Volunteers who help the City of Homer maintain the flower beds at the Baycrest Hill pullout were looking forward to seeing how a new batch of more than fifty peonies would do this summer. But when a city worker drove up there to check on the plants a couple of weeks ago, she found they had all been stolen.
Public Works Director Carey Meyer called the crime "bizarre." He said it’s been a couple of weeks since the missing peonies were first discovered by Parks Coordinator Angie Otteson. No leads have come in since then about who may have taken the plants or why.
At first, it was thought that maybe someone with the Homer Garden Club, which helps maintain the numerous flower beds at the Baycrest pullout, may have mistakenly pulled the plants out. But Meyer says that turned out not to be the case.
He says the peonies were planted last spring, with the idea that they might produce blooms this year. They were divided between three different flower beds, maintained by the City of Homer, the garden club and the Homer Emblem Club. Meyer says the thieves dug through a layer of bark mulch and carefully removed more than 50 plants.
He says he can’t help but take the incident a little bit personally.
"The one bed I've been taking care of for 15 years," he said. "My wife and I plant annuals and ... we had developed an area with some bark mulch and about 20 peonies. We were all looking forward to seeing how they were going to do this year.
Over the last few years, peonies have become a boon commercial crop on the Kenai Peninsula. Many local growers grow them commercially in high tunnels. The large, colorful blooms are popular for weddings and because of the cool climate, Alaskan growers can grow them later into the season than you could in the Lower 48.
In addition to the peonies, Meyer says a few other perennial plants were taken, including a rhubarb plant.
"It seems like anything that was growing was scooped up," he said.
Meyer says he did file a report with the Homer Police Department. He urges anyone with any information about the crime to come forward.