2010

This is precisely why I can never live in San Francisco.

Sep 02, 2010

By which I mean, Person A is totally correct, because this passive-aggressive note situation? SO SAN FRANCISCO.

Sep 02, 2010

I'm with you, er I mean, person A. If it were simply a business card drop they wouldn't have used the envelope. I love solving life's little mysteries.

Sep 03, 2010

Person A is correct and can not be blamed for feeling affronted. I suggest that in the night, Person A sneaks over to 'well-meaning' elderly person's home and delivers an envelope to their front door with TACT boldly printed across the front. Then Person A should go home and continue to water the weeds...not all weeds are ugly, after all.

Good luck ;-) I've had more than my fair share of passive agressive neighbours, and it's maddening.

Sep 03, 2010

I assumed it was a gardener giving out his card at first, but he wouldn't have needed an envelope for it. A manual labourer is also less likely to have the handwriting of an Old Person.

If only you knew who had put the note through the door. Then you could, I don't know, go and paint their windows black to save them from the horror of seeing a few weeds.

Sep 03, 2010

Go Team Person A! It could have been the scenario that Person B imagines, but the shaky handwriting says it all...

(Also, if a gardener really had handwriting that shaky, she/he really shouldn't be going around doing manual work anymore...)

I love the suggestion about the letter addressed to "TACT"

Sep 03, 2010

It looks more like BOY handwriting to me than elderly handwriting.

The idea that a neighbor is nudging you to weed the lawn is kind of weird though. If that's what it is, maybe they think they're being super helpful? Like, here's a gardener that I love?

I don't think it's a random gardener drumming up business, I think he'd just drop the card and not do the envelope part.

Sep 03, 2010

I am imagining an extraordinarily polite Asian old man gardener, who, yes, is drumming up work. That's both because of the handwriting and because of the area of San Francisco where you live, which I remember as being predominantly Asian (although that was 20 years ago, so maybe it's changed.) What was the name on the card inside? And why don't you just call it and ask if the person left it and then what they charge for services? You don't have to hire them just because you call them and it will let you know that you don't have any passive-aggressive neighbors (or that you do) so that you can stop fuming about it (or at least fume with knowledge).

Sep 03, 2010

bwahhahhaahhaa! hilarious!! yes, you are correct, your new neighbor is dropping a not-so-subtle hint that he'd like for you to take care of the landscaping situation, or lack thereof.

Sep 03, 2010

I, too, would be Person A in this scenario and would feel similarly affronted. I think if it were an actual gardener peddling his (or her!) services, it would have been a little more gracefully done.

I would also take opportunities to spot which of my neighbors has the all-caps writing. This looks like an older person's penmanship. NAILED.

Sep 03, 2010

I'd have to agree with Person A. If it was just an advertisement they wouldn't bother wasting the money on an envelope. They'd print an ad on some ugly colored paper and stuff it under the flag of the mailbox or something.

With your overly-concerned neighbor in mind I feel you should start leaving excess car parts, patio furniture, and whatever else you can find in your front yard. Mowing the lawn? Never again. It'll make things interesting.

Sep 03, 2010

I have to go with person B. Only because we get these things a lot at our house too. Sometimes it's a flyer, sometimes it's a card stuck under the windshield wiper, or a brochure shoved through the mail slot.

I would not take offense.

Of course we never hire these people, we just go on with our plain jane yard as landscapers are expensive.

Dawn K.
Sep 03, 2010

Person A wins! You (I mean person A) absolutely deserve some more wine.

I work at a bank, and as soon as you said you were sure the print implied elderly, I knew exactly what kind of handwriting I'd be looking at.

Sep 03, 2010

I agree with Person A. If it'd been a professional gardener advertising, they wouldn't have used the envelope. To me, shaky handwriting on a plain unsealed envelope screams passive-aggressive neighbors!

Sep 03, 2010

Totally a passive-agressive neighbor. Put a note in your mail box, on the flap when your weirdo neighbors would open it saying, "Thank you for your suggestion, however the comments section of this mail box is closed."

We have a neighbor with a giant ceramic pig in her overgrown, weedy garden. It stares towards our driveway kind of eerily. I didn't notice it until my husband pointed it out. He's been plotting the pig's demise ever since. Maybe if your neighbor cared so much, they could come do the yard work for you? Just sayin, THAT would be a win-win.

