From glum to garden: Makeover beautifies Portland corner

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PORTLAND — What a difference a day made for a yard on Munjoy Hill.

In barely more than 24 hours, a dozen volunteers from Friends of the Eastern Promenade transformed the overgrown lot at 73 Vesper St. into a beautifully manicured garden, in preparation for the group’s “Hidden Gardens of Munjoy Hill” tour Sunday.

The volunteers began their “extreme makeover” of the space at 10 a.m. Friday, June 21. By Saturday afternoon, the yard had been mowed and weeded, its bushes trimmed, debris removed, a dappled-willow tree planted, and a new flower bed sown with dahlias and other perennial plants.

The group displayed the space as one stop of 11 on the Hidden Gardens tour, a fundraising event the Friends and neighborhood residents have held for the past eight years.

This was the first tour to include a makeover.

“We just thought, why not try something a little different this year?” Friends volunteer Crandall Toothaker said Saturday, as he and other dirt- and sweat-stained gardeners surveyed the results of their green-thumbing.

The Friends solicited candidates for the makeover with a newspaper advertisement, and received a dozen essays from neighborhood residents in response. The winning lot, adjoining a multi-unit apartment building and with a southern exposure, was a “terrific choice,” according to Friends President Diane Davison.

Unlike other stops on the tour, the made-over garden was not in a back yard or otherwise “hidden,” she pointed out. In fact, the property is at the corner of Moody Street, just feet away from the Adams School Condominiums, a 16-unit affordable-housing complex now under construction. 

“We felt this was a great opportunity to beautify the neighborhood in a way that everyone could enjoy,” she said.

This year’s tour was sponsored by Down East Magazine, Norway Savings Bank, PMR Portland Maine Rentals, and DiMillo’s Restaurant, with support from Young’s Greenhouse. But the most important supporters were the Friends volunteers, Davison said.

“One of the things that made this project unique is that it was very hands-on,” she said. “These volunteers are not professional gardeners.”

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.

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Volunteers Patrick Cloutier, left, and Crandall Toothaker on Saturday put the finishing touches on a new garden that was formerly an overgrown lot in Portland. The landscaped space was a stop on Sunday’s “Hidden Gardens of Munjoy Hill” tour, sponsored by the Friends of the Eastern Promenade.

This Vesper Street lot was the recipient of an “extreme makeover” by volunteer gardeners from the Friends of the Eastern Promenade on Friday, June 21.