How can I find out who wrongly gardened my garden?
July 11, 2009 9:33 AM   Subscribe

When I was away on vacation, someone trimmed the front hedge, seriously pruned the lemon tree and the lime tree, and trimmed my soap lily down to nothing! Help me to find out why (we didn't hire a gardener), and maybe get my lemons back!

I think a gardener must have been hired to work on someones yard and ended up at the wrong house. None of my immediate neighbors saw anything.

The trimmings are all in our green refuse garbage can, but there must have been 50 lemons on our tree that are now gone! We usually juice them and make frozen lemonade concentrate this time of year. The lemon tree is about half of what it used to be.

I am a little angry about this (and a bit befuddled and awed), our front hedge didn't need to be trimmed and the blossoms on it are all gone. And the chlorogalum is practically gone! During the daytime it closes up and may have looked dead to the gardener. You might think we should be happy about the free gardening, but it was really unnecessary and made our yard less attractive.

Would you file a police report? I suppose I should take photos, too. What course of action might I take to find out who did this?
posted by gavtaylor to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Would you file a police report?
What? No. Unless you're seriously proposing that someone trimmed your bushes maliciously, somebody just made a mistake.

You'll have less lemonade. You're going to call the cops over that? Especially when you have essentially no way to figure out who did it?
posted by Flunkie at 9:42 AM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: You're probably SOL, especially if the neighbors know nothing (or at least profess to). And I agree that the most likely story is that someone made an honest mistake- but that doesn't absolve that person of responsibility. File a police report if it makes you feel better- that at least establishes the extent of the damage officially.

You might try checking with neighbors a street or two over to see if they've been missed for a service they ordered. In the town I used to live in, there were often parallel streets with the same name, only one was 'X Avenue' and the next was 'X Place." This often caused confusion. Keep your ear to the ground, and you might find something out. Probably won't get your lemons back, though.
posted by Shohn at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2009

Yes, I would call the non-emergency line and report it. Do you have homeowner's insurance? I believe this would be covered. Whether done "maliciously" or not it is a violation of your rights. You have a deductible, but you may get compensation for it, especially if any of the plants/trees were compromised. For all you know this is some know-it-all gardening neighbor who doesn't like how you handle your yard and they seized an opportunity when you were gone to "correct" things for you. It's trespass. Report it!
posted by naplesyellow at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

For all you know this is some know-it-all gardening neighbor who doesn't like how you handle your yard and they seized an opportunity when you were gone to "correct" things for you. It's trespass. Report it!

Seconded. This sounds like a neighborhood busybody taking advantage of your absence. Not cool. Gardeners don't mistakenly go to the wrong house.
posted by jayder at 9:59 AM on July 11, 2009

A lot of our wedding flowers were going to come from people's yards (with their consent). So don't rule out the idea that someone just wanted your lemons and came to take them while you were gone.
posted by theichibun at 10:05 AM on July 11, 2009

Are they near power lines? The power companies usually have the right (and responsibility) to trim trees that grow too close to power lines.
posted by megatherium at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gardeners don't mistakenly go to the wrong house.

I agree. If someone had been hired for a one-time service, surely they would have been given instructions on what to do? I mean, "gardening" doesn't usually mean "strip all the fruit off our trees", does it?

In our area, there is a big push for gardeners to use native plants in their landscaping. But some folks (the same ones who pollute the groundwater with lawn fertilizer, coincidentally) think native growth looks like unsightly weeds. Could something similar be the case here? Had anyone walk by frowning at your yard lately?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:27 AM on July 11, 2009

My sister has a huge problem with her next-door neighbor's gardeners, who frequently come over and steal all the fruit off her trees.

I'm wondering if someone wanted to steal your fruit, and decided to prune your yard as a cover, to make it look like they were legitimately gardening.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:46 AM on July 11, 2009

The power companies usually have the right (and responsibility) to trim trees that grow too close to power lines.

Likewise, my city is persnickety about branches growing out into an alley or other public space. They'll send out a crew to lop off the overgrowth that they don't like, then bill you for the privilege, although typically they'll send a scary warning letter first.

In this situation, though, my guess is it's a trespassing neighbor. File a police report, don't expect follow up after that (the police almost certainly have other legit priorities), that's probably where it will end.

(However, there's a very, very small chance that if there's a pattern emerging and lots of people complaining, you might eventually get the satisfaction of seeing a grumpy mugshot of Neighbor X on the evening news as the "Lemon Tree Mangler".)
posted by gimonca at 10:48 AM on July 11, 2009

I'd report it to the police if only so you can easily dispute a bill in the future.
posted by Mitheral at 11:56 AM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Something similar happened to me a few weeks ago when the landscaper for the rental house next door completely removed our front flower bed. I called the landlord, despite the fact that he is not a nice man (he's a yeller), and we had new flowers in the bed a week and a half later.

So. I would suggest casually talking to your neighbors to see if they employ a gardener and ask them to replace any of the plants that were destroyed. Take pictures and be specific about what should be replaced. Our replacement flowers were all wrong, but I was glad that we at least got something.
posted by Alison at 12:21 PM on July 11, 2009

I don't live in an area where an experience like this is possible, but I do recall my patent law professor telling us of a time when the driveway repaving guy - who was supposed to re-pave his neighbor's driveway - mistakenly repaired the prof's driveway instead. So I suppose this kind of thing can conceivably happen.

