June 28, 2013
The real estate department from Washington’s Metro Transit system has recently become aware of unauthorized flowers springing up in planter boxes on public property. Along the north side of their Dupont Circle station, hundreds of mysterious morning glories and other flowers have been coming up in planter boxes along the Metro’s north escalators.
Metro found out who the secret flower planter was when they received a polite letter on June 3 written by the flower planter himself, Henry Docter. Henry sent a letter asking permission to continue caring for hundreds of flowers he had planted a week earlier at the Metro transit system.
“Arrests, fines, and imprisonment” for planting flowers
Immediately, the Metro responded to Docter on June 11 with a “cease and desist” letter threatening “arrest, fines and imprisonment” if Docter tried to weed, water, or tend to the flowers. Concerned about public safety, Metro said that they didn’t want Docter or anyone else to be injured caring for flowers that were set in steep, cobblestone inclines.
The 52-year-old garden artist, Henry Docter, who has planted flowers in public places on four continents since 1979, said, “I’ve never gotten in trouble for planting flowers. Never has anyone overreacted with such an absence of common sense.”
Docter, who calls himself the “phantom planter” doesn’t deny that he is “a little nuts,” but planting flowers is something that he loves to do and has been doing for 34 years. “Flowers are nature’s way of affirming how beautiful life can be,” says Docter. He’s more famously known for his clandestine horticulture and the planting of more than 40,000 flowers at the American Embassies in Israel, Argentina, Spain and Cambodia.
A passion to garden – punished
Docter isn’t some freak on the street whose goal is to disrupt the public. Instead, Docter is a husband, father of two, part-time lawyer, author, and collage artist who just has a knack to garden. His friendly public gardening is loved by many.
A man who lives nearby the Metro station, Mike Stirratt, said that Docter’s passion for planting “is fantastic,” as he questioned the Metro’s threats of prosecution, “It seems incredibly unfair that they would prosecute you for doing something to help the neighborhood.”
As the issue gains more public attention, Docter hopes to raise awareness about his predicament with the Metro Station through an online petition. The petition has already drawn more than 2,000 signatures in a week.
Visit http://www.letmyflowersgrow.com/ to support Docter and a fellow team of neighborhood activists who are discussing ways to compromise with the Metro station.
Flower planter willing to compromise
Even though Henry Docter has had little trouble planting flowers at the Metro station since last October, Docter said that he would be up for signing a liability waiver saying he wouldn’t sue Metro if he’s hurt, and that he would be willing to use a harness if Metro required it.
Back in October, Docter went under the radar as he planted 150 daffodils and tulips in the same boxes he’s planting in now. The spokesman for Metro, Dan Stessel, said the public flower planting has slipped under the radar because “It’s sort of beyond the scope of what you would imagine some private citizen would do.”
Should public flower planters be thrown in prison?
Metro is now beginning to back down on their charges, thanks to activist support in the community. Stessel said that the letter they sent to Docter might have gone too far, “The word ‘imprisonment’ is one we probably would have omitted had it originated in our general counsel’s office,” Stessel said.
Metro is now looking for ways to work with the community to find sustainable, safe, and affordable solutions to the predicament, but they declined to clarify if that includes allowing Henry Docter to plant.
Docter responds has responded with, “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?
What do you think? Should public flower planting be a crime?
Visit http://www.letmyflowersgrow.com/ to learn more.
Sources for this article include: