Photo: Steve Bender

Attention, scofflaws! Grumpy has been making the neighborhood rounds seeing who is in compliance with Federal Law #5371365, Sect. A, Paragraph 6, Part 2, which states, "All mailboxes and lamp posts on private property in view of the street shall be used as supports for growing mandevilla vines during the summer." And I have been shocked -- SHOCKED -- to see how many of you are flouting the law!

Don't try to escape arrest by saying you don't know what a mandevilla is. Ever since Grumpy wrote about this spectacular semi-tropical flowering vine in 1985, it has been planted on lamp posts, mailboxes, trellises, and railings all over the U.S.A. Now federal law requires its presence. Martha Stewart refused and we all know what happened to her.

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Named after famed cannibal and botanist, Hannibal Mandeville, the old kind of mandevilla was an evergreen vine with large pink flowers and large, oval, dull-green leaves. Today's plants are much different. The flowers can be red, pink, or white. Some climb, while others are mounding. And the leaves are smaller, shiny, deep green, and pointed. They actually look more like a close relative, Dipladenia. Grumpy suspects most are either hybrids of the two or straight dipladenia sold as mandevilla. The biggest purveyor of these plants is Florida wholesale grower Costa Farms, who sells to all of the retail home and garden centers. Click here to see all of the choices.

Growing mandevilla is a snap. Given a sunny spot, it blooms nonstop throughout the warm months. While it's winter-hardy in Zone 10 and milder parts of Zone 9, north of there it should be treated as an annual or brought inside for the winter. Growing it in a pot makes the latter easy.

Now Grumpy is a big law-and-order kind of guy. My word is law and I order people around. That's how it should be. But I don't set myself above the law. That's why when Judy pointed out that our mailbox lacked a mandevilla, I planted this the next day.

emPhoto: Steve Bender/em

No way I'm sharing a jail cell with Martha Stewart.