Gardening Thieves

I have struggled recently with the moral issues of obtaining plant cuttings through trespassing on land not belonging to me. I think every gardener eventually lusts over plants they see in other people’s yards, store parking lots and even highway exit ramps. Once you develop a technique for taking cuttings and propagating new plants, you begin to look at the world with a whole new view. Suddenly, a plant nursery is not the only place to obtain new plants. You must reign yourself in or before you know it, you have a mini-nursery of your own with baby plants to take care of. I am very aware as a parent that we are examples to our children and asked my husband recently if I am a bad example by taking plant cuttings in this manner. We came to the conclusion, that as long as I am not running amuck in someone else’s yard maybe it’s okay. Maybe I’m not contributing to the delinquency of a minor. My poor children have sat in the car on more than one occasion with their nose pressed to the window watching mom “steal a plant cutting.” 

The rules and regulations put forth in our family state: Bushes behind the dry cleaners are fair game, but perennials in front of the neighborhood library are not. Roses in front of the abandoned supermarket are game, but the coleus next to the city police station are not. The previous example should be self-explanatory due to the “Arresting” nature of the situation.

I still wrestle with the moral implications of what I am doing. Many gardeners I have seen interviewed on television have come straight out and admitted their weakness for taking a tiny bit of what didn’t belong to them. One such gardener even admitted taking seed from a plant at a national historical home and garden. I think if the park rangers had caught him in the act, they wouldn’t have been happy.

Whenever I “take” a cutting from some other place, I always think of an article written by the prestigious Irish gardener Helen Dillon. She wrote of returning to her home, after a trip, to find two women in her front garden.They were dividing up the cuttings they had just taken from her plants. Helen writes,”They didn’t even have the modesty to divide the loot upon return to their own homes.” She then states she had to “lay down with a cool compress for the remainder of the evening.” I’m sure I would feel the same way.

And so I stick to my self-proclaimed rules for stealing. I don’t venture into other people’s gardens and I try to be a good example for my munchkins. I wonder what philosophy other gardeners have created for themselves. Let me know. Happy gardening!


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