Woman’s tree swiped while she’s at church

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Homeowner considers theft invasion of privacy

By Meaghan Downs

Joyce Sims came home from church June 2 and immediately called Lawrenceburg police.
Someone had stolen her tree peony.  
The tree is not her favorite planting in Sims’ meticulously landscaped backyard at 617 Nickelbie Drive. Sims prefers Crepe Myrtle trees or calla lilies to a tree peony or “peony tree” as she referred to the perennial.
But the tree peony’s maroon-and-white flowers bloom for only a few short weeks in spring, Sims said, and then they’re gone until next year.
It was beautiful, Sims said. The flowers smelled so good; her next-door neighbor loved to breathe in the scent as he mowed his yard near Sims’ property line, she said.
All that’s left now is a patch of dirt, sown with grass seed to blend with the rest of her yard.  
And a “weird feeling,” Sims said, of someone invading her privacy, opening the gate to her backyard to take one small, 4-foot tree.
“I hated to lose the tree, but what bothered me was someone coming in and doing something like that,” Sims, who guessed the tree was stolen sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning while she was in church, said.
Sims has lived in the same house on Nickelbie Drive for the past 15 years after moving to Lawrenceburg from Versailles.
She planted a $40, 16-inch tree peony about six and a half years ago, right against the fence surrounding her backyard. She said the tree had grown to about 4 1/2 feet when it was taken.
Not an extremely valuable plant, although small yellow tree peonies are purchased for about $150, and it does take a long time for tree peonies to grow even to 4 1/2 feet.
Can’t buy tree peonies at 4 1/2 feet from a store, Sims said.
Sims said she didn’t notice the tree was missing Sunday, June 2 in her hurry to let her English springer spaniel Mowgli out before church.
But when she came back from services at New Hope Baptist Church, she saw the dirt. Then the hole.
“And I’d seen the dirt and I thought, what in the world is going on,” Sims said.
Her neighbor saw something, too, when she got back from church at about 9:45 a.m. that Sunday — a white pick-up truck in Sims’ driveway.
Her neighbor didn’t see anyone get out, Sims said.
Officer Sean Wells, who’s been with the city police department for more than four years, said this was the first time he’s dealt with a tree theft.
After Sims contacted the police department about her missing tree and the unknown vehicle parked in her driveway, Wells said he looked for a white pick-up truck, one that was hauling a small tree in the pick-up bed. He didn’t find one.
He said it’s not likely Sims will ever recover her tree peony, and it may be that the white pick-up truck and the theft are unrelated.
Sims knows that, too.
She thought about writing the newspaper a letter to the editor to speak directly with whomever took her tree, but said she’s not that good with words.
Sims said she has no idea why someone stole one tree from her yard and nothing else.
Maybe someone had seen it flowering weeks earlier and wanted the tree; maybe someone didn’t like her and took it for no other reason.
“It had to have been somebody who knew what it was or somebody who didn’t like me,” she said.
“Either somebody knew it was here, or else they seen it in bloom. It’s just unbelievable what people do nowadays.’
The thing about tree peonies, Sims said, is that they don’t like to be moved.
According to a fact sheet about tree peonies from the University of Vermont, tree peonies should never be moved once they’re initially planted.
If the tree survived to be transplanted elsewhere, Sims said, she wouldn’t feel so bad about it being stolen for the right reason: to be enjoyed every spring, as she had.
“I just hope whoever got it that if it lived, they enjoy it if they can live with themselves,” she said.

What is a tree peony?
According to a fact sheet from the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science, the tree peony is native to China, discovered in the eastern region in the 6th century. Before it became a staple of gardens and backyards, the tree peony was used for medicinal purposes, according to the document.
Although its flowers resemble that of the peony bush (hence its name), tree peonies can grow up to 5 feet tall and its blooms are flatter and larger than that of the peony bush.
Tree peonies bloom for only a few weeks in late spring or early summer. There are many varieties of tree peony offering yellow, pink, deep red, white, maroon or bi-colored scented flowers.
Tree peonies should not be moved once they are planted, according to the university’s fact sheet. If undisturbed, tree peonies can live for decades; some report tree peonies that have lived to be 90 years old.
A 5- to 10-year-old tree peony is considered to be a seedling, and a 20- to 30-year-old tree peony is classified as a young plant, according to treepeonygarden.com, a tree peony company.