"Green Collar Crime"

bellegallica_zone9(9)March 24, 2014

So I've been reading at various sites about that age old tradition/problem of snipping/swiping/stealing cuttings, whether from public parks, nurseries, neighbor's gardens, etc.


What I'm finding so amusing are the comments. Several times the same thing happened: someone chimes in to say it's a crime--no doubt about it--and offer reasons why. But then at the end they will slip in a confession, "But once I DID...."

I think it's so funny. Human beings....

I don't remember seeing this discussion here before. So, do you steal cuttings and rationalize it? Do you think it's always the most despicable crime, but...ONE time you just couldn't resist...

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adamharbeck(WA Aust)

Plants are the ones to blame. Plants want to disperse and colonise new areas. What is the difference between them manipulating a bird into dispersing seeds and manipulating a gardener into pinching a cutting? :p

Seriously though. I have pinched the odd cutting and seed head, though I usually prefer to ask permission, and most gardeners are usually too eager to palm of bits and pieces. You usually get left holding a bunch of other cuttings you didnâÂÂt really want. But sometimes it's really a victimless crime, like when stems are growing out over a path and will be trimmed back anyway or when seeds arenâÂÂt going to be harvested and will be spilled on infertile ground. Snipping the odd bit is VERY different to massacring someoneâÂÂs plant though. A small piece off a big plant isn't as bad as going at it hard with secateurs. People need to put themselves in the owners shoes and think whether that cutting would be missed.

what is absolutely appalling is people stealing pot plants from the veranda or shamelessly pulling up plants. Someone once had the gall to come into my yard while I was at work and strip my fruiting kumquat, breaking the tallest branches so they could get to them. A couple of strategically planted Rosa mutabilis has since solved that little problem!

One thing we should all agree on though is that cuttings and plants placed on the verge for green waste collection are fair game!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 9:31PM
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Plants are the ones to blame. Plants want to disperse and colonise new areas. What is the difference between them manipulating a bird into dispersing seeds and manipulating a gardener into pinching a cutting? :p

Funny! Have you read Michael Pollan's book, The Botany of Desire? He examines the long relationship between humans and four plants in particular: tulips, potatoes, apples and marijuana. His tongue-in-cheek premise is that the plants are working their wiles on us and getting us to do their bidding.

This post was edited by bellegallica_zone9 on Mon, Mar 24, 14 at 23:31

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 11:15PM
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My mother was queen of that. She'd embarrass me to no end by "purloining" seeds or little snippets of things everywhere we went. They always looked better after she'd "groomed" them than they did before her attention. She could root anything. My Caesalpinia mexicanas out back happened to "fall into my pocket" one day at a big box store. Their canned plant looked so bedraggled with all the dried up seed pods hanging off the branch, so I helped by cleaning it up a little. They germinate like weeds, BTW! Kim

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:38AM
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Kim, I think Caesalpinia mexicanas are native to TX, in the Rio Grande Valley. I didn't know box stores sold them! They may grow like weeds in your neck of good ol' CA, but methinks I'd suffer another California Poppy tragedy if I attempted to grow them in Portland. Sigh.

Bellegallica, I usually do my neighborly "pruning and garden cleanup" under the cover of night, scooping up little violas just almost spilling onto the sidewalk, snipping pieces of jasmine that wave to me as I pass by on my late evening strolls, brushing a few naturalized perennial impatiens seeds into my pocket as I perch on a neighbors wall, etc. To maximize the furtive transfer of choice plant materials, before each outing I (1) suit up in black clothing with ample pockets; (2) secrete foldable sewing shears, an old teaspoon, small plastic ziplock baggies and moistened paper towels in said pockets; (3) always carry a small keylight on my chain for close scrutiny of possible botanical hostages; and (4) take along my dog for a cover story. In the dark, who is to say if it's poo or posy I'm scooping into that bag?


    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 4:07AM
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My Nana was the queen of plant purloining. She came up when you were too poor to get plants any other way. She always said stolen cuttings rooted better than gifted ones. But she was always generous with anything growing in her garden. She also could root absolutely anything.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 10:18AM
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Did your Nana also teach you to always say "I appreciate it", instead of "thank you" for any gifted plants/cuttings/seeds? "Thank you" for a plant always resulted in its demise, while an "I appreciate it" guaranteed its success. Like always giving a penny with a new knife or wallet. And, always generously, freely sharing cuttings and divisions from your garden with others who desire them. "Sharing" made your garden flourish, which is logical. Many plants need dividing, thinning and pruning. It always gave me a ready source for material when something happened to my plant. Kim

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 12:13PM
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zjw727(Coastal Oregon Zone 8b)

LOL, to ALL of this : )

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:12PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I'm afraid I'd have no compunction about stealing cuttings from a large plant that would never be the worse for it, but taking flowers from someone's garden or having the absolute nerve of stealing potted plants or ripping off branches to get at kumquats would make me see red. Benign de-accessioning like Carol admits to practicing is just amusing and hurts no one, and allows one to be a little bit naughty with no harm done. I've never done any of these things because I'm quite sure nothing would grow for me and I'm just too impatient to wait for these little snippets to mature. Raising bands is already torture enough for me since so many take forever to grow up. I want it now!!! (Yes, such a mature attitude. Camp is probably rolling her eyes at me as she spreads ten thousand seeds around and puts another 200 bulbs in the ground).


