Neighbors and friends showcase gardens to help local food pantry 

4 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The beauty of summer flowers was on full display on Saturday, June 29, during the fourth annual garden tour that raised funds for the Grace Interfaith Food Table in Presque Isle.

Seven avid gardeners in Presque Isle and Easton took part in the tour, welcoming many community members, neighbors and close friends. The idea for the tour came about four years ago from discussions Charlene Buzza, director of volunteer services for GIFT, had with friends and fellow gardeners Anne Hemphill, Suzanne Hews, Louis Griffeth and Donna Keegan, owner of Myrtle Tree Farm in Presque Isle.

All funds raised through the garden tour go toward GIFT. Although the food pantry receives much of its food through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, Buzza still purchases smaller items such as macaroni and cheese, canned pasta, tomato and chicken noodle soup, cream style corn and other side dishes. 

The pantry is located 24 Industrial St. in Presque Isle and serves numerous individuals and families who suffer from food insecurity.

“We serve around 250 to 300 people per month, so these funds are crucial,” Buzza said.

During the tour, Anne Hemphill said that she always welcomes visitors to her home on 193 Easton Road in Presque Isle to check out her gardens. Every spring and summer she regularly maintains 13 unique gardens that all contain decorations based on themes, including the Children’s Garden, Women’s Life Cycle Garden, Grandma’s Garden, Fairy Garden, Frog Garden, Zen Garden, Elephant Garden and Angel Garden.

Hemphill has watched her gardens grow dramatically over the past 30 years and now has close to 150 flowers, or even more, she said, if she counts all the varieties of different flowers. Most of her flowers are perennial flowers such as black-eyed susans, hostas, peonies, geraniums, roses and lilies, which bloom every spring and summer. She spends much of her spare time weeding and tending to her gardens.

“If I come out here at 8 a.m. I can easily spend six to 10 hours gardening,” Hemphill said. 

Over the years Hemphill’s gardens have become such a popular attraction that she has created a Facebook page to encourage people to come out. She enjoys interacting with other gardeners and gaining a new way to look at her own work.

“When I’m working out here all I see is the weeds, but when other people look at the gardens they see the beauty,” Hemphill said.

Just down the road from Hemphill at 254 Easton Road, Hews showed visitors her seven flower gardens, which include poppies, roses, day lilies, columbines, hostas, Goat’s beard, Soloman’s seal and peonies, that stretch across much of the side and back of her yard.

Hews has been gardening for 35 years and this year marks the second time she has participated in the GIFT garden tour, though she has also showcased her plants during similar tours. 

“I enjoy visiting with other people who love to garden,” Hews said. “Everyone has different gardening techniques that work for them.”