Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The story of the flower thief in our garden

fall bouquet
This is a story about the ugly side of people and gardens. I write a lot about the beautiful things, the lessons learned in the garden and the creative reflection and space. This is not a story like that. This is a story my partner, AdRi and I often only tell in person, and I realize I haven’t written about it here before. It’s a doozy. It's also chock full of profanity. So here you go…

“What?! I rang the fucking doorbell” she said, clippers in hand standing in the middle of our front yard flowerbed. My partner AdRi had been sleeping that morning since she was working nights at the time, and had awoken to the sound of the doorbell. Squinting in the summer sun, standing on the front porch, she was still half asleep, trying to figure out what she was seeing and why this woman was in our front garden. And why this woman seemed to have such an attitude. The woman kept clipping, indignant to the homeowner watching her. “I don’t care if you ring my doorbell, what are you doing cutting my flowers?” AdRi said.  The woman huffed and puffed, gathering her things and grumbling while she packed up. Her bucket of newly picked flowers, fresh from our yard, swung in her hands as she put it in her van parked out on the street. Off she went, attitude and all. Now awake, AdRi couldn’t believe what she had seen. A woman picking flowers in our front yard who seemed to think that by ringing our doorbell she had permission to pick herself a bouquet, or two or three.

Our neighbor Dennis told us a story in the weeks following this encounter. “You’re not supposed to be over there” he had told the woman picking flowers in our front yard. “Why don’t you mind your fucking business?” she said to him. Lovely. But Dennis didn’t back down. He knew we weren’t home, and he didn’t recognize this lady and her van parked on the street. Dennis was a long time North Portlander and he didn't take shit from anyone. He sauntered across the street and told her to leave. She quickly explained she had permission and that they were for a party and she had to have them. He told her he didn’t believe her. When we heard this, we only liked neighbor Dennis about 100x more. Damn right she didn’t have permission. And lucky for us, Dennis chased her off by writing down her license plate. She took off in a hurry.

When we heard that she was a regular in our garden, stealing flowers willy nilly, we were steaming. I should rephrase that. I was steaming. So much work, seed, care and love went into growing those flowers. Flowers I could hardly bare to cut myself for bouquets, were being stolen by a flower thief, and a rude one at that. These were the salad days of our early homeownership, and gardening was expensive and full of trial and error. I couldn't believe someone would invade our space like this and steal our flowers. I posted the license plate on a bulletin board in the house, cursing it whenever I caught sight of it.

A few weeks passed and AdRi called me on her cell phone. She wasn't sure, but she thought she might be actually driving behind the flower thief’s van and wanted to confirm the license plate. I rushed to the bulletin board and pulled down the number. Indeed, AdRi was behind the van. What should she do? “FOLLOW HER” I yelled into the phone, excited and nervous and feeling vindictive. Pulling into the Safeway parking lot, AdRi parked next to the flower thief. They both got out of their cars at the same time. Flower thief eyed AdRi and recognized her from their encounter in our front yard. She tried to avoid eye contact and scoot quickly into the store. AdRi wasn't slow and stepped in front of her. “Don’t you ever set foot on my property again” AdRi told her, sternly, loudly, and pointing a very direct finger right in the flower thief’s face. Flustered by the confrontation, flower thief didn’t know what to say. There may have been other words exchanged, tempers high and blood pressure pumping: the story gets fuzzy here since it happened over ten years ago.

When AdRi returned home I couldn’t believe she had come face to face with the flower thief from our garden. And she couldn't believe she had confronted her.

And she was never to be seen from again. Flower thief! Rude!

17 comments:

Heather said...

People are unbelievable. If she hadn't desisted I would have planted stinging nettle.

Jacquelyn said...

Oh, my god, I'd be swingin' mah Louisville Slugger all up in that woman's face! So freakin rude.

Sylvia Allen said...

