A small moral quandry...

butterbeanbaby(z5 MO)May 24, 2005

There is an empty lot by my daughter's school that once had two abandoned houses on it. The lot was sold, bought by a construction company, the houses razed and the lot is scheduled for development. It's been empty for two or three months now.

My question is... there are two big clumps of peonies on the lot, as well as some daylily. I've contacted two companies that may or may not own the lot but if they aren't the owners, what do you think the moral penalty is for digging peonies that aren't ones own?

Knowing the way the contractors build around here, they'll just flatten the entire lot before they do the building. I'd hate to see those beauties go to waste when they could have a happy home in my garden.


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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

I know I'd be tempted! I also have heard of a person who was charged with theft for cutting flowers from a lot they thought were abandoned. As I recall, this person cut a few branches from a forsythia shrub, she didn't even take the plant. Knowing all that, I would probably leave those peonies alone until the day you see the bulldozers, and ask if you can dig them before they do.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 11:25AM
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Hi, BBB--Personally, I'd go for it ( but maybe in the dark of the night!). Morally, I think the Universe would support you, and applaud your stewardship of those orphan plants! Bright Blessings! Greenwitch

    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 12:29AM
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sheri(St. Louis/zn 6)

Well I'm sure rooting for you! Especially since I'm in the same quandry with a patch of fabulous iris tubers! LOL!!

I'm just waiting for them to stop blooming. They mowed the lot last week. I thought for sure they would have mowed over the iris, but they didn't. If they had, it was going to be my cue to dig for sure!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2005 at 2:31PM
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butterbeanbaby(z5 MO)

I drove by today and an older gentleman was out picking up and cutting fallen logs on the lot. He wasn't the owner, but had met him and said he didn't *think* the guy would mind... he did say he's really hard to catch and that the lot will be developed at some point.

I went ahead and dug. There were TONS of peonies there, two huge clumps and lots and lots of smaller ones. Have no idea what color the small ones were as none are big enough to bloom yet. I got a box of white, a box of pink, and also some daylily and ginger. There's an old well or cistern or something way in the back of the lot. I may go back at some point to just wander around, without the kids.

I imagine that my moral punishment will be a nice case of poison oak, as the area had it growing all over and I, of course, was in shorts. I had to keep sending my daughter back to the car so she wouldn't step in it.
Good luck with your iris, Sheri. It's so hard to watch a lot get bulldozed when there are flowers growing on it. That happened around the corner from us and it about broke my heart.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 6:48PM
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tropicanarama(Chicago 5b)

Good for you! Consider yourself a rescuer of plants.

About half my garden is salvage. When I've run into stuff like this in the past, my protocol has been to call the developer (anonymously) and ask if I could dig up the plants.

Almost always they couldn't care less about what you dig. The only things they MIGHT care about are safety, liability, and looting. If you can convince them that you are there specifically for X and Y plants only, that you won't take anyone else with you, that you'll put things back the way you found them (including the fence and/or locks), and that you won't take or even visit anything else (especially where the property slated for demo is still standing, or where there's a big hole in the foundation, etc.), they should let you in. If they are hesitant to let you on the property without supervision, you can always just say, "When will a construction guy be back over there? Could I come get them then?" and just show up while they're there to do other things. As long as you sound extremely nice but persistent, they almost always say yes once they figure out how much you're willing to keep after it.

If they're STILL resistant, you can suggest that you'd give half the plants to a community garden or school or some such, appealing to their heartstrings and/or desire for a tax receipt. (It's a quickie thing to donate some portion of your loot and then get the receipt - often like a 1/2 hour of work.)

AND - here's where the "anonymous" part comes in - if they say no, and you really think they're just being a creep and the plants are slated for destruction, AND the site is unguarded... then you can sneak in anyway, knowing the risks.

Not that I have *ever* done such a thing of course.

...It's not just plants that get wantonly and wastefully destroyed by developers. I used to work for a company that did auctions at such properties, and Good Heavens, the stuff that got squashed by those developers' bulldozers once we had sold what we could. I watched a 2 month old gas dryer get squished once just because they didn't feel like moving it out of the way. ...It could make your hair curl.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 10:42AM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

I see you have already rescued them, good for you. In general, if you are POSITIVE that the lot will be developed, and have made some effort to find the owner, I would rescue some but not all of the plants. Like ones near the edge of the property might live through whatever happens there. But be SURE about the upcoming development.

I have owned some 'vacant' land for 16 years and early on planted flowers and berries and shrubs on it. Sure don't want anybody to go and 'rescue' them. :-) But hate to see plants killed for no reason, and today's development style is to scrape everything off and then plant other exspensive things later. Stupid, but hey, that is our modern society for you. I have picked lilacs on property that was about to be developed, think I dug something up, too, but can't remember. It was all obliterated shortly thereafter.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 5:46PM
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butterbeanbaby(z5 MO)

I did finally get a return call from one of the people I called about the lot... he was not the owner. But I have had two people tell me the lot will be developed, and the m.o. for development in KC is to level everything in sight, build a big house, then plant a little stick tree in the front yard. Along with the ubiquitous burning bush shrubbery along the foundation.

And just my luck... now that I've got a bit of time to get my liberated babies into the ground it's RAINING! They're sitting in the drive in the recycling buckets (hubby's comment: what the he!! did you do to my buckets????? there's stuff GROWING in them!) waiting for the rain to stop.

I also ended up with HIVES instead of poison oak, happy me.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2005 at 10:02AM
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mary4b(4b WI)

Glad to hear you got the peonies!

I wish I would have done the same for a princess tree. I didn't know what it was, but I always admired it.

A neighbor sold his property to developes and I did go get some rudbeckia, sedum and blue cardinal flower he'd left behind. But I didn't get the princess tree. They ended up plouging tons of dirt and put dirt MOUNTAINS right over what I'm sure they thought was just a big weed.

Every time I see that dirt mountain, I wonder if that princess tree could get through it! I really think I need to join an Optimist's Club as there's NO WAY that Princess Tree has survived, yet I seem to want to hope...

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 12:28AM
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I just had to say--good for you Holly! I'm so glad you got those plants. I'd just keep quiet about it though as you never know what nut is out there looking to make trouble over something stupid. Those plants would have probably just been destroyed anyway, and it sounds like they're worth a few hives.-Lynn

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 1:37PM
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