Yesterday I made a faux pas. I took cuttings of a wild winterberry shrub, growing along a desolate roadside which looked like nothing but swamp land. As I got to this native multi-branched deciduous shrub, I was excited it was covered with red berries – perfect for holiday decorations. I just couldn’t resist taking cuttings. I also noticed there were other previous cuts on the shrub, so someone else was there doing the same exact thing recently.
When driving through this rural town on Monday, there were tons of these shrubs growing in the wetland areas everywhere. The bright red fruit of the female plants are so vivid this time of year – they are somewhat irresistible. The temptation to take some for my holiday decorations and for embellishments in my container gardens of evergreens was overpowering. So overpowering I drove all the way from my town, after an a.m. walk, to this town about twenty miles away to get some of what I thought was nature’s free offerings.
A few minutes into cutting some branches, a car comes barreling past me and pulls in right behind my vehicle. With a steno notepad in his hand, the driver was jotting down my license plate. I started to wonder if I was breaking the law. “Uh-oh, the berry police are here,” I thought. He was a local resident that owned property nearby, and apparently, he doesn’t like anyone messing with these shrubs. I knew I was in trouble.
The shrubs, native to our areas and growing freely by suckering, were right along the road, so I figured this was not a private residence. And yes, perhaps if there was a house on the land, I could have walked up, knocked on the door and asked, do you mind if I take some cuttings? But I didn’t see a house anywhere there. But as it turned out, it was near a private residence, I think.
I profusely apologized to this guy saying — You are right, I should have asked first. He was absolutely right – that is the considerate thing to do and maybe – perhaps – even required by law (?).
But to be honest, I was so disappointed I couldn’t just enjoy my moment under clear blue skies of taking nature’s gifts without a confrontation. I just wasn’t in the mood. I had a bad week, or should I say bad month, and I just wanted to enjoy this morning. But lesson learned; guess this is not the area to take cuttings from. And my temptations overruled my moral compass.
After I explained my purpose for taking them – when he asked me to explain why I was taking them, he seemed to calm down. I told him I’m putting on a class this weekend, and I’m a designer of landscapes, and we will be discussing different evergreens and deciduous shrubs used in holiday arrangements, etc. But the whole time, I have to admit, I was nervous.
Then he said, “Well, you certainly seem to appreciate these and nature, and plants – so take what you have and that is fine, and please remember to seek permission first in the future.” And I assured him, next time, I would be more selective on my decision to feed my addictions and ask if I can find anyone near the property – by the roadside – I certainly will seek that permission first.
Because he seemed so irritated, I never got a clear answer if he actually owned the property along the roadside. I believe he owned the property way in the back somewhere, but I wasn’t even sure and I just wanted out of there by that point. I was so sure the shrubs, which are everywhere around this area along the roads and some hard to get to with the wetlands, were not privately owned. These were so close to the roadside that, in fact, I parked my car further down as to not be close to the cars traveling by, where it could be dangerous.
Sometimes our love of nature, enjoyment of wildlife, and addictions to plants leads us to make spontaneous moves that are not considerate. Taking these berries, to this gentleman, meant taking away some beauty in his neighborhood. And he is absolutely right –permission is important. I let the desire to have those darn red berries get in the way of my judgment and professionalism as a horticulturist. And, I’m sorry for that. But I can assure him, the beauty will be enjoyed ten-fold as I share my story tomorrow afternoon during my class with the ladies. I am sure we will all have a laugh and learn a lesson too.
By the way, I was searching for answers on this topic. Here’s an interesting link I found from a gardening forum. http://www.helpfulgardener.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=28157
Enjoy your weekends, and if you get tempted like me, take my advice, seek permission first if you can find it. And if you see a bird, you may want to ask it too. They may mind just as much as a local resident or property owner.