Sep 03, 2010

I am with person A and I have evidence to support my opinion. Door to door solicitations are not generally placed in a mail box. We get plenty shoved in our storm door and hanging on the door handle but never in the mail box. If this "gardener" person is experienced in door to door solicitations, they would likely know that placing anything that is not "mail" in a mail box is against federal law - a "federal offense", if you will.

Sep 03, 2010

I'm definitely with Person A. But to the person on the card and ask them if they did it as a marketing plan or if it was a neighbor sharing their name. They will probably give you an honest answer because they might want to work for you.

Sep 03, 2010

Totally person A. If it was a business solicitation it would just be the card. This is the passive agressive crap that most elderly neighbors like to pull.

Sep 03, 2010

Just jumping in here, I recently bought a condo in the city, and we began receiving similar solicitations from handymen all the time. I would definitely side with Person B (though my personal neurotic tendency is generally more along the lines of A). My guess is that this won't be the first of these you'll receive, so I wouldn't worry too much!

Sep 03, 2010

I don't really know, but that's TOTALLY old person handwriting. Of that much I am CERTAIN.

Sep 03, 2010

My parents received something exactly like this - simple envelope with LANDSCAPING written on the front - when they first moved to their current house 8 years ago, and it was from a landscaping service. They still occasionally receive things like this from new businesses trying to drum up clients despite the fact that their yard looks like something out of Better Home & Gardens thanks to my stepdad's OCD and love of gardening. I don't think it was necessarily a passive-aggressive note. Yes, it wasn't the snazziest advertisement, but if this is a start-up business can you blame them for trying to keep overhead low?

Sep 03, 2010

I go with person a - if it was a landscaping individual in the first place, likely they would have slipped JUST the business card into the box, or into your front door.

It was definitely a neighbour.

Sep 03, 2010

When we moved into our current house, our backyard neighbors told us "welcome to the neighborhood - we hope you mow!" I was totally person A in that situation - affronted, insulted, and so inspired to mow EVER.....even though we are good yard people since we have a small dog who gets lost in tall grass! Not only did I know you were Person A, but I fully supported you. Every street has one person who just can't mind their own bees but just don't let them get you down...and welcome to the neighborhood, hippie!

Jen @ das Sushi
Sep 03, 2010

I'm inclined to join Team Person B, but maybe that doesn't mean much because you basically have to whack me over the head with something sharp before I get that you have ugly intentions.

BUT, I would say that if it *is* a neighbor, it's not necessarily passive aggressive or rude. Speaking as someone who just struggled for two months to *find* a gardener in a country where I have not yet mastered the language, I would have kissed a neighbor who tried to help me out like that.

Operation Pink Herring
Sep 03, 2010

I'm with Person A on this. I'd chalk it up to a low-cost advertising attempt if it weren't for the envelope and handwriting. Envelopes cost more than business cards, and hand-writing "gardener" on all of them would take forever, assuming you were papering the neighborhood with your cards. I think you've got a passive agressive asshole neighbor on your hands, welcome to the club!

Jen @ das Sushi
Sep 03, 2010

And when I say not necessarily passive aggressive or rude, I mean here's my imaginary scenarios:

Possibility #1: "Hey, it doesn't look like they're much into gardening. I wish I'd found my awesome dude years ago, let's pass his info on to them."

Possibility #2: Gardener sees potential client and says, "hey, it doesn't look like they're much into gardening. Pass my card on to them, will you?" Neighbors are embarrassed you'll think they're implying something, so sneak it into your box.

I can imagine lots of other possibilities involving unicorns and rainbows, and now you know how my brain works.

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 03, 2010

There's someone with a really nice garden on the corner of our street and I have remarked, upon passing the house, what a nice garden it is. With the benefit of a glass of wine, some ice cream, and some sleep, I am convincing myself of the very long shot that this person overheard me saying how nice their garden was (maybe the window was open when I walked past?), watched what house I went into, and dropped the business card of their gardener into my mailbox two weeks later as a favor. Yeah, let's go with that.


Person A for the win. Though, alas, neighbors like this aren't exactly an awesome prize.

I think you should just go whole hog and get a giant plastic flamingo for the yard. Oh, and maybe put a nametag on it that says, "Gardener."

