I was in a big box store this weekend looking at plants (go figure, right?) and couldn't help but notice that several of their annuals were going to seed. Hundreds, no THOUSANDS, of seeds, just waiting for someone to pinch 'em off and take them to a good home...
I didn't do it but I DESPERATELY wanted to. What about you, have you had a situational ethics dilemma when it comes to your garden? Snuck a cutting, snagged some seeds, permanently borrowed some bricks?
Yep. I'm guilty! Especially at my WM store. I snatch seeds and have even picked through potted plants they've put in the 'throw away' bin. Actually I feel like a plant savior for some of these poor plants.
i wouldn't feel guilty about the seeds--wouldn't take bricks tho
if it would make you feel better i bet if you just asked the store clerk if you could maybe take a few little seeds from this plant -he/she would look at you like they never had anyone ask that before and then answer "sure-i guess so"
I tell you, I stood there and stared at those seeds for so long I'm sure someone thought I was in a trance or something!
So far I haven't done any of the things mentioned in the OP, but I have seriously considered leaving notes on some of my neighbors' doors asking if I might take a cutting or 10 =)
Dancey, if someone's placed a plant in the trash it is definitely fair game. I played a lot of "trash to treasure" during my poor college years (plus a few poor years after!) and it boggles my mind what some folks will kick to the curb. I found a perfectly functional Ryobi rotary sander once!
TC, I've got rocks to spare if you're ever in the area! Our house came complete with three stone wall flower beds, and based on the number of rocks I'm digging up I'm pretty sure there were a few more around at some point in time. And whomever owned the place before must've been a mason because there are bricks everywere...
Another rock option: go gem hunting in western NC. There are places that let you dig your own dirt, and if you happen to want to keep all the big rocks, then so be it =)
Our local Meijer store refused to let me take plants they were throwing in a big trash bin--they said they're required to throw them away!! No sale rack, just throw them away if they have a few dead stems!
The Home Depot here is kind of like that: they don't throw them away, but they do send wilted plants back to the grower. What's the grower going to be able to do with 'em? I'm willing to bet they don't get paid for those plants that HD manages to kill, either.
I've had success offering to BUY the discarded plants at big box stores at deep discount. When I ask, they are usually so taken aback that they say to just take all I want. One time I made an offer (end of season) on some one-gallon boxwoods (buck each for about 50 that were originally priced at $6.99 @) and they agreed! Great deal for me, and they created a nice boxwood hedge at a fraction of the price.
What a deal! I have to admit my DH pinched off a few Christmas/Easter cactus leaves, not at a store, but at the local DMV!!! I kept saying stop that and he kept saying "They won't mind". I now have 4 thriving cactus plants, all different colors, thanks to the DMV.
I've picked seed in nurseries; taken "dead" plants from trashes (and by the way: No, WalMart will not have to pay for anything they pitch and/or send back the plant sticks from). My worst was "gleaning" from a public planted median strip. DOT stopped, asked what I was doing. I smiled and said I was picking seeds -- an anti-litter thing. He saluted me and left!
When I was still working in horticulture, my best bud and I would go to the local Arboretum. She would post look-out leaning against a sign, while I scrabbled and crawled around pocketing seeds (or cuttings - for which you must come prepared - premeditated - with baggies with wet paper towels). When I was done, she'd come with me, leaving the sign which stated "NO seed gathering. Absolutely no GLEANING or CUTTING!"
Kind of fun feeling like a criminal -- a victimless crime. But 20 years later am sure glad I was never assaulted by the Plant Police!
Here's my basic ethics on plant and other natural resource collecting. Please forgive me if I sound sanctimonious or preachy, but some of these points are pet peeves with me. I'm not trying to tell anyone that they must do things my way, just here's what I think and why. I've put a lot of thought into this over the years. Sometimes not related to gardening. My family and many of my friends tell me I think too much. I figure if you want my two cents you can read this, if not you can ignore it.
Seeds can be collected from just about anywhere, Arboretums or other botanical or natural gardens or people's houses that you know collect seeds being the exceptions. On the same hand, don't get greedy. If the land doesn't belong to you, just like you would in the wild, leave enough for the plants to reasonably reseed themselves, you can take a bit more in garden situations than in the wild because things like water shortage, pests, etc. are likely to be taken care of by people. If it's private land and you can't reach it from the edge, you should probably ask the owners if it's ok. You don't want to have to explain to the police (or worse a shotgun or watchdogs) that you weren't really trespassing you were just collecting seeds. Same with farms or obviously working gardens, it's not an complete exception like the ones above, but it's defiantly polite. In standard gardens the owners probably don't want to be bothered every time you want a couple seeds or cuttings from the edge of their garden, and weren't going to be using any part of the plant anyways except to look at.
Cuttings under 6 in. can be taken from mature plants at any public, state or federal property, including traffic islands and parking lots. As long as you aren't causing a scene and can do so safely. If the plant is hanging over the sidewalk or road, not can be reached from the sidewalk or road but over the sidewalk or road, you can take up to 6 in cuttings, or 1/10 of plant, whichever is smaller, or the part fully hanging over the sidewalk or road if it won't negatively effect the plant. People are supposed to keep plants in their own yard. If it's creeping into your yard it's free game up to killing the plant. I have gone to people's houses and asked if I could take cuttings.
