By Adam Kramer
The scope of hydrangea thefts has grown as residents of Little Neck, New Hyde Park, L.I., Flushing and Bayside have seen their beautiful snowball-like plants pared down to almost nothing.
It would seem that with the rash of clippings reported in northern Queens the flower, which Carl Sandburg even immortalized in one of his Chicago poems, is a hotter commodity than any other any other plant.
The rash of hydrangea thievery first became apparent on July 15 when Lucy DeFranceschi, a 30-year Bellerose resident, called the TimesLedger to report that only a few of her flowers were left. Other calls have followed from victims in northeast Queens.
“I went out the other day to take out the garbage before work and noticed that my hydrangeas were missing,” said Colleen Veprek, a Little Neck Hills resident. “They came into the driveway onto my property and cut them.”
Hydrangeas bloom in the beginning of July and keep their light blue and purplish flowers, which look like giant puffy snowballs, throughout the summer into the fall.
The Little Neck Hills resident for the past 29 years said the culprit who clipped the bushes took about 15 dozen from five of her six bushes, which line the side of her house. She said there were about 40 to 50 flowers on each bush and now each hydrangea only has 20 flowers.
The only plant the thieves did not clip, an angry Veprek said, was the bush right under her kitchen window where there is a sensor light. She said it was the first time she could remember that she would not be able to enjoy them.
New Hyde Park resident Frank Fellin at first thought the clipping of his bush stemmed from kids playing a prank or causing some neighborhood mischief. He could not believe that there were people running around stealing hydrangea until his neighbor explained to him what was going on.
He said he first noticed what had happened when he went to pick up two statues on his front lawn that had been knocked over and saw one of his hydrangea bushes with gapping holes. He said the thieves took about 20 flowers. In pursuit of more flowers, the robbers came back a few weeks later to finish the job, he said, leaving only eight flowers.
Officer Pete O’Dwyer of the 105th Precinct in Queens Village said he remembered seeing one complaint about people cutting hydrangeas, but the problem was nothing new. He said people have been clipping the bushes for the past few years in a swath that stretches from Montauk to Brooklyn.
O’Dwyer said if someone is caught cutting hydrangeas, he or she can be charged with larceny and could face up to one year in jail.
The thieves are getting even more daring in Flushing. One of the neighborhood’s residents, who did not want to give his name, said the horticultural bandit hit the bush in his backyard.
Richard Scordo, co-owner of the Hillside Garden Center on Hillside Avenue between 257th and 258th streets, said people cut the flowers to dry them. He said one dried flower can be sold at the wholesale level for $1.50 to $2.
The hydrangea bush, which grows to a height of about five feet, sells for about $40, Scordo said.
For the second year in a row Joni Urban, a 15-year resident of Bayside, was hit at the end of August. She lost the giant bush in front of her house.
“They clipped all of my flowers off, there was nothing on the bush,” said Urban, who was concerned that the paring would hurt her hydrangea bush. “There was one big bush with at least 80 to 100 flowers fully loaded. It was so large that when my 5-year-old daughter played hide and seek, you could not see her behind the bush.”
Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.