Save yourself work in your garden by admiring what your neighbours have planted.

These hollyhocks reach for the sun in front of the presbytery of Saint-Joachim Church in Pointe Claire Village.

Have you always yearned to have a magnolia tree in your yard but lacked the space? Have you longed for a large—and high-maintenance—rose border? Do you love vast swaths of daylilies or pampas grass but can’t be bothered to maintain them?

Here’s a radical idea: You don’t need an expensive or difficult-to-maintain landscape if your neighbours have them.

In his informative and entertaining 1989 book The Perennial Gardener, the late Connecticut horticulturist Frederick McGourty coined the term “visual ownership.” To wit, if your neighbour has gone to the trouble of cultivating a magnificent magnolia, you get to enjoy it, too—albeit visually, says Mr. McGourty. And if you’re on good terms with that neighbour, he may even welcome you into his garden to breathe deeply of the magnolia blooms’ delicate fragrance.

Ditto for just about every other tree, shrub, perennial or annual in your community. That host of golden daffodils across the street? Sit back and enjoy them while they bloom for your viewing pleasure. That crop of Darwin tulips? Same. Those lilacs next door do not reserve their fragrance just for their owners. They broadcast their scent on the late spring breeze right into your space. 

Another consideration, says Mr. McGourty, is that visual ownership is reciprocal. We can cultivate our gardens for the benefit of our neighbours. Giving others visual ownership is a neighbourly thing to do.

(Above) Fortunate is the owner of these vibrant forsythia shrubs in Beaconsfield. And so are the neighbours and passersby.
(Above) Everyone loves tulips. This home in Dorval has a border of them, putting on a great show for passersby every spring.
Why plant a swath of basket-of-gold Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis) when you have visual ownership? This display in Pointe Claire gives joy to all who see it.
Thank you to the Dorval homeowner who planted this flowering fruit tree.