You be the judge: should my girlfriend stop snipping plants in the park?

<span>Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian</span>
Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian

The prosecution: Lars

Lily takes clippings from plants that aren’t hers. It’s setting a terrible example for our future child

Lily and I love going to gardens and parks, but she takes cuttings off any plant she fancies. When we’re out on a walk, I feel awkward when she leans over to take a clipping. If I saw someone else doing it, I would be quite shocked. I don’t want to be the kind of person who cuts things off plants in the park. I respect rules and I like to follow them. The only way to live all together in society is to follow the rules, but Lily is the opposite and makes up her own.

When we were walking through a local park recently, we got into an argument. I don’t even think you should be able to touch plants. There are signs like “Don’t sit on the grass” for a reason. Lily really wanted to take a clipping of rosemary from a bush and I told her not to. I said: “I’m sorry, but I don’t think we should cut any part of a public plant.” For me, it’s the principle. She said I was over the top: “It’s lovely to rebirth plants.” And she called me “mentally inflexible”.

One time I saw Lily snap a branch. I was shocked – that was a bit extreme to me

In our flat, we keep a few small plants in glasses from cuttings that Lily has taken. But I don’t think the gardener in our local park would love this practice. Lily is altering the state of a natural organism.

We are having a baby in a month and have to decide how we are going to raise it. Is it appropriate for people to go around cutting public plants? I think not. I want to be respectful of our neighbourhood and its gardens. People’s judgments really matter to me.

I want to be regarded as a good citizen and want our kids to be the same. One time I saw Lily snap a branch, which shocked me. You really have to put a lot of effort into snapping off a branch; that seemed a bit extreme to me.

I don’t agree with Lily’s behaviour, but if she has to take cuttings, she should only take them from plants that are healthy, and not snap twigs off. When it comes to our children, I hope they will one day be old enough to understand how to look after the environment and at least take cuttings in a sustainable way.

The defence: Lily

A gardener or botanist wouldn’t begrudge me taking a small clipping – they’d support me, in fact

I love taking small twigs or cuttings home and seeing how they grow in our flat. But Lars has a problem with the way I do it. He is worried about us being seen. I’ll take a leaf, which only involves a quick pluck, but when I snapped a branch from a plant in a park recently, he was horrified.

He said it was because the park had just been freshly pruned and that I’d ruined it, but I don’t think the park looked any different. I also don’t think a gardener or botanist would begrudge me taking a small clipping – I’m confident they would support me, in fact. Lars and I had a big argument about it, which ruined our nice walk.

At some point a public plant is going to be pruned anyway. Why not take a piece if you’re not harming it?

When it comes to my cuttings, Lars says I’m only thinking about my own little life, whereas he’s looking at the bigger picture – but his rules and principles are way too strict. He says: “How would society function if everyone did this?”

He thinks public parks would be destroyed if everyone took clippings whenever they wanted. But not everyone loves plants like me, so that argument doesn’t stand. At some point, a public plant is going to be pruned anyway, so why not take a piece of it as long as you’re not harming the plant? I only take clippings if a plant is healthy and bushy. I’m very discreet and don’t take one when anyone is looking or when it might leave a visible hole in the plant.

Related: You be the judge: should my friend stop burping in public?

I’ve only taken clippings on a few occasions. The first time was when I was on holiday with Lars. There’s something so appealing about taking a bit of a plant with you and seeing how it grows in your care. Every time you look at the plant at home you remember that trip. It’s romantic. The dispute has started since I’ve become pregnant, and I don’t understand why. I’m not expecting our baby to start cutting plants right after it leaves the womb.

Obviously, I’ll teach our kids to be sensible, and educate them about sustainability. And I’m going to continue to take cuttings in secret when I go for a walk by myself.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Lily cut it out?

Snapping off random branches can disrupt the growth of professionally pruned plants – and is a selfish act. Lily should just ask local gardeners for cuttings and clippings instead. If she continues to make up her own rules whenever it suits her, it will set a bad example for their child.
Kristina, 52

Lars is obviously a stickler for rules, but does he really think that Lily taking a few cuttings will plunge Mother Nature into chaos or turn their child into a plant-destroying hooligan? Lily is not guilty, plants grow back.
Lorraine, 59

There is probably not much harm in taking cuttings in an unmanaged environment (although potentially, even this could affect the ecosystem) but doing it in a managed space such as a park is not acceptable. As Lars says, what if everyone decided to do it? Our green spaces would be denuded.
Carole, 77

Parks are there for us all to enjoy and there is nothing more saddening than seeing people strip them. Unless you’re offered a cutting by a gardener or are taking home windfalls, you are, like Lily, a self-centred kleptomaniac. Lars is justified in being appalled.
Stephen, 58

I agree with Lily – it’s lovely to rebirth plants. It’s not like she’s a vandal; she’s appreciating nature. A few snips here and there aren’t going to change the face of a park or a garden for the worse. Lars needs to lighten up. The most valuable lesson you can teach your child is perspective.
Ben, 24

Now you be the judge

In our online poll, tell us: should Lily leave her secateurs at home when she goes to the park?

The poll closes at 10am GMT on Thursday 7 March

Last week’s result

We asked whether Livvy should stop upgrading her coffee-making equipment.

41% of you said Livvy is guilty – Will has grounds for concern

59% of you said Livvy is not guilty – her argument is the perfect blend