DC
06/21/2013 02:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Henry Docter, Renegade D.C. Gardener, Combats Order To Stop Planting Flowers By Dupont Metro

Flickr Photo by anokarina

WASHINGTON -- Bad news for one renegade gardener. And for lots of nature-starved Metro riders.

The green-thumbed plant-slinger who's been planting bulbs and otherwise tending to the flora at the north entrance of the Dupont Circle Metro station has been asked by the transit authority to "cease and desist" his botanical sprucings, according to the Prince of Petworth neighborhood blog.

In response, Henry Docter, the man who says he's responsible for the flowers that line the station's escalators on a steep series of terraces, is asking flower-lovers to sign a petition at Change.org.

Docter's posted a letter on his own website -- called "Let My Flowers Grow" -- asking for support.

henry docter dc

A rendering on Let My Flowers Grow of what the flowers will look like, if Docter is able to tend to them.

Here are some highlights from the letter:

What could be more "affordable" to Metro than an artist who gives away a garden of a thousand flowers? What could be more "sustainable" than an artist who's willing to provide the labor this Summer and Fall to water and care for the garden and then clean up when everything is brown and dead after our First Frost?

Gardening on those terraces is no more physically challenging than hiking on the Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls, MD or Old Rag in Virginia. I respectfully disagree that this performance art piece "endangers not only yourself but the public as well." Nevertheless, I offered to sign a waiver to hold Metro harmless as I recognize your concerns are part of the fear filled society we currently live in. But flowers are nature's way of affirming how beautiful life can be.

I have received assistance and moral support from many individuals and organizations. People I don't know have offered heartfelt thanks, notes of appreciation and offers of assistance. A Swiss Embassy official thinks I should "get an award". Someone at the National Gallery of Art understands. The Downtown Cluster of Congregations, the Israeli Embassy, GlobalWaterDances.org, Marylee Hardenbergh, an employee at Razoo.org, Mike Barnes, David Catania's staff, Bob Halligan, Joanne Newhouse, Dan Oran, Leon Wieseltier, Barry Louis Polisar (the person who wrote the theme song to the movie "Juno"), Jackson Carnes of the Dupont Historic Main Street organization, and even a Hollywood Producer so far.

I hope you'll accept a win win solution and allow me watering rights. I do not wish my flowers to die when the inevitable heat returns to Washington.

And here's the whole letter:

Dear Metro Officials:

As you may not know, after considerable expense of my time and money and at some cost to the peace in our home, I planted over a thousand flowers at the Dupont Circle Metro North Station. Metro ordered me to Stop. If I stop, the flowers will die before they bloom.

Tears are in my eyes as I write this letter with a very heavy heart. I was stunned and saddened by your Fed Ex response that I would face "arrest, fines and imprisonment" if I continued to tend to the thousand flowers I planted at the Dupont Circle Metro North Station.

Your Order that I "cease and desist with this activity immediately" seems a little inappropriate for this situation. The previously abandoned and filthy terraced garden squares had been neglected for years. They did not appear to be high on your list of priorities, in spite of the considerable efforts Metro expends elsewhere to make their properties attractive.

Out of the goodness of my heart, last Fall I planted over 100 bulbs in the very same neglected garden squares. Months later they bloomed, sharing their joy and beauty with fellow Metro Riders.

This Spring I returned. I weeded and two trash bags were filled with more than 300 discarded cigarette butts, shards of glass, wads of gum, tree branches and assorted fast food restaurant garbage.

But when your representative writes that Metro wants to explore "affordable and sustainable" ways to improve the station's appearance, I wonder what you have in mind and on what time table?

What could be more "affordable" to Metro than an artist who gives away a garden of a thousand flowers? What could be more "sustainable" than an artist who's willing to provide the labor this Summer and Fall to water and care for the garden and then clean up when everything is brown and dead after our First Frost?

Gardening on those terraces is no more physically challenging than hiking on the Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls, MD or Old Rag in Virginia. I respectfully disagree that this performance art piece "endangers not only yourself but the public as well." Nevertheless, I offered to sign a waiver to hold Metro harmless as I recognize your concerns are part of the fear filled society we currently live in. But flowers are nature's way of affirming how beautiful life can be.

During this time when our country faces numerous challenges, it does not makes sense to discourage and delay the creation of something beautiful. Nevertheless, I understand your reluctance and am willing to forgo re-entering the site and installing the whimsical sculptures and trellises for the flowers to climb up and cover.... if I can merely have watering rights.

As a working solution which will create a win win situation for Metro, its riders and the flowers, I propose to stand outside the four foot tall concrete wall that encircles the station and water the flowers from the flat sidewalk that everyone walks on. A local vendor has volunteered to share his truck which can deliver 400 gallons of water at a time.

I have received assistance and moral support from many individuals and organizations. People I don't know have offered heartfelt thanks, notes of appreciation and offers of assistance. A Swiss Embassy official thinks I should "get an award". Someone at the National Gallery of Art understands. The Downtown Cluster of Congregations, the Israeli Embassy, GlobalWaterDances.org, Marylee Hardenbergh, an employee at Razoo.org, Mike Barnes, David Catania's staff, Bob Halligan, Joanne Newhouse, Dan Oran, Leon Wieseltier, Barry Louis Polisar (the person who wrote the theme song to the movie "Juno"), Jackson Carnes of the Dupont Historic Main Street organization, and even a Hollywood Producer so far.

In light of this spontaneous groundswell of support I intend to actively gather support with a petition.

I hope you'll accept a win win solution and allow me watering rights. I do not wish my flowers to die when the inevitable heat returns to Washington.

I am willing to work with you to explore long term solutions to making the Dupont North Station entrance more attractive.

Sincerely,
Henry Docter

The world is not as bad as it is often portrayed in the news. This is an opportunity for all of us to make something beautiful.

More than 500 signatures have been collected on the petition, as of early afternoon on Friday.

Signatories' comments have included:

What harm is the gentleman doing. He is performing a free public service that helps to beautify the area. It is not costing Metro a dime. Let him water the flowers.

I used to be one of Henry's roommates in Minneapolis in 1993/1994 and remember his great art and ideas from that time. It made my transition into living so far from my family in Germany easier by showing me the fun, innovative, and creative side of Americans you don't get to see and don't really expect coming from a foreign country!

and

Because flowers and plants clean the air and produce oxygen and improve air quality dramatically. Watch any film on the enviroment and you will see how important they are to human existance. Without plants and flowers, we would not be able to sustain life. Not only are flowers beautiful and enhance any public area, but they also are functional in keeping the air in the metro alot cleaner then it would otherwise be. Please do not remove the flowers, they are a huge asset to the Metro and your city. Flowers make people happy and put people in a good mood, why would you want to deprive people of that??? Please Let the Flowers Grow, people will love you for it, Thanks for listening, Karen Unternahrer

We've got some ideas -- mainly relating to liability -- as to why a person wouldn't be allowed to plant flowers on a steep terrace outside a Metro station; we've also reached out to Metro to find out their actual reasons and will update this piece when we hear back.

Should Metro let the flowers grow? Tell us in the comments!

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