Watch out for the gar­den nick­ers

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The prop­a­ga­tion of plants is an art form for many gar­den­ers and tak­ing cut­tings can be a re­ally en­joy­able oc­cu­pa­tion.

How­ever, some peo­ple seem un­able to re­sist the lure of the prom­ise of a ‘free’ plant, and act as if ev­ery­one else’s care­fully tended bor­ders are fair game.

Sadly, for many of the gar­den own­ers who open their plots to the pub­lic, the rise of the dreaded Plant Nicker seems to be on the in­crease.

Some of my favourite plants have come from cut­tings freely given by friends and col­leagues, and I’m happy to do the same for oth­ers, as long as they ask first.

We can all ‘spread the love’ by shar­ing our plants in this way. I have sev­eral roses, for ex­am­ple, which I know only as ‘Fred’s rose’, or ‘Jo’s rose from a Cor­nish church­yard’, in trib­ute to the per­son who gave me the cut­ting from which they grew. I has­ten to add that in the case of the lat­ter, my friend Jo did ask the vicar first. If she hadn’t, I sup­pose she might have been re­ferred to for­ever after as one of the Vicar’s Nick­ers.

Trou­ble is, the pop­u­lar hor­ti­cul­tural term to ‘take’ a cut­ting, seems to be in­ter­preted lit­er­ally by the Nick­ers of Cut­tings, le­git­imis­ing their grubby trade, and turn­ing the down­right theft of plant ma­te­rial into a skilled art form.

I’m think­ing of those who visit open gar­dens dur­ing the sum­mer armed with co­pi­ous hand­bags (and man-bags be­cause, gen­tle­men, this ap­plies to you too), se­ca­teurs at the ready, as they wait for the op­por­tune mo­ment to dive into a shrub­bery and snaf­fle some tempt­ing piece of ma­te­rial.

Most of the time, these seem­ingly re­spectable char­ac­ters get away with it, but I do know one lo­cal owner who is fight­ing back. He has an un­canny ap­ti­tude for spot­ting Nick­ers, and will some­times lurk amongst the fo­liage, from whence he’s been known to leap out, pounc­ing on any­one fool­ish enough to try to steal from his plant col­lec­tion.

One such Nicker (a so-called lady, al­though I’m sure she doesn’t de­serve the term) was duly chas­tised in full pub­lic view, and ban­ished for­ever. She should, I think, have her face per­ma­nently plas­tered, outlaw-style, on posters at ev­ery gar­den in the coun­try, or at least be named and shamed on a Facebook page.

Now there’s an idea for some­one who likes tech­nol­ogy (and, I has­ten to add, it’s not me, as I’d much rather be rootling about with my cut­tings than play­ing on a com­puter).

Couldn’t some­one start an on­line ‘Wanted’ web­site to warn the own­ers of gar­dens about known Nick­ers? Mind you, put­ting ‘Gar­den Nick­ers’ into a search en­gine might get you a lot more than you bar­gained for.

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