Fenced In by Neighbors, Digging Up Canna Lily Bulbs

Q. The neighbors behind and on both sides of my yard have built tall privacy fences. Can I do anything to my side of the fence, such as paint it or hang objects from it, like a hammock?

- A.S.,

Providence, R.I.

A. If talking to your neighbor doesn't work, find out what state law or local ordinance (if any) governs fences in your area, says Allen Lynch, an attorney in the real estate department of Peabody & Brown's Boston office. He recommends a call to town hall or city solicitor's office.

Many towns have ordinances that regulate height, location, materials, and sometimes appearance.

If the fence is within your neighbor's property line and conforms to the law, you have no legal rights, and anything you do to the fence is trespassing. If the fence is located on a boundary line, then the rights and obligations of the neighbors depend on who owns it. A boundary-line fence is owned by whoever uses it (for example to enclose a yard), so both neighbors might have joint rights and obligations, regardless of who built it.

Local ordinances may say, in the case of a stockade-style fence, that posts and rails face the property of the person erecting the fence.

If you've got a tough situation, Mr. Lynch recommends bringing in a mediator. You can find one by contacting the local office of the American Bar Association (Web site: www.abanet.org) or calling the National Association for Community Mediation in Washington, (202) 467-6226 or visit their. Web site: www.nafcm.org

Q. A friend gave me some canna lily bulbs last spring. They grew beautifully, but now I don't know what to do with them. Can I leave them in the ground, or must I lift them and plant them again next spring?

- L.N.J.,

Woburn, Mass.

A. As you live in one of the country's colder zones, you will have to lift the bulbs and plant them again in the spring. According to the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in New York, here's what you should do:

Leave the bulbs in the ground until frost blackens the foliage (This is true for all tender summer bulbs, except for tuberous begonias, which should be dealt with before frost.). Then cut the stems to about 4 inches. Carefully dig up the rhizomes (bulbs), brush off the soil, and then divide them by breaking them apart or cutting them, making sure that each has at least one place where a leaf can be seen growing. Place them out to air-dry in a cool, dry place. Label different varieties because they all look similar once the leaves dry up.

After drying them, cut off any remaining foliage and pack the bulbs in vermiculite or peat moss. Store in a cool, dry place until spring.

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