August 19, 2010

Monica and the Flower Thief

I was reading the front page of one of our local rags, when I was reminded of a time a few years ago when my eldest sister Monica impressed me once again.

The newspaper article was illustrated with a photo of a pregnant woman smiling in front of a few of the potted plants she has placed around her community of Yarrow's downtown.  "After two summers, the mother of two (soon to be three) estimates she has spent almost $2000 on plants, soil, pots, rocks and other materials to get some much-needed greenery into the town's three block downtown core," stated the article.  "(Her) efforts began as her own pet project, but community members have jumped on board, watering and caring for the plants placed in pots outside their businesses."  A week ago, four containers disappeared, and on the weekend, sixteen more were stolen. 

I'm not surprised.  Apparently some green thumbs are accompanied by a set of light fingers.  Yes, I know  gardening is big business and that plants and their containers can be quite expensive, especially if one wants to achieve that instant full garden look, but stealing other people's plants already carefully and lovingly potted, or plants from public spaces meant to be enjoyed by the community overall?  Very low indeed. 

A couple of years ago in April, my sister, Monica came down to stay with me and we attended an arts council conference in a nearby city.  The conference was held at a brand new fine arts high school with lush landscaping.  The weather was lovely so we ate our lunch outside in the courtyard and my sister and I took every chance to get off our chair-worn bottoms and go for walks around the grounds.  After the final day's last session, Monica and I were preparing to leave when we noticed a woman with a black SUV, with the back open, digging up very newly planted bedding plants and placing them in boxes in the back of her vehicle.  Now, I am a bit slow on the uptake and don't generally assume people are doing something they aren't supposed to be doing.  Something about the woman's hurried manner, however, made me pause and say a decided, "hmmmm".  Monica, experienced newspaper reporter and savvy sleuth merely exclaimed, "I think she's stealing those plants!"

After consulting a nearby couple who agreed that, yes, the woman certainly appeared to be helping herself to the plants, my sister began to approach the woman, while calling out "Are you stealing those plants?"  The woman said nothing, but closed her tailgate and drove off in a hurry.  I think it safe to say from her response, that yes, she was in fact a flower thief.

So what kind of person steals bedding plants or potted plants?  What kind of mindset thinks it okay to take beauty and colour from a public place and transplant it for their own enjoyment only?  Did the woman in the SUV think that because a microscopic portion of her tax dollars went to funding the high school's bedding plants, that they were somehow hers to take?  I mean, I know a few people who will take a small snip off a shrub in the park and then propogate it at home to plant in their gardens, but they would draw the line at helping themselves to the entire rosebush, roots and all.  I suppose it is the same mindset as the person who steals the bathrobe or towels from the hotel, or the person who helps herself to office supplies and toilet paper from the supply closet at work, and takes them home.  When many of us were children caught with an unpaid for pack of gum from the corner store, we were marched back to shopkeeper, made to apologize, and pay for the stolen goods (in more ways than one), but we are meant to learn from that experience and grow up to respect the property of others.  That must be it, then.  Perhaps the woman in the SUV stealing bedding plants, and the people who stole the 20 potted plants from downtown Yarrow never were marched down to the corner store to face the music, or maybe they have forgotten what it's like to be caught, accused, tried, and punished for their crimes.  Hopefully, my sister's bravery awakened the woman in the SUV just a little to the fact that, even if she is okay with taking what is not rightfully hers, that others certainly are not.

The photo above is from an article from entitled, "Flower Thieves Terrorize NYC Neighborhood."  The article suggests weighing down potted plants to make them heavier to lift and anchoring baby trees and shrubs to make them harder to steal.  As one of the commenters on this website said in response to these suggestions, "Oy!  What is the world coming to?"


  1. Oy! Indeed. I once picked tulips from the vacant lot across the street from my house as a small girl. When I brought them home, my big brother pointed out that I had, in fact, picked the tulips from Mr. Schwartz's flower bed, adjacent to the lot, and that my claims of, "I didn't know." were disengenuos at best. He made me march right back across the street and return them with an apology. I was horrified. Mr. Schwartz was scary.

    My brother was not, at the time, the paragon of virtue himself, but even he wouldn't let me get away with that.

  2. Oh, my Friend, I can answer this one.
    Landscape contracts are constructed such that the last third is not paid 'til completion.
    Big clients think they have the whip hand. And where they are the best at the start, the end. Getting your money out of them is hard-ball in the extreme.
    One such client of mine with an officeblock. The design requires -mine own btw- Roses at the four corners. These areas were blind to windows. So the picture of White against the fake slate would lift the building while grounding it also.
    However the client decided that they would fight every last penny. And I decided to fulfil the design with a combo of Rosa 'Kiftsgate' and 'Wickwar'.
    And I did some work for Sholti and he repaid me in a Proms concert.

    The nut with the Landrover, I'll bet you she is the wife of someone that hasn't been paid. And needs the cash to feed some private school. Or music lessons.

  3. Tracey: I did the same thing when I was little. A neighbour had a beautiful flower garden between his fence and the sidewalk, so I figured they were just common flowers, free for the taking, and brought my mom a whole bunch. Oops!

    Vince: I thought you might have an interesting insight into this subject :) I read a comment on the website I mention at the end saying she bet it was landscape designers stealing the plants because plants are crazy expensive and unusual ones hard to come by, unless you know a grower like I worked for last winter.

    I am using Google in Draft now, so the whole comment thing functions a bit differently. I can't seem to get comments sent to my email unless I first leave one. Only then am I given that option, after my comment 'takes'.

  4. Oops, I meant Blogger in Draft, not Google.



  6. Hi Vince: I am not recommending this website in particular, and when I provided the link, I failed to direct you to the exact page I was referring to that had a reprint of a New York article. I only go to Google Images to find photos and then credit them to their source, as that is the polite thing to do.
    If you wish to find the exact article just go to images of flower thieves and click on the photo represented above in my post. It will take you directly to the article in question.

  7. wow. i don't understand how anyone could possibly enjoy something they stole from someone else's flower bed.

    i saw the tulips and the sign and was reminded that in Holland Michigan they slap you with a $100 fine for each tulip you pick. can't imagine what they'd slap you with if you dug them up...

  8. This post I think resonates for most of us. Someone stole a garden sculpture from our local public school. It was meant as a shrine for a student who lost his life. The degree of insensitivity is shocking.

  9. I had a huge queen sago palm in a terra cotta pot, which must've weighed 50 pounds or more, stolen out of my front yard once in the dead of night. It had to have take a couple of burly men to steal it. I understand some thieves go around in trucks stealing plants off people's lawns and reselling them....I'm sure my huge queen sago was worth a couple of hundred dollars. It makes me sad for humanity.

  10. Oh my lord, REALLY!! Truly, what is the world coming to?

    I too do remember being caught by a neighbour picking roses in a friends garden while they were on holidays. Oh the shame! The minute she scolded me I was overcome with remorse!

  11. E.P. I wonder too!

    Paul: That's really, really low.

    Dreamfarm Girl: So much for heavy pots being harder to steal. The more I read on the subject, the more I see that the theft is often for reselling. Yikes. I'm sorry about your palm and what I'm sure was a nice terra cotta pot, too :(

    Ciara: There's a world of difference between a child misunderstanding the nature of private gardens and this kind of bold faced thievery, but I suppose they had to start somewhere, eh?

  12. With the expensive pots there is a trick of using one of the drainage holes and drill into the pavement under that hole. Then insert an expanding bolt through the pot into the pavement. Just ensure that you are not stopping the only drainage hole as you will find with some brands of terracotta.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!