At our previous house--not in North Portland--I had a beautiful, large white sage growing up against the front porch. One day I heard noises and went outside and a woman was clipping branches off the sage and putting them in a bucket she had with her. I just stood there, astonished. She looked up calmly, smiled, and said something about what a beautiful bush it was and how nice that she could get some of it. I still just stood there staring at her. She picked up the bucket, said "Thank you," and walked off down the street. I think one reason I didn't do anything at all about it was that she was elderly and a different race from me. But I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. She never came back as far as I know. Your flower thief sounds like something much worse. Glad you got rid of her.

MrBrownThumb said...

What a great story. Thanks for sharing it. I can't believe you waited this long to share it. LOL.

scottweberpdx said...

That is so rude...and sadly, totally believable, as I've had something similar happen (and from the sound of it, we're not alone)! My strategy over the past few years is to generally plant only things which produce lots of small flowers within grabbing distance of our sidewalk, as they don't seem to be targets for theft. I try to keep anything with showy, large flowers that might be too tempting (Lilies) further back. At least you know you can count on your neighbor ;-)

Anonymous said...

That has happened to us as well - but it is the neighbor who lives across the street. She says it is her duty (as a much better gardener than we) to protect our rose bushes from being overloaded with flowers, the lilies from falling down and keeping the irises healthy so that they will come back. Once we found out she was selling the flowers at a small farmers market angry words were exchanged with my partner. Our neighbor has not come back with her clippers but she now makes a point of visiting any new neighbors on the block and tries to tell them how awful we are. People like that are sad, sad, sad.

Alison said...

Holy Smoke! As Linus Van Pelt said "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand." Especially ones like the rude, selfish snot who stole your flowers. I would have been so unbelievably angry. Kudos to your partner for confronting her. And I hope you rewarded your neighbor with something decadent and chocolate and delicious.

danger garden said...

I am totally speechless. Wow.

bojack said...

Did you think about posting the van description and license number back when it happened? That would have been my instinctive response, although I'd have to be 100% sure I had them right before I posted them...

Paula said...

I'm glad it was you and not me because I think I would have hit her.

ricki 'sprig to twig' said...

When we had a garden in town, mostly people would ask. The one who didn't was invited to come back in her grubbies to help with the hard part of gardening. Needless to say, she declined.

outlawgardener said...

This is an unfortunate and all too common occurrence in all of our urban gardens. We continue to have similar experiences with people stealing flowers and sometimes digging up whole plants, sometimes just ripping up whole plants and throwing them on the ground once they've taken a handful of whatever they're after. When confronting the thieves on various occasions, my partner and I have heard a variety of responses including, "Well, they were on the street!" (So are the cars, but we don't steal them, do we!) "I have the permission of the homeowner." (That would be me and no ya don't!)"It's good for the plants, they'll make more," (why reseeding poppies no longer grow in my parking strip.) "I was just taking a few for my son's grave." (How does one respond to that?)

Ann Lovejoy once had a sign in her Seattle garden that said,"Please leave the flowers for everyone to enjoy." I'm thinking that there might be another use for those poetry posts for which Portland is so well known.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think about coming by and making a salad from your raised beds. Love, The Intern

Bell and Star said...

Oh man, such bad joojoo stealing flowers from a hard-working gardener! So glad to hear that she hasn't made a reappearance.

Chelsea said...

My aunts used to drive around at midnight and steal flowers. I remember being around 6 years old and waking up to huge bouquets of gorgeous flowers all over the house (I lived with them). Great story, your partner is a saint that she didn't punch the lady and I am totally bringing this up at our next family dinner to embarress a few former flower thieves. So rude.

whimsy2 said...

A flower thief once stole my last two tulips of the season a couple of years ago. They were in a small plot in the parking strip. I left a note there, "To the thief who stole my last two flowers: Shame on you!" It hasn't happened again.

MulchMaid said...

The unbelievable cheek of this woman! Just what goes on in the brain of people like his?