An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

January 23, 2008

And You Thought Deer Were a Problem

This past Monday was what I hope was the beginning of the end of a long frustrating problem in my garden. It started this summer when I began noticing that quite a number of my plants near the sidewalk were being mangled and damaged just as they were coming into bloom. Among the things destroyed were my Zowie Wowie Zinnia, all my Salvia leucantha, my tropical butterfly weed, Firecracker Cuphea and a foliage tropical I hadn't even had a chance to learn the name of. Most of them were not killed outright, but they were ruined for the rest of the season. This fall, money was real tight for me and I had a hard time justifying the purchase of pansies and some Red Giant Mustard to give the yard some winter color, but being obsessed I did it anyway. About two weeks after they were put in, I noticed that one of the pansies was gone with no signs of a struggle - just a perfect round hole where it was planted. The next night one more was taken, and this went on until all I had were taken. Once the pansies were gone my Red Mustard was taken and then recently emerged bulbs began to disappear. Next on the hit list was my Autumn Rocket Camellia which was being systematically stripped of its lower branches. I put a handmade sign on it that said "Hands Off Please", and the damage stopped.

I thought I was being singled out for some sort of punishment, and began to speculate as to who it might be. I decided to join our neighborhood's list-serve so I could see if anyone had a similar problem or if they might have suggestions. Shortly thereafter a flood of messages were posted by people with similar problems. Pansies, shrubs and planters were disappearing right and left, and I was ironically relieved that I had not been the only one. There were all kinds of theories as to motives, suspects and responses. From speaking with each other, it became apparent that it was someone on foot, and that thefts and vandalism occurred in the very early morning hours. The police were rightly busy with other issues and could not be of much help other than to make the early patrols more frequent. Frustration levels were high.

This past Sunday I was hit again, and this time it was no dainty, inexpensive annual. While walking the dogs, I discovered my Edgeworthia chrysantha had been stripped of all but 2 or 3 of its branches and the bark had been torn off down to the ground. I was livid and glad my son was not around to hear what came out of my mouth.

Lurid Crime Scene Photo

Judging by past patterns, I knew that the perp would be back to finish the job, so I decided to see if I could catch someone. I got up on Monday at 4 a.m. and sat at our dining room window which has a clear shot of what was left of the shrub. At about 4:50 I saw this pony tailed women with a fat beagle come up to the shrub and begin maniacally breaking the rest of the branches. I ran out of the house and caught up to her and demanded to know WTF she was doing to my plant. She got tongue tied and I noticed that she had an armful of camellia branches and rosemary from another yard, along with my edgeworthia. She eventually said some crap about she didn't think I would mind if she took the branches. I asked her where she got the other stuff from and she said she found them "on the ground". After a lecture from me on ethics and pruning techniques, I was able to get her name, but not where she lived. I told her I was going in to call the police, but what I really wanted was to follow her first to see where she lived. When I turned the corner she disappeared.

I was able to post her first name and description on the list-serve, and by that afternoon I had a full name and address, which I reported to the police. Ironically she lives a few houses behind me, and the week before when it was nice out, I noticed her in her yard - planting pansies of all things. At the time I said to myself that that women was foolish to plant pansies in this neighborhood. Our community police officer said he would go and speak to the women, and suggested that I should let him see if he can put a stop to it. If not, I will be going downtown to let the courts do what they do.

Just another beautiful day in the neighborhood.


  1. Outrageous! Is she mentally ill or something? What kind of person in their right mind would do such things.

  2. Although I am not a doctor, and have never played one on TV - that would be my diagnosis.

  3. Sheesh! What else to say? At least you found out who was doing it.

  4. I'm surprised you were the first person who thought of sitting up to keep watch. But maybe now she knows that everyone knows who's doing it, she'll stop. keep us posted!

  5. I saw your link on Garden Rant. I'm continually flabbergasted to hear about people doing these sorts of things. I feel lucky that all I've had is one intentional drive-through across my sidewalk beds (it was mostly native grasses and salvias, and though limbs and leaves were broken, all survived).