I have shared with you the ups and downs of being a volunteer gardener, working in public spaces like parks. Two nights ago a new concern crept into view and it got me thinking of things that strike fear in the hearts of landless gardeners. I share this with you not to dissuade you from lending your talents to public garden spaces, but to be realistic. And, truth be told, I’m writing to commiserate a bit with my fellow landless gardeners.
As I was installing the last of the new plants for the night (there is still a backlog of plants to be planted), four boys around 10 years of age came into the gardens with basketballs in hand. Well, nothing good ever came of basketballs and gardens! They were looking for the drinking fountain. They were young, funny and full of boundless energy. We chatted for a while, but then the garden spigots attracted their curiosity and all heck broke loose. The water was blasting, the sprinkler was going crazy and I was thinking, Time to go, boys!
Here’s the thing about landless gardening—it’s a public space, anyone is and should be invited, even full-of-energy boys having fun in the water on warm summer night. Can you blame them? No. But it still worries me, what happens when I am not at the gardens shooing dogs out of the prairie and turning water spigots off after the kids have their fun.
Then my friend who is also an avid public-space gardener shared that recently plant theft has been on the rise at another park. People are digging out newly installed plants—plants that volunteers pay for—and stealing them. The same is happening to another friend managing the grounds of a public garden—and the perpetrators are taking the good stuff. So we have discerning garden thieves to contend with now.
So what does this mean? What happens next in the land of public gardeners? Nothing. We keep doing what we are doing. We pick less expensive varieties of plants. We worry and lose a bit of sleep thinking about our gardens, left unprotected from those who would do them harm. I worry that the plants I still have to install will be taken. But with all there is to worry about, I still wake up in the morning excited to return to my gardens, add more plants and make plans for new additions.
I found this image via Shutterstock. The little gardener – Vintage engraved illustration – “La mode illustree” by Firmin-Didot et Cie in 1882 France