That said, I agree with all the other folks in this thread that you should report this to the police. And sorry about your lemons.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:24 PM on July 11, 2009

This happens to us. We have some trees that produce big beautiful white flowers that have some folk medicinal application, and people just come in a saw the flower stalks off when we are not home. Difficult to get the LAPD interested, though.
posted by effluvia at 12:25 PM on July 11, 2009

I would categorize this as vandalism - your property has been damaged without your consent. Worth a police report. You might want to de-emphasize "someone trimmed my trees" and emphasize "someone did major damage to my trees."
posted by Billegible at 12:33 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

The timing is deeply suspicious, I suspect a neighbor who has an issue with how you tend your yard took it upon themselves to do it for you. Immediate suspect pool is anyone sharing the fence and anyone living within view. Do you belong to an HOA, or rent perhaps? Either a landlord or creepy HOA advocate might do something like this. Another possibility is someone you told about your vacation thinking they were doing you a favor, like a busybody family member. We actually have this issue -- my roommate's parents like to come over when she's not around and trim trees/pull weeds.

I really doubt it was an accident. A gardener hired for a one-time job would not just show up and do the work without talking to the person who is paying them first, presumably the resident. They also wouldn't make off with all the fruit unless the person hiring them said, "take the fruit if you want it."

I would file a police report. In the off-chance it was an honest mistake, a bill might be arriving in the mail any day, which you will obviously not be wanting to pay. Additionally, if I deduced which neighbor was responsible, I would press charges for trespassing, vandalism and property theft. That's just way outside the bounds of what's acceptable.
posted by cj_ at 12:48 PM on July 11, 2009

If I wanted to steal someone's lemons in broad daylight, I would have a friend trim hedges and so forth while I went after the lemons, so that if anyone asked we would seem like an innocent hired gardening service.
posted by hermitosis at 1:49 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hmmmmmmmmm, good answers thank you all for weighing in.

Our garden is extremely well kept, the hedges don't intrude upon sidewalk and the lemon tree is small and within our fence/hedge. I pretty much cannot believe anyone would maliciously attack the garden! It must have been a gardener......but why would they steal the lemons! Maybe, maybe it was a clever vandal/thief.

I too am especially perplexed as to why the people would try and do the yard without getting specific, in person instructions from the home owners. Maybe they are a landscaping service that comes every month with basic instructions to 'trim hedges, prune, remove dead plants and weeds', and maybe they have a few different crews and so they were fine with just doing to the job even though they had never been there or talked to anyone.....

Maybe the homeowner who hired these guys has a simple yard, and so just asked them to clean it up as they would their own?

I also saw that they chopped off the recently bloomed stalk of a large succulent when I rooted through the trimmings in the green garbage can. GRRRRRR, what idiot gardener would hack off such an interesting stalk with seed pods?? It was already bloomed so maybe it fit their 'remove dead looking things' rule.

I walked by 1234 San Pedro st (the street parallel to ours), and it had not been gardened recently. No one was home but I will try again later to see if perhaps they had hired someone, I sure hope they had.

I will file a report. I will take pictures. I will continue checking this thread. Thanks again to all
posted by gavtaylor at 4:48 PM on July 11, 2009

Sorry for your loss, I would honestly chalk this one up to a mistake, rather than fuelling any paranoia (I know how easy it is to take things very personally when it's your property!).

If you have a hedge, there's no way someone would have bothered trimming and actually binning the trimmings for a few lemons. They're not made of gold!

I second mistaken gardeners. Old people or landlords frequently hire gardeners with somewhat of a scorched earth policy. The other one is neighbours angry at your garden, but this seems unlikely; you obviously care for and take pride in your garden.

Chalk it up to bad luck, buy some lemons from a roadside stall for five bucks, and if it happens again, set up a web cam that takes ten or fifteen minutes interval shots. You'll nab the culprit in no time (if there is one). :)
posted by smoke at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2009

"but why would they steal the lemons!"

I absolutely guarantee you, there are a lot of people out there stealing fruit off of fruit trees.

Fruit is worth money. How many pounds of lemons do you think were on your tree? How much would it cost if you purchased that much fruit (likely organic) from the store?

That's the only sensible explanation -- the other "gardening" was just a cover.
posted by mikeand1 at 5:25 PM on July 11, 2009

I would guess that a landscaping crew showed up by mistake did what they thought they should do, and stole the lemons because people never miss 'em - and if fact some people what the fruit picked up and hauled away.

If the person who wanted the work done doesn't call before they crew boss comes to your house looking for a check, you may never know.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:06 PM on July 11, 2009

It may also be a case of two separate incidents - gardening mistake + someone else notices you are out of town and takes the lemons.

I was renting a place with a walnut tree in the front yard once. I was looking forward to getting the walnuts but I came home from work one day and the tree was harvested. The property had been abandoned for a while prior to us renting it, so my guess is someone got into the habit of taking the nuts. If someone had taken the lemons from the lemon tree I nursed back to health though I would have been pretty mad.
posted by mikepop at 6:30 AM on July 13, 2009

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