08/29/2012 07:20 am ET Updated Aug 29, 2012

D.C. Flower Thief Continues Neighborhood Garden Crime Spree


WASHINGTON -- The person who has been pilfering flowers from gardens around the nation's capital has struck again, according to a message posted to the D.C. Urban Gardeners Yahoo! Group on Tuesday:

I am sure that I saw the flower thief today - at about noon on Connecticut and Fessenden. He was marching smartly along with an enormous and very gorgeous bunch of hydrangeas in his hands. Short guy, rather balding, fairly worn clothes and walking towards Chevy Chase Circle seemingly on a mission.

I of course did not know what to do. I looked for a cop, but wasn't exactly what I would have said as I did not see him cut the flowers. I was near the fire station and guess I could have asked one of the firemen to talk to him, but that didn't seem quite right.....

So spotted, perhaps -- but not caught.

The Washington Post's most recent article on the flora filcher, published in June, notes that someone has been stealing flowers from gardens in the Glover Park neighborhood for some four years -- maybe the same person who has been getting away with plant thefts around Northwest D.C. neighborhoods for much longer:

The garden thief has been hitting Glover Park for about four years and may be the same miscreant who has plundered community gardens, private gardens and even commercial plantings for the past 10 years. So far two police departments have been unable to stop him, though they are trying.

An earlier Post article noted the thief's choice of flowers, fancy ones, and his methods, which are brutal:

“He does this every year, starting with the peonies,” said Marcia Stein, one of the flower thief’s victims, who lost a bunch of blooms this month. “Last year, he stole all of my peonies.”

Gardeners say the suspect has expensive taste. He ignores lesser flowers in favor of pricier blooms. (At Johnson’s Florist and Garden Center in Tenleytown, peonies sell for $8.99 a stem.)

And when he steals them, he’s not gentle: He rips the blooms right out of the ground.

More than a year ago, a contributor to the D.C. Urban Moms and Dads online message board posted what seems to be a standard description of, and experience with, the thief, who is thought to sell the flowers, possibly to local restaurants and florists:

short, stocky, and very very leathery/tan. In his fifties or early sixties. Dark hair. Usually wears baggy khaki or gray pants. Looks borderline - not completely normal, but you need to look closely to notice it.

Over the past six years, I've seen him several times clip every single blossom off of six huge hydrangea bushes in a public garden. It only takes him a few minutes. He's also taken flowers from front patios in my neighborhood. Believe it or not, he sometimes takes a cab when he's done. I've also seen him selling flowers on P Street in Dupont, but that was a long, long time ago.

Despite the attention of D.C. police, U.S. Park Police, vexed gardeners and The New York TImes, the diminutive gardener's menace -- who sounds as if he fairly resembles a garden gnome himself -- has eluded capture so far.

But take note: Philadelphia's own flower thief, who stole fake flowers from one yard every spring and fall for years, was finally caught this past spring, when the frustrated victim installed a private security camera.

True, this technique seems not to have yielded results in D.C. quite yet. But there's always next season.



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