    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:16PM
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Kim, she didn't teach me that one, but always to share. When my sister and I thin or prune plants, we always put a "free" listing on Craig's List. I'm always surprised at the responses we get and how far people will come for free plants.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:28PM
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Floridarosez9, I also Craig's List post my extras and set them by the curb. One taker screeched to a halt in front of my house, grabbed all the roses I had listed a hour before and shoved then in the back of his Subaru. I've never seen anyone so excited to score free plants! He said he'd been trying for two years to collect roses to fill his garden but had missed the all the choice freebies due to his schedule. Since he was on his way home from work, he booked it to my neighborhood to beat the crowd. It made my day that leftovers from my garden gave him so much pleasure. I added a couple more from my pot ghetto just to round out his beds. :-) Sharing really is half the fun of gardening! Carol

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 4:54PM
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Thank heavens, you can live an honest life and get almost anything you want, thanks to the internet. There has been progress in some things.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 6:06PM
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Sometimes when I see pictures of roses that I can't have I create wild fantasies about stealing cuttings and smuggling them back into the country. They never end well, these fantasies. I always get caught and end up in jail, either there at the garden or when I am going through customs.

I have a few "stolen" plants in my garden and I can attest that they grow very well. A little magnolia seedling that a friend dug up for me in a local university's wood is happy in a far corner of our land after months of neglect. And I lost very few of the 70 hellebore seedlings I "weeded" from a municipal planter. Do you know how expensive hellebores are??

I have not nipped a rose cutting. Yet.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 6:41PM
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Sidos-House, that sounds like film noir material! Carol

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 10:07PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

I think some would have laughed watching me pick up the four o'clock seeds off the sidewalk, different colors than I had. They do reseed like mad and all those fat rolling seeds were a safety hazard right?

I am still trying to figure out what is what from the pile of cuttings I got over a year ago from a neighbor when she pruned her roses, but I would never go cut a slip unless I asked her first. She has an amazing collection and was once a gardenweb person. I do go by and take pictures to try and figure out what is what.

I do have 4 that I swiped from other public places, all ones that the gardeners would have been pruning off on their usual rounds-ankle/leg/arm/face catchers hanging out over the side walks.

On the other hand. I have also given away tons of fruit & veggies and 100's of plants to friends, neighbors and strangers.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 11:06PM
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seil zone 6b MI

Guilty as charged, Belle! Although I've never taken cuttings without permission I have pocketed rose hips from many places. For the most part they're usually from public places like my doctors offices or the park and such. I did pop off a few hips from my neighbor's rose once but they were hanging over into my yard. It's a massive white alba that puts on a glorious display each year. Sadly she cut it back since then.

Adam, I know all to well about thieves! It was bad enough when I lost a whole bed of blooms I was hoping to have for a rose show once but twice now I've had my apple trees stripped of fruit! I count on those apples to make sauce and pies with and was very disappoint. And they shake the trees to get them down which isn't good for them. To add insult to injury they don't eat them. They only want them to lure deer in for hunting season! My Aunt also had a rose bush dug up from her BACK yard and stolen one year while she was on vacation. Arrgh! The nerve of people!

Kim, I wish I could give some things away! I've put boxes of divisions of iris and peonies on the curb with "free" signs only to have them sit there unwanted. But I never thought of Craig's List! I'll have to do that next time.

Lol, Carol, your a riot! I love all of your "how to" hints! I may have to get me some of those folding scissors...

I've done some of that dreaming too, Sido, about getting some of those really rare ones or ones not available in the US. But I don't travel so they really are just pipe dreams.

