CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's just not something you'd expect to be stolen, but staffers at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens were shocked Monday to discover one of their precious trees was dug right out of the ground and hauled away by a thief.
"It had been pruned into a topiary and it took us about 3 years to get it to this size and shape, and we were very proud of it," said Jeff Gillman, director of the gardens.
When staffers discovered the missing Juniper tree, they posted a heartfelt plea on Facebook asking for its return.
The post read:
More than 500 people shared the post.
It's not unheard of for businesses or agencies to make these types of pleas. Offering not to press charges, it's been done tons of times on the internet. What is unheard of, is for that plea to be answered.
On Tuesday morning, staffers found the tree had been returned, along with a note offering an apology.
"Dear Botanical Gardens gardeners," the note read, "I'd like to apologize for taking this topiary from the garden."
The note went on to say, "I now realize that every plant is special to those who take care of them. I couldn't possibly understand how my theft impacted the gardeners who had worked for years to attain such a beautiful tree, nor how it would affect the community, who would no longer be able to enjoy it in its rightful place."
Gillman, and the garden staff were floored by the letter.
"It was such a kind and thoughtful note and we were touched, and all was immediately forgiven," Gillman said.
It's not every day you hear the victim of a theft refer to person who committed it as 'kind' or 'thoughtful'. After the tree was returned, Gillman updated the garden's Facebook page with a 'thank you' note for the thief:
The tree has since been replanted in its original spot.