Friday, 18 June 2010

Thinning Plants or Thieving Plants?

A common mal-practice amongst landscapers here in South Africa, and particularly the larger companies that provide landscaping or maintenance services on a large scale, is the theft of plants.
Aloes in flower, planted with Strelitzia back-drop
Its an accepted fact that when a bed becomes overcrowded, it becomes necessary to thin those plants out, and then replant them elsewhere. Often, they are just replanted elsewhere in the garden, and sometimes they are even sold on to other clients. Both of which I believe are acceptable solutions.

The lines become blurred, however, when there is no real need for thinning. The landscaping company is just looking for free plants that they can then sell on to another client.

I saw a particularly bad case of this recently, in the turning circle of an office park in La Lucia. The bed was planted with a swathe of Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise Flower), which had begun to mature over the last couple of years, and was creating a perfect backdrop to the Aloes planted in front. When I drove past the other day, all the Strelitzia had been removed and replaced with Anthericum - a favourite amongst generic landscapers because they are fast growing, and cheap. The value of the Strelitzia when sold on, would have been in the tens of thousands.

Normally, I would be happy that wild grasses are being used in the landscape - they are a great source of food for birds, and are very under-appreciated. But in this case - I'm fairly certain that the client had no idea what had just happened. The grass will never create the same effect that the Strelitzia had - and I believe the garden is aesthetically poorer for it. Not to mention the fact that I have spotted a troop of mongooses using the Strelitzia as a place to hide.

The sad thing is, the client may never even notice the difference, and probably for this very reason, crimes like this continue to be committed by unscrupulous "landscapers". The unfortunate result of this type of action is that it calls into question everything done by the landscaper, and erodes the trust required to design and maintain a garden.
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