There are many different styles of gardening represented at the Main Street Community Garden. Some gardens are designed primarily around food cultivation and are laid out in neat rows of vegetables. Some are all flowers. Some are wild native plants. Some are a quirky mix of succulents and found objects and there are a few gardens that are well tended with a mix of edibles and flowers. These are the gardens that visitors stop at and pose for selfies, the ones that evoke a sigh and wistful, “Isn’t that beautiful…?” Helene Zuckerman’s garden is one of those gardens.
Helene said that she first became interested in gardening because one of her friends had a plot in the Community Gardens. Her friend had been a long-time gardener, not one of the original gardeners from the inception of the Gardens in 1976, but someone who had been gardening from the early days, someone who imparted her zeal and passion for gardening to Helene. She put her name on the list and waited. Two of her other friends were also on the wait-list. When one of them received his plot, Helene was ready to go as a gardening assistant and the three hopeful gardeners began to cultivate their new plot. Helene said they were all inexperienced gardeners at first and they made some mistakes in the beginning. Rototilling was the first mistake, as it dispersed the weeds and their seeds to a greater area rather than eliminating them. She also said the bougainvillea and trumpet vines the trio originally planted were vigorous and difficult to maintain and doesn’t recommend them for a Community Garden plot. However, the working relationship was successful and the three gardeners would share gardening duties, sometimes gardening in pairs or individually.
When Helene received her own plot she took the trial and error experience from the shared plot and was open to “listening to the garden.” She realized that the “best design was letting the garden do what it wants to do.” The Main Street plots vary by size and shape. Helene’s square-shaped plot has a tidy border of bricks along the perimeter with a circular bed in the center. It looks neither haphazard nor completely purposeful—a garden that appears to be doing just what it wants to do!
There was one rose bush planted when she received the plot and she planted nine more
which fill the garden with the unmistakable heady scent. Helene says that she only plants fragrant flowers suitable for cutting, and that “ten months out of the year” has beautiful bouquets at her office and home and as a “Structural Bodyworker it’s so good to get my hands in the soil to keep my energy clear.” She also describes her garden as a “restorative retreat” where she can “quiet” her mind.
In addition to the roses, Helene plants dahlias, sweet peas, and snapdragons interspersed with herbs. Her garden includes a blackberry bush and, in the summer, tomatoes. In addition to the sense of wellbeing that comes from gardening, Helene noted that one of the best things about a community garden is being at her garden when other gardeners are working in their gardens and the sense of camaraderie from that shared experience.