Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

International Save-a-Plant Week


Actually, there is no International Save-a-Plant Week … but I think there should be one.

20170922A International Peace Garden,
Gorgeous late summer flower beds at the International Peace Garden, Ottawa. All these plants will soon be pulled out and destroyed. Photo:

This would be a week in late September or early October when gardeners would be allowed to help themselves to cuttings of annuals and dig up tender bulbs in public spaces. I’m thinking of all the splendid plantings of so-called annuals that are actually tender perennials—plants like coleus, dahlias, begonias, flowering maples, cannas, feather grasses, hibiscus, echeverias, ornamental bananas, elephant ears and so much more—that presently fill traffic islands, roadside carpet beds and city park flower beds.

These gardens are actually stunning right now, but all of these plants will soon be pulled up and destroyed by teams of municipal employees. In warmer climates, they pull “summer annuals” to make room for winter ones; in cold climates, they’re often replaced by tulip bulbs … or the beds are simply left empty until the following spring.

A Bit of Organization

This would have to be organized: we don’t want people rampaging through public gardens like Swedish soccer fans! Photo: Frankie Fouganthin, Wikimedia Commons

Of course, I’m not promoting allowing novice gardeners to rampage through public parks, taking cuttings and pulling plants indiscriminately. Many plantings are permanent ones and you need a bit of experience to tell the difference between perennials and shrubs that need to be left in peace and the temporary plantings that will soon head to the trash heap. You’d need to set up special days and schedules and have an employee or master gardener who knows their plants there to oversee and direct.

Or let local garden clubs harvest plant material, then offer it to gardeners.

Failing that, municipalities should at least put their pulled plants in piles in designated spots and let people rummage through them. And if you don’t think anyone would pick their way through piles of wilting refuse plants, you don’t know gardeners!

Criminal Mind

I must confess that each year at this season, while I see those luscious beds brimming with gorgeous plants that have no idea they’re about to meet their maker, I’m sorely tempted to sneak out after dark and do a bit of guerrilla plant harvesting myself. In fact, only the thought of arrest and possible imprisonment really holds me back.

I’d rather think of myself as a horticultural Robin Hood than a plant thief. Illus.:

I’m not even afraid of public embarrassment: you could put me on the front page of the local newspaper with a caption “Garden Writer Caught Stealing Coleus Cuttings” and I wouldn’t be ashamed at all. I know a lot of people who would see me as a sort of horticultural Robin Hood: stealing from Big Brother to give to the people.

So, what do you think? Don’t gardeners everywhere—and the plants that are about to die!—deserve an International Save-a-Plant Week? Bring it up at your local municipal council meeting. Maybe something can be done!20170922B

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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