Winnipeg gardener baffled by ongoing plant thieves

These zinnias are in high-demand among plant-pilferers from a Winnipeg yard. Twitter / Shannon VanRaes

A Winnipeg woman has been fighting an ongoing battle with people pilfering her plants.

Shannon VanRaes, who lives in Osborne Village, told 680 CJOB her beloved zinnias are among the flowers that get picked by unscrupulous people in the community year after year.

“As much as we love them, it appears that people in the neighbourhood love them more,” she said. “We keep losing them.

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“People are taking them, and we kind of had a personal bet this year — would the pandemic, would all this ‘we’re-in-this-together’ mood change things?”

Unfortunately for VanRaes and her garden, the flower theft hasn’t slowed down one iota — pandemic or no pandemic.

Read more: 7-Eleven in Winnipeg’s core to close, citing surge in brazen thefts

The amateur gardener said the zinnias she grows are a unique variety that can’t be found in stores, which might explain their appeal to passersby.

“I think that people just have this split-second reaction, especially when they’re tall enough to be at hand height… they see them, think they’re beautiful and grab them,” she said.

Some of the people visiting VanRaes’ yard, however, are more than just casual flower pickers. One woman — who has been described as her “white whale” — has been absconding with bags full of flowers on a regular basis for years, VanRaes said.

“At least three years in a row… she has come, middle of the night with a tote bag, and just gone to town pulling out plants. I don’t know what she does with them.

“She keeps coming back and we have CCTV footage of her and we know it’s the same woman. At this point, I just really want to know why she’s doing it.”

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VanRaes said she’s had the chance to confront other flower thieves and has heard a wide variety of excuses, but this one remains a mystery — even after thousands of people have seen the CCTV footage on social media.

“I hope this woman, if I ever encounter her, has a good excuse.”

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