05/29/2015 10:28 EDT | Updated 05/29/2016 05:59 EDT

Lilac thieves: Calgarians confess to stealing the lavender blooms

I have a confession to make. I'm a lilac thief. And I'm not alone.

I picked up the habit from my mother a few years ago, when I was visiting her in Vancouver.

She was driving us to lunch and had detoured through a residential neighbourhood to avoid traffic. Suddenly, she made a sharp left turn and gunned it down a back alley. My mother was heading toward the most glorious lilac bush — a wild mess of deep purple, spilling over a fence into the lane.

She pulled the car over, casually reached into her glove compartment and pulled out a pair of garden clippers. Apparently, she always drove around with scissors during lilac season. 

Mom proceeded to snip a few lush blooms from the bush. She didn't even bat an eye. 

I, on the other hand, get extremely nervous (and sweaty) when I steal lilacs and only do it under the cloak of darkness.

Jess Shanahan also gets anxious when she does it.

"You almost have to look for the ones that droop into the back alley, along a bike path. I wouldn't really go into the front yard of someone's place," she said.

Rob Maciak has seven massive lilac bushes lining his house. "My roommate has pruned them like crazy. He has done all but try and kill them and they still grow," Maciak told told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday morning.

"When people come and cut them, I love it because I have an absolutely unlimited supply." 

"Well I think officially I couldn't condone thieving lilacs," said Jennifer Rempel, the executive director of the Lilac Festival. 

"But I would suggest coming to the Fourth Street area where they grow wild in the bushes and the streets and go walk down a side street and pick some lilacs," said Rempel.

But if you are caught stealing lilacs from public property, you could face a fine up to $200. Under the City of Calgary's Parks and Pathways Bylaw, you're not allowed to cut or disturb any vegetation in city parks.