I think as long as you don't do any damage to the plant or the property snipping a bit here or there is pretty harmless. You just have to use some common sense about it. Ask first, if you can, and take carefully, cautiously and judiciously and I think no harm done. Besides, you might be saving something rare from complete extinction! Now is that good rationalizing or what?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 11:50PM
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All this is making me laugh, and feel envious. I have no one to give plants to, practically: it was a triumph to pass a pink and a fragrant purple violet to a friend the other day. I can't even put plants out at the curb, as we live in the country at the end of a road. I do snip and collect a little, but much of my gathering is of wild plants (taking only from good-sized colonies, digging few, leaving many). I really understand the lady I visited years ago, now a dear gardening friend, from whose house I returned with so many plants that we had to tie a potted mock orange to the roof of the the car. Another gal came to visit with three cases of perennials she had grown from seed. We spent seven hours touring the garden, and it was a lot smaller then. But I have no one anywhere nearby with passion, space, and time.
Among the many virtues of hellebores is that they seed readily and a large proportion of the seedlings are goodlooking plants. Most of mine are seedlings from friends' gardens. I potted up a good many babies from one of my plants this spring, and this fall will transfer them to the propagating beds to grow on until they bloom and I can see which ones are worth keeping.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 2:15AM
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catsrose(VA 6)

Guilty. But since I can't root cuttings to save my soul, such offerings sticking out of a fence are pretty safe from me. Seed pods, rhizomes, succulents and volunteers are all fair game, esp if they are on sidewalks, greenbelts or other marginally public space. I do draw the line at walking into someone's garden and helping myself without permission. My greatest trophy is a three trunked river birch I spied at the bottom of a garden that backed onto the gold course. It was a volunteer, about 18" tall. I quickly excavated it, brought it home and now it is nearly 30'. Obviously, it wanted to live with me.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 10:17AM
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I'm loving all the replies.

Carol, suiting up for a night of crime--oops sorry--for a night of "furtive transfer of choice plant materials." So funny. I'm going to have to remember that one!

It's such an interesting topic. As rational adults, we can all agree with those who say that taking anything without permission is theft and that we should always ask first. And I think we can all agree that digging up entire plants that obviously belong to someone is wrong. But not the volunteer seedlings that show up in ditches or at the fringes and which would be removed eventually anyway.

But many people move to the middle ground when it comes to cuttings and seeds, and I find that fascinating--what everyone's line is that they won't cross. And another interesting question is why those of us who do it, are so afraid to ask?

Myself, I have taken the odd cutting now and then without permission. And this is so funny, too, if you happen to be with a non-plant person when you swipe a piece. They usually think I'm insane, but can't help laughing at me either.

I'm currently eyeing a very old (the trunk at the bottom is BIG!) red china growing next to a mailbox I drive by on the way to work. Very tempting, sitting there at the edge of the street, taunting me...

And if those branches got any longer the thorns might be a hazard for the mail person....or scratch the paint on the mail truck...

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 12:38PM
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The red China by the mail box is an easy one. You know where they live and what their address is. Either mail them a note or leave one in the mail box identifying yourself, your interest in roses and their red China, in particular, and ask if it's OK for you to please take some cuttings. You just may make a new rose friend. Stranger things have happened! Kim

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 12:44PM
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I'm having an "OMG why didn't I think of that" moment. Great idea. I'll give it a try.

I don't think I'll be making new rose friends, though. From the look of things, these are non-gardening people. Other than the china by the mailbox, they only have lawn and the usual green foundation hedge. I'm thinking the rose is a "came with the house" thing and gets sheared back once or twice a year to keep it from engulfing the mailbox.

Which is why it would have been a low guilt cutting.

But that makes me think of something. I, too, have heard the old wives tale about stolen cuttings from my grandmother--that it won't take if you ask permission.

The last one I did--and this was years ago--was a cutting of a jasmine plant growing outside a restaurant. The cutting struck and grew but never bloomed. Karma?

It would be nice to have a totally guilt free cutting, though.

This post was edited by bellegallica_zone9 on Wed, Mar 26, 14 at 15:46

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 3:12PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

I think for me it makes a difference about who is caring for the plants.

If it is a person who obviously loves gardening and cares for the plants, I would never think of taking a cutting with out asking.

On the other hand, 2 of mine came from a place I knew the crew hired to clear/ clean it up and only took two that they missed.

The other cutting I swiped was from a big shopping center and was hanging over the sidewalk waiting to catch a walmart shoppers ankle as they passed by. If anything that gardener would have been in trouble for missing it.

Of those 3. One died when I planted and thought the chickens would leave it alone. They didn't one is busy growing and gaining steam in a 1g pot. The mall rose just threw a "big" cane and blooms fairly regularly for a small plant

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 3:37PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Yes, I do. Steal. Enthusiastically, shamelessly, wilfully. I make a special trip to our local botanics, every autumn, armed with hundreds of little envelopes, pens, notebook and secateurs....and head immediately to the systematic beds first of all where I absolutely make free collecting seeds - thousands of them. Afterwards, I might take a detour around some of the college gardens where I am on pretty good terms with quite a few head gardeners. Armed with polythene bags and secateurs, I collect cuttings all year round. I also consider NO garden out of bounds. Obviously, I don't march onto other people's land - I will knock the door and ask . I have done this literally hundreds of times (a tour of the garden would be nice, too) - never, ever been refused.

