A cautionary tale for diggers

As a collector of plants, I was both amused and dismayed by Cinthia Milner’s essay “Serendipity: The Art of Roadside Digging” [The Dirt, May 28]. I applaud the rescue of plants from the blades of bulldozers. And it’s rewarding to find unusual old varieties of flowers that mark abandoned or long-gone homesteads. These old plantings have historic significance. Do you, Cinthia, always leave some when you dig—after getting permission?

However! Ever since reading the commentary, I have been haunted by the thought of those precious orange butterfly weeds and cascades of pink roses that grace the back roads disappearing at the hands of roadside gleaners. In the case of butterfly weeds, these flowers nourish butterflies, are not happy with transplanting, and I love to see them! The roses lighting up a tangled roadside bank may have been planted by a neighbor—and I love to see them! To enjoy wild or long-ago-planted flowers is a major reason for me to meander across Madison and Buncombe counties.

A word of caution: Years ago, I dug one yellow iris from a bank in rural New York. I planted several of its descendants along my creek, and they have marched hither and yon with gay abandon. Now I laboriously dig out this exotic iris and lament the day I succumbed to its flagging (sorry!) me down.

— Ray Constance Hearne

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