A few weeks ago I investigated a grandmotherly soul and two little girls picking my flowers from the footpath.  She seemed rather indignant when I asked her to stop.    She said they were picking precious little treasures and she teaches the children to only pick them outside the fence.    I don’t know if she noticed that I didn’t have a fence until about 15 metres into the property,  so did that mean they could pick in my front yard until they reached the fence?   What would those little girls have understood?  

 I told her this was a plant collection and I didn’t want her picking flowers.  It made me seem very mean  but I am put in that situation because of her lack of experience.         I  suggested she teach them to pick the flowers in her yard.  

 Many people think anything on the footpath is fair game and it could be legally, but not morally!   I have an almond tree on the footpath that was a plum tree I budded,   and have had Greek people wanting to pick the green almonds.   (I didn’t even know about eating green almonds until a few years ago.)   This family wanted to send their fat little boy up the tree to pick them.   A child,  and particularly a heavy one, is not going to realise that they are breaking branches and generally damaging the tree in the quest to benefit from its nuts.   They took some convincing that no, they couldn’t pick the nuts.  They didn’t even knock at the door to ask but after I discovered them they were yelling from the tree to me in the window.   It turned out that they were from the local fish and chip shop and remembered me when I was buying from them! 

 I had a lady here the other day who wanted to pick some jonquils for her mother and I said to go ahead though I didn’t really want them picked.   Then she wanted to pick some salvia and was ready to pick the two closest spikes.   I said I would use secateurs to do it and went to the back of the plant and picked some from there.    If you must pick people’s flowers, with permission,  get them from underneath or somewhere it doesn’t diminish the display.  Especially in winter the owner could be treasuring every flower on the plant.

 In the ‘old days’ people largely acquired plants by getting cuttings legally or illegally.   They would not be available readily any other way.     These days there are people trying to supply that need by operating a nursery.   Nurseries are a huge tie.    Not too many nurseries have really unusual plants which means you need a clientele of discerning gardeners – and they are not found in every garden.   People  can show appreciation by buying plants and not stealing cuttings!  

I don’t mind swapping plants with gardeners who put a lot of time into their garden and learn names and therefore have something to offer,   but I don’t like the attitude that there is plenty of plant and it is not much trouble to share some and preferably the correct name as well.   I have learnt not to give people secateurs to help themselves.  You can’t rely on people’s manners to be the same as your own idea of what is right.

  I absolutely hate it when even experienced gardeners step on my garden to get closer,  without asking first if it is  okay.   Another thing I hate is when visitors think they are being a help and pull my weeds out.   I believe you need to know the garden owner very well before you offer to pull weeds.   Personally I am often letting thistles live because I want them to feed to chooks.  Some atrocious weeds are good medicinal plants and a new visitor could not be sure what they are there for.   I especially  don’t want my weeds pulled out that much that people have to step on to my garden to do it.

 This whinge is not because I inherently behaved correctly myself.   I had to have it demonstrated by an experienced gardener not to pick her daisy bush from right in the front.   There is a general idea that it is okay to pick cuttings without asking.   I guess it is not so terrible if you are talking about really common plants like daisy bushes on the footpath.  However you might want to take cuttings from a nicely pruned daisy bush and could leave an ugly hole without even realising how you could have offended the plant owner. 

 When Norgates were operating they used to say pick a flower and then bring the flowers to them and they would dig up those plants for you to buy.  They had a couple of rows of peonies but didn’t mean for you to pick them for example, but not a lot of people would understand that without being told.   People often pick flowers in my garden if I am not with them which gets them a bad mark.   These days much information is spelt out exactly which does not leave things to chance that people will be on the same page as you.  

 Way back before I had a serious nursery I read an article from Peter Valder who wrote  books on wisteria and gardens of China.   Peter was a hilarious speaker and a good writer.   Peter was commenting on the poor behaviour of visitors to Open Gardens.    These days we have more education and more appreciation,  I hope.      If you haven’t done any serious gardening yourself it might look very easy.   Everything is easy once you know how,  but you have to put some effort into learning first.

 The Open Gardens Scheme guide book used to  offer information for garden visitors,  not to pick plants and not to take photographs without permission.    Taking photos may seem very innocuous but in reality some people use them for publication and there are copyrights to take into account.   It is very annoying as a garden owner who has worked hard to achieve a great garden, to open a garden magazine and find a photo of their garden they had no idea was going to be used.     

I once had a commercial garden photographer want to come and photograph all my salvias and then no doubt sell the photos.    I have sold many photographs myself and can use the income after all the trouble obtaining and growing them.   Photographs used to be worth around $100 each if used for publication but since the digital age things could have changed a lot.  I sell photos to be used for labels sometimes.   

 I have had to put watermarks right across the middle of my photos on my revised website because of people around the world stealing photos and cutting off the copyright notice when it is on the bottom.   Sometimes it is done unintentionally and sometimes people don’t realise they are trespassing on other people’s rights.  It can be annoying if it is a new salvia and people can’t take the photo themselves until they can grow it so they resort to stealing without even approaching the owner and asking. Please do not copy my photographs.  They are copyright.

 Another way people constantly steal is by reproducing patented plants without permission.   Backyard gardeners who sell at markets or open gardens are particular offenders in this regard.   I sell ‘Amistad’ after paying the royalty for the right to do so and a few other patented plants.     Owners of patents don’t want a lot of people licensed to sell because then it diminishes the profit of the person who has agreed to have the rights.    

 Some growers do not understand trade marks and what the situation is about selling trademarked plants, they don’t even care, but put their interests first before the law and the rights of other people.  The laws about trade marks are different to patented plants.   I haven’t heard of owners of patents charging illegal growers in Australia but deliberate disdemeanours deserve to be prosecuted I believe.  A small grower in my area is selling ‘Ember’s Wish’ as ‘Burning Embers’ with a homemade laminated photo.   Patented plants should come with an official label which has the royalty included in the charge when the owner sells the labels to you if they approve of you growing the plant.   There is an interim period when they are testing the plant before patenting and that is usually mentioned on the label.   I forget exactly how the law goes if you grow and sell it without permission in that interim but it is safer not to do it at all.

 Sometimes salvias in the greggii/microphylla group are so similar to others that it would be hard and take quite a bit of growing time to prove what the plant is.    The patented salvia ‘Blaze’ is often sold incorrectly I believe and by at least one  major seller.   There are so many similar raspberry microphylla sort of things .

 People who break the law are often selfish amateurs.    Really responsible large companies do not usually break the law.  The laws are there for the benefit of the country although they can also be very annoying if you want to import new plants.   Importing live plant material you can accidentally introduce something terrible.      I have known two Australian nurseries who have been caught illegally importing live plant material.  One nursery owner was fined  and the other rather large well known rare plant nursery was shut down for six months.

 I think people are more conscious of copyright applying to written material as libraries often make them aware of that. I don’t really know how the law goes.   I understand you can only quote verbatim a certain amount of words without having to acknowledge the source of the information.   With all the electronic equipment these days it is probably easier to cheat intentionally or not.