WILKES-BARRE — A few blooms of scarlet bee balm poked through the bushes along the railing and steps to Sharon Butczynski’s front porch. A couple of clematis plants nearby added purple to what remained of her garden’s pale palette.
Gone were the carnations, English daisies, dinner plate dahlias, candytuft and the other plants and shrubs chopped and clipped by a city Department of Public Works crew dispatched Tuesday to clean up a property next to Butczynski’s house at 179 S. Empire St.
“I was so mad,” Butczynski, 56, said Wednesday looking at the stems and stones in the trampled ground of her front yard.
“This was my passion,” she said.
The city has admitted its mistake and promised to make Butczynski whole.
“We’ll make it right. We’ll definitely make it right,” said city Administrator Ted Wampole. He and Butch Frati, the city’s director of operations, visited Butczynski on Wednesday to see what was done and make reparations.
The DPW crew was supposed to work on 181 S. Empire St. — Butczynski’s mother’s house next door — and saw the address hanging from a post located between the two houses.
“It was overgrown. That was the reason they did it. That’s what I was told,” Wampole said.
Adding to the confusion was the fact that Butczynski’s house did not have a posted address.
Dave Iskra, dispatcher for the DPW, offered to take the heat for the mixup. The crew, made up of temporary workers hired for the summer, was sent to clean up a nuisance property, he said.
“They only did what they were told,” Iskra said. “It’s a very honest mistake.”
Iskra also spoke with Butczynski on Tuesday and said she was happy to hear from him.
But a day later, she choked up as she pinpointed the spots that should have been filled with lush green leaves and slender stems of perennials bent by the weight of buds ready to burst into flower.
“Clematis. Four different types of lilies. I had phlox cover,” Butczynski said. “Dwarf maple. I had different ground coverage by that rail where the morning glories were starting to climb up there now. I’m surprised they didn’t rip that out.”
The Rose of Sharon bushes were gone. So were the coral bells.
“There were so many more flowers I can’t remember off the top of my head,” Butczynski added.
There was no advance notice of the cleanup and no time to stop it. Butczynski said she was awoken from her sleep by what sounded like a “weed whacker” and thought it was coming from across the street. When she came downstairs, the damage had been done.
Butczynski estimated she spent “hundreds and hundreds of dollars” buying plants for her garden and “thousands of hours” working on it during the 31 years she’s lived in the house.
None of what was cut down will grow back this year, she said. But she took solace in the maple tree spared in the cleanup.
”My eldest daughter, she’s 30. On my baby shower, my husband planted it,” Butczynski said.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.