Sep 03, 2010

If you called the gardener, you could ask how he advertises, if he ever hands out cards. I'd leave the envelop part out -- see if he mentions it. Say that you're trying to remember how you got his name/card.

Saucepan Man
Sep 03, 2010

I have to say I'm with Sean on this. I doubt it's a neighbor. Knowing the general standard of front gardens where you are, yours is by no means going to be the worst - so you're unlikely to be the ones singled out.

Agree with the other comments suggesting you call the number and ask. (I'm sure Sean will oblige!) You can then let us know...

It also seems acceptable to me to put a business card in an envelope marked "Gardener". Business cards are small and, on their own, are easily lost, dropped or submerged in the rest of the mail.

If nothing else this could become a useful situational case study to illustrate how men and women respond differently to dilemmas!

Sep 03, 2010

Dear Person B,

Why would someone seeking business put a business card or a brochure in an envelope and then address it with what is CLEARLY old-person's handwriting????

Someone voting with Person A, but only because there was no Person C for whom to vote

Sep 03, 2010

you should ask dog neighbors if the old-lady handwritting matches the barky dog letter.

Sep 03, 2010

Weeds - green things that hold the dirt down - not a bad thing!

Sep 03, 2010

I hope Person A got her wine and icecream!!! Neighbors can be annoying.

Sep 03, 2010

Hmmm, my neighbor mows my grass, sets my sprinkler system for each season (there being TWO in Arizona: hot and not so hot) and he trims the bouganvilla and weeds. So, I got nothing for ya.

Sep 03, 2010

I can relate and raise you one. We moved into a place with a yard that had not really been touched in years and could best be described as brown. The Sunday of the weekend we moved, we left for an hour or so and returned to find a note stating 2 things - remove the garbage bags (which were full of yard debris) and that we did not move to the ghetto. Of course there was no name. Of course I was very upset. I mean, at least we were doing something to make the yard better in the first place!

Sep 03, 2010

I would be Person A, because we have a similar passive aggressiveness problem in Portland. In fact, the city just started a new service in which you can report your neighbors to the city if they aren't taking care of their yards.

Sep 03, 2010

Someone lacks the nuts to tell it to your face. Submit to

Sep 03, 2010

It is most definitely an elderly neighbor. It looks exactly like my Grandfather's handwriting! But they may also think they are ahem, "helping" the young couple who may not know the whereabouts of a good local and recommended gardener.

A. Marigold
Sep 03, 2010

I'm surprised how many people think this is a rude neighbor. That thought actually would never have occurred to me. I think it's a gardener, who saw you might be in need of a gardener. I absolutely would not take offense, but I might pull out my weeds.

A. Marigold
Sep 03, 2010

Also, that writing doesn't necessarily look like old person writing to me. Most of the housekeepers my family had growing up wrote in all block caps like that, and they all came from Central America. They weren't particularly elderly, just not very educated.

Sep 03, 2010

I agree. Most of our employees are recent Mexican immigrants, and I see this type of handwriting all the time. Also, if you'll look closely, the letters have a fluidity that one would not expect from shaky hands.

That said, my elderly aunt peers through the back fence of her house at the BACK yard of her neighbors (of whom she is very fond), and clucks her tongue that it's sort of rubble-y and messy. Never mind that they are a two career household with three kids. In her ownyounger years, she would have forgone sleep herself to make sure everything was "right".

Sep 03, 2010

You could call the number on the card and ask if they put it in your mailbox! Then you would know for sure. But I lean toward the old person twitching the curtains across the street!

Sep 03, 2010

Totally option B. Would have never ever occured to me that it was a rude neighbor. Although, in my neighborhood it appears that no one minds what anyone's yard looks like, so maybe it would never occur to me because of that.

I have recieved odd things in my mailbox like this as apparent "advertising" but that handwriting could either be my mother gardener, or my grandma. Tough call that way.

I would say get ice cream and wine, work on the yard a bit and celebrate with the wine and ice cream after. :)

Franca Bollo
Sep 03, 2010

I think way too much thought has been put into this. File under, "Who cares?". We live in a city and it's a law of averages that someone or two or three is/are not going to like how we conduct our lives. I just try to be kind in return (not always my first thought) and it has melted many icy hearts. For your peace of mind, I hope it was someone looking for work and if you're not inclined to garden, you'll give them a call.

