GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 23, 2013

Letter: Keeping Cape Ann in floral splendor


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

It has been 30 years since I first began roadside clean-ups and gardening on Cape Ann.

You have all seen me over the years, at first as a young man with boundless energy, and now as a man with grey hair and a bald spot, bent over flowers, sweating, barefoot and with dirt on my knees.

I began at the Rockport “dump,” which was kind of a misery of trash. I sifted compost there and distributed it over the hillsides and seeded it with wildflowers. The dump was transformed with color.

I then researched a program where a huge screening device could be brought in to remove the rocks, sticks and trash from the compost pile, and turn the soil into a usable product which foreman Mel George refers to as “black gold.” At last, everyone in town could now take home to their yards clean compost made from the organic refuse they had brought to the Dump in the previous year. This is a perfect example of recycling. Rockport now produces 1,800 cubic yards of fine compost each year for its yards and parks, free to all residents.

I then began picking up trash on Nugent’s Stretch entering town. A week after cleaning, new trash would be in the same spots, so I decided to plant flowers where the trash was worst, thinking beauty might be the cure. Over the years I have planted 2000 daffodils there until I gave up when I realized that road salt killed any bulbs within three years. Only asters and Montauk daisies remain.

I joined the Rockport Beautification Committee and served for 17 years. I personally handed out 2,000 lilac and flowering dogwood seedlings to make the town bloom. I initiated a Merit Awards program, where I annually drove every street in town looking at gardens, and then sent out certificates of thanks to over 3,000 residents to encourage planting flowers visible from the street for all to enjoy.

At the Rockport school grounds, each fall for eight years, I planted daffodils and purple muscaria with every second and third grade student until all buildings were bordered by a spectacular, spring display of flowers.

In Gloucester, I organized a two-year program in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce where window boxes were installed for free for any store owner on Main Street who was interested. I convinced the city to include brackets for hanging flower baskets on each new street light on Main street, and sent the Chamber my study of three other cities which had hanging basket programs. Main Street now blooms with flowers from spring through fall.

About 20 years ago, Mass Highway abandoned the care of Grant Circle Rotary. I was inspired to write a letter to the Times stating that if people would send in $5 and $10 checks, I would buy chrysanthemums, and clean up and plant Grant Circle. The response was enthusiastic, and I have been planting ever since so that there are now seven flower gardens with 1000 daffodils in April and roses till frost. I bring water in buckets in my car, and allow no commercial signs.

I convinced Mass Highway not to cement over the five traffic islands at Eastern Avenue and at Bass Avenue so I could bring in soil and plant wildflower gardens at the stop lights. In the past few years, I have replanted the 12 gardens I maintain on the Route 128 Extension to red and pink roses set in a field of blue Russian sage. I did this to unify the color scheme, and to enhance the entrance to Cape Ann for residents and visitors alike.

These beautiful gardens will be maturing in the next few years to provide a wonderful visual display to the 10,000 people a day who pass by. I am always grateful to those who drive by and honk, wave or shout out that they love my gardens.

Over the years, I have sought very little publicity, but I have worked hard with inspiration and creativity to enhance the natural and spectacular beauty of Cape Ann. I have planted with school children, created gardens at every public housing development in Rockport and Gloucester, and planted flowers for years in downtown Gloucester at Railroad Avenue, the Town Hall parking lot, the police station, McPherson Park Elderly Housing, and Rose Baker Senior Center. I also bring cut flowers in vases to all municipal offices.

I have written this letter for a reason.

I have spent a lifetime of selfless volunteering — 30 years, 10,000 hours, $250,000 in time and materials. In that time I have never received a thank you from the Mass Highway Department.

I would like them to know that my cleanup efforts and beautiful gardens are appreciated in the Cape Ann community. I cannot send them thumbs-up and honking horns.

Those of you who have enjoyed my efforts to surprise and delight with flowers for the past 30 years, please take a moment to send an email to express that you have been delighted to: grantcircleflowers@comcast.net. I will forward your messages to Mass Highway.

Thank you so much!

PETER PERTHOU

Grant Circle Flower Fund,

Gloucester and Rockport