Flowers should not be picked without permission unless they have gone to seed. Too many people use the flowers for cut flowers or dried, or just want to look at the flowers, to make this reasonable.
Especially if you're going after native plants, I feel any land that is going to go under construction, is free game. Especially if the land is for housing complexes or office buildings where they are going to clear cut. As long as construction equipment is not yet on lot, if it is make sure you get permission. From those I know, it's a pretty good chance that the construction people will let you grab plants as long as you're not in their way.
If a plant is growing in the sidewalk or other obviously not intended area, go for it. Same goes generally for plants the large majority of people consider weeds. If you have any misgiving about if the people would consider it a weed or want it where it's placed, ask. But if they do think it's a weed, who's going to turn down free "weeding" or pruning for that matter to collect cuttings?
Any plant, or really any item, in trash can or rubbish heap is free game as far as I'm concerned, just don't get caught. Offering to buy the things at a major discount, or if it's ok to take them, is probably a better options, but if they say no, taking them is probably stealing. If you haven't asked you have deniability. If cops can take things out of your trash without a warrant why can't we?
Naturally growing plants or natural items, for instance in national parks or other "native" areas, is a bit tricker for me, because you are taking away from a natural eco-system. Man made items that have been turned into cool things, such as sea glass, is free game, because it's basically litter. Unless it would uproot a plant or displace an animal. Seeds should be collected sparingly, remember that berries and fruit contain seeds, and if you eat fruit try to spit the seeds out in the area of parent plant if possible. Basically, make sure you leave enough seeds, and fruit for rotting compost, that the plant can produce enough offspring so at least two new plants per parent plant would be expected to survive to adulthood. This will obviously differ depending on place and plant type. Take cutting sparingly and only if they remove barely any of the plant. Remember that these plants don't have anyone to take care of them, so they are more likely to be hit by negative forces, including humans, and will need resources to bounce back. No whole plants should be taken unless they are obviously going to be pulled or cut, such as on trails or roads or in areas that are clear cut to prevent plants growing on trails or roads. Before collecting stones, wood, berries, fruit, flowers, mushrooms, shells, seaweed, etc. learn about the eco-system. If it's not a high tourist area, where a lot of people are taking things without thinking, and removing the amount of items you want is not going effect the plants or animals ability to thrive, and there are no rule to prevent it, go for it. But, if you don't know assume that it will affect the eco-system.
Also, sometimes you have to compromise. My step-daughter, 7, is really into rocks. I tell her not to take rock from peoples yards, but really, if they have a rock covered front yard, or a private lot, are they going to miss a rock here and there. We probably have enough rock up in her room to make a decent sized rock garden, and I am considering doing so to get the common rocks out of her room. I tell her to stay on the sidewalk, but especially in a housing complex where no one really owns their front yard, are they going to mind if she cuts across their lawn. Unless she's getting invasive I generally look the other way. I have been known to do some gorilla gardening, some of which was questionable. I have also collected small amounts of firewood from areas where you weren't supposed to. Things like that.
It really comes down to, learn about the place and use common sense. Think about why rules and laws were put in place and decide if you agree with them. Remember that what might seem like a small thing to you, might be a big deal to someone, or something, else. My mother just lost several plants she was going to give to me because she had some yard work done and didn't specifically tell him to leave the plants and he thought they were weeds. Not a big deal but an example of how what seems small can be a pain for someone else. Taking certain shells from some beaches decreases homes for animals, like hermit crabs. Taking rocks or wood from rivers and lakes can remove hiding places for fish, making them more likely to be eaten by predators. Things like this are especially a problem if everyone who comes through is thinking "well a couple won't hurt" but thousands of people a year are thinking that.
Ok, that's the end of my rant. Thank you for listening. Sorry it's so long.
Any land that is "going under construction" isn't actually free game until the dozers arrive. The dozers will not arrive until AFTER the "census" is done. A crew will go through , using a grid system. They will: Identify each plant, approximate size and maturity. Then the plant will receive one of three spray paint choices (These are small, 3 - 6" circles on the ground) one color for "leave it right here, we will build around this specimen"' these will eventually be plastic ribbon tagged. Another color for "remove to be dealt with commercially or by reclamation". The third, which is often no color: "leave it here -- we'll doze it". Often, on raw desert, there is a 4th color, to be used in conjunction with the first two, which says that it's a protected plant species.
(Shhhhh - I still glean in arboretums -- you can't tell me they get it ALL,)
slatwood, until they start changing the plot I don't consider it a construction site so that's where the confusion came in. Until then the building rights can always be revoked. That's part of the reason they do the census, if enough protected plants grow there they can't build.
I've never got into any trouble by pinching a few cuttings or seeds from a public place - I would draw the line at taking them from a retail outlet or garden centre though - even though they might be going in the bin. Most managers would call the cops!
My granny use to take a pair of snips with her to Kew gardens - bless her! I would have wet tissue wrapped around bags stuffed with clippings and shoved down behind me in my pushchair. I ask you - what chance did I have?