And, there's a bit of a streak of ageism among your readers based on how many were quick to judge the handwriting as that of an old person. So, this means those of us who reach say 75 will automatically write this "gardener"?

Franca Bollo
Sep 03, 2010

Oh, I meant "write LIKE this "gardener".

Sep 03, 2010

I'm shocked that so many people are feeding your neuroses in these comments! It is so definitely a gardener. We had this exact situation happen (only it was a flier not a business card in the envelope). We called the gardener because we had been thinking about it anyways and they confirmed that they worked at other houses in the neighborhood and periodically put the fliers in the mail slots of other houses they didn't work on just to get some business. It's cheap advertising, not passive aggressive neighbors (who would definitely not have skipped such a great opportunity to write a passive aggressive letter and sign it "a concerned citizen"). And that's definitely boy writing. Specifically it's boy-trying-very-hard-to-write-neatly writing.

Sep 03, 2010

If it was a note from a nosy neighbor, at least you didn't have to deal with them face-to-face. Count your blessings. We had barely closed on our house (a falling down wreck that hadn't been maintained at all - shrubs were so overgrown you could barely see the front door) when a neighbor from the "welcome wagon" stopped by to say hello and then bluntly ask me when we were going to cut all the trees and shrubs down and tear down that ugly fence? Niiiiice. A few days later, another neighbor asked when we were going to cut down the trees that were blocking her view. Wow. You mean those lovely trees that shade my house? Yeah, I wanted to scream. Needless to say, the trees are still here -they're lovely, and a part of me kept them just to spite the *itch. The overgrown shrubs were cut back, but the rest of the landscaping hasn't been touched. Putting a watertight roof over our heads was more important. Don't cha just love bossy nosy neighbors?

Sep 03, 2010

ha! After reading others' comments, I agree Person A is likely right. My initial thoughts were much more in-line with Person B's though. I guess I'm more of a Pollyanna than I thought.

Sep 03, 2010

I have to agree with you. I mean Person A.

Sep 03, 2010

why not ask a couple neighbors if they got one too? it can all be under the guise of "just wondering if this particular gardner is a good one." bonus points for awkwardness if you happen to ask the person who sent you the note.

Sep 03, 2010

My initial feeling was that Person B was right, but on further thought and perusal of comments, I'm now certain that Person A wins. Congratulations! (Sort of...) The envelope definitely seals the deal; if it was an actual gardener pimping himself, it would be just the card or a flier or something.

We had a similar situation when we first moved into our house -- no passive-aggressive notes, but an elderly neighbor did take it upon himself to come over and mow and weed-whack.

Sep 04, 2010

If a neighbor dropped it in, I can SOMEWHAT see where they're coming from.

Have you seen what some people in SF and Oakland do to their front yards? I've seen paved-over gardens painted green so as to resemble "grass"....this all skirted, mind you, by a chain link fence. When stuff like that happens, everyone else's property values go down.

Maybe they've had a bad experience with people not tending their yards and they're trying to nip it in the bud?

Sep 04, 2010

My introduction to this posting was from my girlfriend, who is definitely a Person A, asking me to read it to guess which reaction she would have... so I was guessing twice. Here's my interpretation (I'm usually person B): no gardener would hand write envelopes, especially in careful all caps. Person B knows this, but is telling you it's probably not what you suspect 1) to avoid confronting the weeds in the front yard 2) to ease the justified anxiety caused by having a creepy older neighbor watching and commenting on your home care choices. I predict person B will recognize the truth in your logic soon and buy you some ice cream and wine. We'll stay tuned...

Sep 04, 2010

You know what's awesome about owning your own home in a non-HOA neighborhood? You can do whatever you want! And people can be as passive-aggressive as they can and it means nothing. NOTHING! Grow a jungle; that'll teach 'em.

Sep 05, 2010

Old person. They write in all caps from a lifetime of crossword puzzles. Also, it's a woman. What old man is that much of a bossypants busybody?

Sep 06, 2010

Ha, when I lived in SF I got an unsolicited bid for sprucing up my front yard, from the landscaping business that happened to be owned by the people across the street. Slipped through my mail slot without comment, natch.