And, as a good gardener, I return the favour, handing over many, many seedlings, plants, cuttings and seeds. I am afraid to say that, despite my 'confession' I simply do not consider it stealing.....but sharing....... and spreading it around.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 5:41PM
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This is the perfect night for me to see this thread! I have a neighbor with the most beautiful peony blooming its damn-fool head off and the house has just gone up for sale. I had to have a very stern talk with myself to remind myself that I can't go and cut a bloom for myself just because no-one is living there right now.

Part of the issue is that herbaceous peonies are not very happy here in the city of Sacramento proper. I have never seen a peony plant this big and happy in my life. I'm going to try to get in touch with the owners of the house to see if they'll share their tips but I'm afraid there may be a language barrier.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 11:26PM
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Edit to add to last post: It's probably an Itoh. Doesn't matter. Still gorgeous, still rare around here. Still making my fingers itch for my clippers.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 10:59AM
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Thanks to Google maps, here's a picture of the red china by the mailbox. According to the date stamp it was taken about a year ago. Its size fluctuates. They must have to prune it regularly to keep it from spilling over into the driveway and sidewalk.

I know it's a blurry picture, but anyone have a guess as to how old it might be? I thought the trunk looked pretty thick, but I could be wrong since I've never been rose rustling in cemeteries where the really old roses are.

The houses in the neighborhood can't be much older than 30/40 years. Could it be that old?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 7:45PM
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That trunk looks enormous, belle-g. Maybe if you ask for a cutting or two, they'll say, "oh, take the whole rose! we're tired of trimming around it."

Google maps is disconcerting.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 8:22PM
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LOL. Just a cutting or two would be enough for me.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:26PM
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I live in Florida ... any one know any gardens or cemitaries I can hunt for old roses in

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:32PM
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Adrift, the only thing I've ever found around here is Louis Phillipe and Fortuniana. I suspect he Fort was what was left after a grafted HT died.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:59PM
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When I go to Missouri in June I am hoping to get some cuttings from a wild rose ..
And maybe look for old roses there too

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:14AM
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If your zone 9 is somewhere in California, please do not bring home cuttings of wild, or any other roses. By smuggling uninspected material of any kind into the State, you run too great a risk of also smuggling in RRD/RRV or some other pathogen or pest we may not already have here. Agriculture is a huge industry here due to the climate. With the drought, existing pests and diseases, and escalating land prices, there are already great pressures on agriculture, including roses. It is very easy to accidentally bring in Japanese Beetles, RRD/RRV, or some other issue we don't already deal with. Some of the worst diseases and pests are here because someone smuggled in material without playing by the rules. Citrus Greening and the Asian Citrus Psyllid which spreads it appear to have been smuggled into the state. So, please, don't smuggle in "wild plants" from anywhere. Play by the rules, no matter where you live. Kim

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:34AM
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I live in south Florida not California will that matter

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:43AM
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Yup. Notice how many nurseries out side of Florida list "phytosanitary certificates required" for shipments in to Florida. Your climate is as conducive to introduced pests and diseases flourishing and running rampant as mine, perhaps a bit more due to your increased rain and humidity. Citrus has also been huge for your state. There is no telling what is localized to a colder climate by the climate or geography you might accidentally smuggle home and release upon everyone else. No joke. Kim

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:52AM
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toolbelt68 (7)(7)

I guess your answer when you get caught is âÂÂThe Devil Made Me Do ItâÂÂâ¦.. lol

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 10:18PM
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Only took seeds from plants on the colleges/ Universities I went to. Asked for all the rest. Never have been refused a cutting when I offer to trade a little plant food or a plant for a piece.

I confess to switching two roses on a bank owned property. I was going down with my watering cans keeping them alive all year and the little rose was behind the big one struggling in the shade. January came and I put the little one in front and the big one in the back. I also gave them new soil and regular feedings. I don't think anyone ever noticed. The new owners take good care of them now and the roses bloom all the time. I never felt one bit of regret about my midnight rose adventure.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 1:19AM
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I've never had any luck trying to root rose-cuttings, zero-zilch... I love the 'swaps' and raffles, and wish we had more of them in my neck of the woods, I have loads of plants hanging around in cups that are from cuttings of other stuff in the garden and love it when folks drop by.I think my neighbors avoid me they are sick of having cuttings stuck in their hands!!....LOL,.sally

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 4:25PM
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