FOUR YEARS AGO—2012
Four years ago while we were doing a major remodel of our house, because of the drought we yanked out the water-guzzling white Simplicity roses that grew in the strip next to the sidewalk. We replanted the strip with drought-tolerant succulents. Instead of the usual monochromatic gray-green palette you think of as a succulent garden, we ended up with a profusion of colors—golds, oranges, pinks, even reds.
The little sidewalk strip— think quasi public area--had curb appeal and attracted attention. People stopped to photograph it, probably thinking they would do something similar after they ripped out their water-thirsty lawns.
The new drought-tolerant garden had barely been in a month when one morning I went out to get the newspapers, and I noticed dirt splattered on the sidewalk. Looking closer, I realized that some of the prized rosette succulents had been dug out. Stolen. Taken. Robbed. There were fresh holes where the day before there had been five gorgeous pink-gray rosettes, just beginning to take root, grow and thrive. I felt violated. Is nothing safe?
Is nothing sacred?
These pretty plants aren’t pricey, nor are they rare, and they are easy to find in any local nursery. I guess someone thought they were even easier to find in my garden.
I started talking to neighbors, asking if they had experienced a plant robbery? A few had. They suggested it was the work of gardeners who dig up the plants and resell them. Robbery and fraud.
Another friend, Shelby, who has owned a nursery, said, “People have a sense of entitlement. If the garden isn’t behind a fence, or in your backyard, but out front, in public, then people think they’re entitled to take a plant. Plant theft is pretty common."
I contemplated writing an article for our local newspaper. I thought about posting a sign: Do Not Trespass. Private Garden. Paws Off! Security Camera. Shelby suggested a sign that said, Take One; Replant One.
My husband said a sign would call even more attention to the garden.
Perhaps I should take it as flattery, a compliment. Someone appreciated the garden enough to steal part of it.
When I was younger if something of mine was taken, I’d shrug it off: That person must have needed it more than I did. I wouldn’t fret over it or worry about it. Except for the jade ring with the golden dragons on the side that I'd inherited from my grandmother. When I was 13 someone stole that treasure from the saucer in the bathroom at our house.
But when plants are stolen, I do not feel someone needs them more than me. I’ve selected them, planted them, fertilized them, nursed them along, hand-watered them (sparingly), and enjoyed them.
TWO YEARS AGO—2014
Two years later, again under the cover of night, someone with a large shovel dug up four firesticks. A firestick, I learned, is a stunning plant that turns yellow, orange, and then red. Our mature, two-year-olds, were almost four- five-feet tall. They welcomed me every time I came up the street and turned in our driveway. This time the robber left deep, messy holes where the colorfully flamboyant firesticks had been growing so happily.
I thought again about posting a sign; Hands off! Do not stead my stuff!"
But isn’t that ugly, angry harsh tone the exact opposite of what the gentle pleasure and quiet beauty of a garden is all about? And I didn’t want to see such a nasty sign when I walked by the garden.
Last night it happened. Again. There were three plants that had never done well; they were just barely hanging on. I thought maybe they needed more water. So, every time I returned home and had extra water left in the bottle in my car, I’d sprinkle the three plants, and they started to respond! One sprouted up to 24,” the other two were on their way.
This morning I noticed telltale dirt carelessly splattered on the sidewalk. At first, I thought a dog had been digging around, kicking out dirt. Then I looked closer, and one of my hand-watered, lovingly hand-grown succulents had been robbed.
I’m disappointed and disgusted. One friend suggested that I care less. I thought about yanking out all the plants and putting in ugly black gravel. Take that, you thieves.
And I question, Who are these thieves anyway? Because the gardeners on our street usually are long gone by 5 o’clock at night. This crappy, callous behavior shows a lack of respect, a lack of knowing what’s right and wrong. And I wonder if my carefully tended plants—my green pets--are shriveling up and dying in their new environment, wherever it is.
What is one to do? These thefts put me in a bad, irritable mood, and my friends are usually complimenting me on my positive, optimistic attitude.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
The moral of this story is that the plant thefts are a metaphor for injustices in life: the thievery isn’t right, it’s immoral. Although the plant thefts leave me feeling shattered and destabilized—how dare they?--I will not give the thieves the power to rain on my parade. And the robbers are inheriting the bad karma they are creating for themselves. So, after getting over the shock of the robbery, I’ll keep enjoying a positive attitude about life, and keep planting, and replanting, if necessary. Maybe someone, somewhere, sometime will have a streak of consciousness and will even return some of the plants.