Although part of me can see the gardener him/herself dropping that envelope in your mail after, say, taking care of a neighbor's yard, I suspect that Person A is right and that it's a "tip" from a "well-meaning" neighbor.


Here's how it would go at our house.
Person A: How brilliant! Someone else to mow the lawn and all that business. We should call and find out the rates. Maybe this card in the mail is like a coupon and we can get 10% off!
Person B: Pay someone to mow the lawn? That's what children are for. Now will you hurry up and get pregnant so we can train the tykes to wash dishes and vacuum? I'm tired of doing it myself.
Person A: Oh you're so funny. Maybe we can adopt a poor child from China or Africa. That way they will be big enough to start the manual labor sooner than later. I think that would be much more effective.
Person B: Brilliant! Now all we have to do is come up with some good names...

(We live in a creepy delusion world, devoid of nosy neighbors and laws about child safety)

Sep 06, 2010

I vote with person B.

I used to work for a business manager's office. (Basically our clients were wealthy people who hired us to do their banking, bill-paying, etc.) I saw and paid A LOT of gardener's invoices. That handwriting looks like that of every other gardener's I have seen. Not to be stereotypical, but especially in California, many gardeners do not have English as a first language. I think this is why they tend to write in all caps.

Even if it is a neighbor, give them the benefit of the doubt. They see you might need a gardener, and maybe they see you are a young couple who has probably never had a house before and don't know how to find a good gardener. Isn't it kind of nice for them to point you in the right direction?

I really think it's not a neighbor though.

Sep 07, 2010

I once got a hand addressed letter in the mail with an enclosed newspaper cut out for a diet program with "you should try this Connie" written on the top. No sender, no signature, nothing. To say that I was seriously offended is to underestimate my reaction. I later came to find out that this was an ad campaign deliberately designed to leave the reader feeling bad in the hopes of them following through with the enclosed ad. This could be a similar type of marketing effort. Or it could be a total A-hole neighbor because there are more of them than not (I once had a neighbor who asked me not to cut the grass between my driveway and our shared property line because he couldn't stand to have it be a different length than his). So my advice, if it is a neighbor, they can go to hell as long as you are not violating a city ordinance. If it's an ad campaign designed to make you feel bad, rip up the info inside after making note of the name and never do business with that company.

SF Reader
Sep 07, 2010

Elderly, or someone who learned to write in a different country. I vote with person B.

Sep 08, 2010

I think it's person A. It seems a little funny and cowardly but I guess if it got you to blog about it then at least they were able to get their point across in one form or another.




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Sep 09, 2010

Despite the extreme passive aggressiveness of Bay Area neighbors, I'm pretty sure that this business card was from a gardener, based solely upon the handwriting.

Although at first glance it resembles an old person doing a crossword puzzle, I'm fairly certain it's actually the handwriting of someone whose first language is not English. Thanks to a couple of my jobs, I have seen lots of handwritten stuff by both the elderly and immigrants, so take that as my totally legit credentials.

As for the card being in an envelope, I agree with Saucepan Man - business cards are small and easily lost in the shuffle of junk mail. If you also factor in the well intended but sometimes misplaced attempts at trying to be polite from someone who was not born here, the envelope makes a lot more sense.

Anne in SC
Sep 09, 2010

Though person B's scenario happens in our neighborhood all the time, the cards are usually taped to the outside of the box - because I think they can technically get in trouble for putting mail in your box otherwise.

So, I say person A is probably right. Especially since a similar, though nastier, thing happened to us when we moved into our house in '07 (involving DHEC - read about it here:

Sep 10, 2010

Oh goodness, so is SF a passive aggressive note city? That ruins all my romanticizing. For certainly there is no place with more passive aggressive energy than my office. (Seriously one person wrote the entire office one day about the bathroom smelling because of someone going to the bathroom.) For shame!

cheap bags
Sep 15, 2010

I'd have to agree with Person A. If it was just an advertisement they wouldn't bother wasting the money on an envelope. They'd print an ad on some ugly colored paper and stuff it under the flag of the mailbox or something.

Oct 19, 2010

Neighborhood story, it's just never stop ! It's the same kind of story in my city ...
Anyway, I agree with Mister A.




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Jan 11, 2012

I think you're right about it /




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