They’ve waged war against deer and battled hungry possums that snatch tomatoes just when they are at the peak of their flavor. But there’s one pest the Newark Street gardeners have been unable to thwart: a certain two-legged rat with a penchant for peonies.
For 10 years, gardeners in this Northwest Washington neighborhood believe the same man has been stealing spring blooms from their plots in the Newark Street Community Garden. Not just a few stems, mind you, but bunches — as many as 30 to 50 at a time.
“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 Cleveland Park, 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.
For years, the gardeners kept quiet, fearful that publicity would encourage more thefts.