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Thousands of Free Geraniums Handed Out Downtown

LOWER MANHATTAN — Dozens of people passing by Bowling Green Park Wednesday morning walked away toting brown canvas bags full of free flowers.

The Downtown Alliance uprooted 4,000 red geraniums from the park's circular flower bed Wednesday and repotted the plants for the taking.  

"I love plants, so I'm bringing some home to join the rest of them," said Ysa Wethington, 32, of The Bronx, who walked away with six potted flowers at the Adopt-A-Geranium Day event.

"I didn't know about it, and someone told me to come over here and grab some for my windowsill."

Joe Timpone, senior vice president of operations at the Downtown Alliance, said the giveaway started 10 years ago when the organization first planted geraniums in Zuccotti Park.

"At the end of the season, we would just trash them," Timpone said. "We were talking about it one day and said, 'Gee, do you think people would be interested in taking them?' We said, 'Well, we're going to look foolish but we'll try.'"

The event ultimately proved to be an overwhelming success, he said.

"They were gone within an hour the first time we did this," Timpone noted. "It became a tradition, and when we moved the geraniums to Bowling Green Park, we just kept it up."

Council Member Margaret Chin also stopped by the park to pick up a few plants for her office.

"I have one in my office that has gotten so big," she said, referring to the geranium that she still has from last year's event. "It's great to see people carrying one plant, two plants, that they bring back to their co-workers. This way, the plants are taken care of and they can move onto the next project."

Timpone said the Downtown Alliance will plant tulip bulbs within the next few weeks. But for now, workers are hoping to get all of the geraniums into good hands.

"It's a great way to keep everything alive and green," said Joann Repaci, 66, of Marine Park, Brooklyn, who works in the Financial District and has attended the event since 2009.

"My plants lasted all year in the house, and now I have a few more."