I am a Flower Thief / by Robin Dienel

Each Spring, Washington, D.C. is a ripe cityscape of flowers. However, since the Spring of 2011, many gardener’s claim their hard-earned spoils have been uprooted and sold downtown by the notorious, Flower Thief.

According to Peggy Robin, the Cleveland Park Community Listserv co-founder and moderator, she’s seen on the list by multiple people that he goes into people’s gardens and “chops off” their flowers and sells them to florists, event planners, restaurants and farmers markets by convincing them he grows them on his own farm.

Although he’s been caught by both gardeners and police on multiple occasions, he has yet to be caught in the act, which Robin said is the only way he will be charged for his thievery.

The flower thief in question is thought to be around 60 years old and fit and believed to be behind the plundering of countless community and private gardens, as well as commercial plantings, up and down northwest D.C. for the past seven years. He’s been spotted on the outskirts of the Glover Park Community Garden scouring plots, on the canal marching briskly with an armful of hydrangea and by the White House carrying a bunch of peonies en route to a local shop.

After the furor of press in 2013 surrounding the thief, he had appeared to have slowed down his routine. However, now that the press has died down and the plots are in full bloom, he is believed to be up to his same-old flower stealing antics. Where will he spotted next?

Christopher Cox, a new member of the Glover Park Community Garden, had just started working his own plot last year when he discovered a peony bush right outside his fence left by a another gardener. He said his fellow gardeners, including Glover Park Community Garden veteran Ernie Vergara, would come up to him and tell him to watch out for his peonies, because a flower thief will come and take all his blooms, which Cox said he found hard to believe at first.

“I’m like, a thief,” said Cox about when he was first told about the “notorious” Flower Thief. “Who’s going to steal flowers, you know?”

As soon as his peonies began to bloom, Cox said they were chopped off and never seen again.

Vergara has gardened his Glover Park plot for 34 years, making him one of the oldest gardeners there he claims. He said he’s been both a witness and victim of the Thief.

“The thief would come around and gather all the peonies” said Vergara. “I think he should be in an asylum because people would catch him and he’d sort of argue and say, ‘Well these are for everyone.’”

Nancy McKeon, a Cleveland Park listserv member and Georgetown resident, said she’s seen him carrying an armful of white flowers down the C&O Canal.  

“Hopefully he doesn’t come back this year,” said Vergara. “But you know what they say, once a thief maybe always a thief.”