The ‘Ground Cover Bandit’ strikes again


    By John Weldon

    It is illegal to take cuttings from plants in council parks, isn’t it? Not that I’d ever do that, I’m just asking for a friend who thinks he might have a problem.

    He didn’t intend to become a lawbreaker. Like many criminals, he slid accidentally into a life of crime. It started one day, after a storm. He found a metre-long piece of cactus lying across a path in the park. He couldn’t just leave it there, could he? To be trampled on by walkers or ridden over by cyclists? Besides, think of the damage it would do to their tyres. So, he took it home and planted it. Weeks later, he saw a similar cactus in a nursery with a three-figure price tag attached – that’s when the trouble began.

    He started looking at the gaps in his garden that he’d never been able to fill because ground cover plants are sold in such tiny, yet expensive pots. It didn’t seem fair that there were swathes of lamium, dichondra and other plants just lying there in the park, doing nothing, while his garden languished.

    Rather than relaxing him, his walks to and from work through the park now became exercises in torture. He couldn’t help but run the numbers on the plants he passed each day. Hundreds of dollars of greenery there for the taking. To make matters worse, they were so carefully cultivated, so well positioned, that he could plainly see which ones would thrive in the morning sun by his westerly fence, which would prefer the afternoon heat, and which might relish the shade under the figs. The park became a nightmare, a hellish living nursery catalogue, whose verdant lushness seemed to mock and belittle him and his feeble efforts at establishing ground cover in his own yard.

    He tried to resist. He swore he wasn’t going to take whole plants, just a few cuttings each day. Like a low level mafioso, counting the money in the back room of a casino he began to skim a little off the top. Who would ever know? Each morning, he’d pinch a few stems. But pinching the cuttings was too clumsy, so he started packing scissors. By the time he’d graduated to hydrangeas and other larger plants he’d taken to carrying secateurs and a bin bag with him every day. 

    Initially he kept these cuttings in soil in old take away coffee cups on his office window ledge, but now he’s graduated to propagating trays, cutting powder and seed raising mix. He mists the cuttings daily with diluted Seasol, careful to keep them in the Goldilocks zone of optimal moistness. He’s got a set up now that would be the envy of any covert drug operation. He’s a player.

    They call him, The Ground Cover Bandit. Well, he calls himself that – either way he gets off on the notoriety, he’s hooked on the thrill. He knows If they ever come looking for him the scent of Seasol in his office will give him away, but he no longer seems to care. I’m addicted to the danger. HE is addicted to the danger. HE. Not me. I’m fine thank you. 

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