Story: The Garden Thief

When the dog and I go walking in the mornings, I often take snapshots of interesting things we see on our walk. Lately, as we’re heading into summer, I’ve been photographing any beautiful plants which I see in the gardens in our neighbourhood. I try not to trespass, but if there’s a flowerbed close to the road, I’ll step onto the sidewalk, and take a quick photo.

I’ve been wondering if anybody ever sees me doing this, and wonders what I’m up to. Am I a crazy bug person, chasing after a butterfly? The local “garden inspector” (there are municipal employees checking to see that, given severe water restrictions in place, nobody waters their gardens “illegally”). Am I an estate agent surreptitiously taking photos of properties I want to sell? (Here the estate agents are so desperate for houses to sell, that we’re frequently approached by them. I am never sure if they have considered that we would then need a house ourselves. Or maybe they have, and are hoping for a double sale?!). Or am I a plant thief casing out the possibilities?

We hadn’t been living here for that long, when we noticed that plants were missing from our garden, leaving very obvious open patches in our flowerbeds.  It was like an alien abduction. One day they were there, then the next time we looked, Poof!  . . . they weren’t.  Magic. We continued to puzzle over this, until one day a neighbour clued us in.

In our area there was (is?) a little old lady, who was treating the neighbourhood gardens like her own personal plant nursery. On her daily walk she would check out the local gardens – much like I’m doing now. Then if she saw a plant she liked, she would have somebody come and “collect” it for her, and replant it in her garden.

It didn’t take long for our neighbours (one of whom is a police detective) to figure out that she was getting inside help. And it didn’t take long for them to narrow down their suspect list to one person: our gardener. Who coincidentally was also the gardener for several other people in our neighbourhood.

We never did find out who the thief was. Our gardener denied any knowledge of the “garden crimes”, and nobody ever caught him at it. So I guess it could have been anyone – even the old lady!

[This is one of those times I really wish I could draw well, so that I could illustrate this post.]


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Categories: Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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10 Comments on “Story: The Garden Thief”

  1. November 28, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    “Garden thief”

    LOL, this SO makes me think of my mom and aunt! They used scope out the plants growing along the road when they went on road trips. They would then make their husbands stop to collect plants, which ended up being transplanted into their gardens at home (the plants, not the husbands!).

    When they found plants they liked in other people’s gardens they would ask politely for a cutting (sample) of it. It was only the plants from Nature’s garden that got “abducted”.

    • November 28, 2010 at 11:46 am #

      LOL At least your mom and aunt asked where there was somebody to ask! In our case, they weren’t just cuttings which were taken, the WHOLE plant was gone.

  2. November 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    Not so subtle, these garden crimes! Have they stopped, or do you still lose whole plants?
    Have a lovely Sunday xx

    • November 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

      Yes, the garden crimes have stopped. Either the old lady’s garden had got fully stocked by then, or whoever was involved heard that we were onto them.

  3. November 28, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Does the gardener still work for you? We recently had to fire ours after a suspected series of illegalities made us question his integrity. So far so good with our new hire who has yet to steal a thing! This is a great gardening story!

    • November 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

      Yes, the gardener still works for us. Despite not being the most reliable employee, he’s got green fingers and our garden appreciates him! 🙂

  4. November 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Hahaha that is so funny…though I don’t suppose it is if you’re the victim. I know people over here have stolen ornaments from other peoples’ gardens but not the plants!

  5. November 30, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    Could be the first case for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: South Africa. (Sort of like CSI: Miami, CSI: New York type of thing)

    You should definitely try to “draw” using Microsoft Paint! 🙂

    • November 30, 2010 at 9:34 am #

      TN1LDA: South Africa? Mmmh . . . One of our neighbours (the police detective) told me when some local kids threw a lit firecracker through our window, that if something like that happens again, I should call him and he’ll come and take fingerprints etc! So you never know . . . 😉

      Microsoft Paint: Yes, I’ve seen your attempts! 🙂

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