Mary Lou McFarland is a Master Gardener and retired educator who specializes in self-sustaining bulb gardens. She is a sought-after speaker for her talks on daffodils.

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Rescue or Theft
by Mary Lou McFarland       #Bulbs   #Flowers

Even if a home appears to be uninhabited, it belongs to someone. Permission should always be obtained before “rescuing” plants.

There is a movement among many garden enthusiasts to “rescue” the wonderful heirloom bulbs, shrubs and wildflowers of our ancestors’ time.  Many areas where they grow are being bulldozed for construction of homes, businesses and highways, while other areas are getting so overgrown with trees, vines and weeds, the plants are unable to survive without the necessary sunlight. Although saving these bulbs for future generations is a noble activity, it does not give us the right to take something that does not belong to us. Let us be clear about this fact. All land belongs to someone. When the owner of the land gives us permission to dig plants, it can be considered a rescue. However, if we take flowers or bulbs without permission of the owner, even if the owner does not live there, it is theft.

The milk-and-wine lily (Crinum scabrum) is found at old home sites in the lower South.

Bulbs and flowers have a preferred transplant or planting time. However, if enough soil remains around the roots, they can usually be moved successfully during their growing season.

In the hot, dry days of late summer, the Philippine lily (Lilium formosanum) puts on a beautiful display of Easter lily-like blooms.

How can we ask for permission if we don’t know who owns the land? A trip or phone call to your local county tax assessor’s office along with the address or location of the land can usually result in the needed information. Be prepared to learn that the owners may not want people coming on their land to dig plants. However, there may be some who give permission, and therefore, it would be worth the effort.

What about the flowers growing on a highway right-of-way? Those flowers are probably there for one of three reasons. The road or highway may have been built through an old home site, the dirt brought in for construction may have come from an old home site, but, in many cases, some person or organization from the area spent money, time and effort to plant them in order to enhance the beauty of the area. The laws concerning digging flowers and bulbs from highway right-of-ways vary, so it would be best to check with the individual county and state highway departments. In any case, the flowers add beauty to the area, and it would be nice for them to be left for everyone to enjoy.

Perhaps one of the best ways to acquire some of these wonderful bulbs and flowers would be to attend a plant swap or join one of the many garden clubs in your state. These organizations are well known for their sharing of passalong plants. Many times there are heirloom bulb sales sponsored by Master Gardener organizations. Just call your local extension office and ask to speak to the agent in charge of the Master Gardeners. They will be able to tell you if, when and where the Master Gardeners will be having a sale. By buying from these sales, you know that the bulbs have been gathered with permission of the owners, and that the money you spend will be used by the organization for their work in the surrounding communities.

Heirloom bulbs and flowers are a wonderful addition to any garden or landscape. Let us just be sure to consider others, and to obtain the plants legally.    


Flowers on highway right-of-ways add beauty to the area, and should be left for others to enjoy.


(Photography by Marvin McFarland)


Posted: 05/02/11   RSS | Print


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