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