News & Politics

Metro Shuts Down Dupont Circle “Phantom Planter’s” Comeback Attempt

Months after Metro ripped out his flowers, “guerrilla gardener” Henry Docter returned with an art installation.

Henry Docter's illegally planted flowers livened up the side of the Dupont Circle Metro station before the transit agency ripped them out. Photograph by Flickr user Julie Meloni.

Dupont Circle’s so-called “Phantom Planter” staged a brief comeback yesterday, hanging a plastic box printed with online comments about his renegade greenthumbing over the escalators at the station’s P Street, Northwest, entrance.

The guerrilla gardener, identified as Henry Docter, a part-time lawyer, was protesting the removal of more than 1,000 plants and flowers he had planted along the entrance to the Dupont Metro station last year. In July, after his flower boxes full of morning glories, cardinal flowers, and cypress vines began to bloom, Metro workers took out the flower boxes, citing safety and maintenance concerns.

Docter appeared outside the Dupont Circle station about 8:15 AM yesterday with the box and a spool of rope, according to the Washington Post. After tying a few lengths of rope across the entrance, Docter dangled the box over the center escalator, giving passengers a Banksy-like glimpse at the reactions to his earlier work. The text on the box was culled from reactions left on articles about his flower-planting and an online petition circulated after Metro ripped out his makeshift garden. Most statements praised Docter, such as one that read, “Beautification of civic space should be applauded, not crushed.”

Metro spokesman Philip Stewart says Transit Police were following their standard operating procedure for removing a suspicious object—in this case a cube constructed from plastic pipe and hung over an escalator. It took about an hour to remove the box, and while it was taken down without incident, Stewart says police are still “investigating” Docter’s apparent act of street art.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.