Getting to the root of a flower feud

May 7, 2008 3:52:45 PM PDT
It's a growing dispute in Trenton that one might call the flower feud. "I want the kids to see something beautiful. As you walk by, you should be able to see something instead of that crappy grass," said Bernadine Toth.

The feisty 75-year-old artist has spent the last several years planting countless flowers along a length of fence on Lamberton Street in Trenton, trying to beautify the park above the Route 29 tunnel.

She had help from Mercer County in her effort, but now she is banned from gardening here anymore after receiving a cease and desist letter from the Park Commission.

"What kind of trouble am I going to get in? Going to put me in jail for beautifying something? I think it's ridiculous. All this started because I told the supervisor that there were a couple guys that weren't working," said Toth.

The head of the Mercer County Park Commission sees it very differently.

"She had plants donated. We planted them. She needed workers to do rock gardens. We did that. It just seems to never satisfy her. When it got to a point where we had to say no, she went into the park and started pulling over 200 plants at a cost of a couple thousand dollars," said Kevin Bannon.

Toth does not admit to ripping out that many plants, but does say she pulled out some.

"Because I wanted to make room for my other plants," she explained.

The county has threatened legal action if Bernadine continues to handle the thousands of plants and flowers she has placed here, but that doesn't seem to bother her.

"I'm not going let these plants go because of their stupidity," Toth said.

Obviously, she is no shrinking violet. The county said it has no desire to go to court against a senior citizen, but officials added this gardener is out of control and must be cut back.