How Our Gardens Grow

The 2 gardens at the eastern (Klaff’s/Starbucks) end of the Post Road bridge have gotten a bit grotty.

As “gateways” to Westport — among the 1st things you see as you enter downtown from the Merritt, I-95 or Post Road — they provide a poor 1st impression.  Built 20 years ago, they’re now weed-infested, overgrown and neglected.

The only people who care about them, it seemed, were folks who trampled over them putting up illegal signs, which stayed long after the events they advertised were done.

The 2 gardens were designed to be mirror images of each other.  Now all they share is decrepitude.

But if you want to see for yourself, you better hurry.  All that is about to change.

The town Beautification Committee is giving the “Gateway Gardens” an extreme makeover.

It hasn’t been easy.

Four months ago, a generous company agreed to pay for renovations.  The committee solicited plans.  Five local firms complied. 3 were selected — Laurel Rock, Daybreak and Geiger’s — and their proposals were passed on to the benefactor.

But the company reneged on its offer.  The Beautification Committee apologized to the 3 garden design firms, and wondered what to do next.

Nancy Carr and Angela Trucks at work, weeding a Gateway Garden.

A week later, Burton DeMarche called.  35 years ago his father founded Dickson DeMarche Landscape Architects in Westport.  Now called LaurelRock, after Burt — a horticulturist — joined DDLA,  it’s expanded to become one of Fairfield County’s leading sustainable design/build firms.

Though its headquarters are in Wilton, DeMarche wanted to do something for his hometown.  He offered to donate LaurelRock’s services — from planning and plantings to hardscape materials and installation — to bring the gardens back to life.

And to do it in time for this year’s Fine Arts Festival — July 16 and 17.

It’s a donation valued at over $35,000.  Beautification co-chair Angela Trucks calls LaurelRock “our heroes.”

LaurelRock also agreed to maintain the gardens through the fall.  Then the Downtown Merchants Association will take over.  The Beautification Committee will pay for water.  (No easy task — it must be trucked in.)

DeMarche has assigned one of his top landscape designers — Brian Westermeyer — to the project.  “We drew our inspiration from the bridge’s shape and structure, as well as the river,” he says.

He’s creating a garden that will blend in with both.  Plantings — including evergreen ground cover and hedges, perennials and flowering shrubs — will provide “an ever-changing palette of color, texture and pattern year-round.”

Trucks is thrilled by the new Gateway Gardens.  “With stress levels so high here, it’s important to ride through town and see beauty,” she says.  “This is such a pivotal spot, and to make it beautiful says a lot about Westport.”

She applauds the partnership between her committee, the DMA and town officials — and is thrilled at the generosity of LaurelRock.

“There are still a lot of giving people around,” she says.

And they’re giving downtown the gift of beauty.

(The dedication ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, July 17 at 1 p.m.)

One last look at a grungy Gateway Garden.

10 responses to “How Our Gardens Grow

  1. Dan:
    The current gardens were actually bus stops along the Post Road in the 50’s and 60’s. The buses were able to pull in and pick up people without holding up the traffic on the Post Road They were installed when Parker Harding Plaza was filled in to make the parking lot. prior to that the river when to the rear of all of the buildings. The old library (Starbucks) didn’t exist.

  2. mary ruggiero

    The “gateway” by the Merritt is right near two leading nurseries – both a part of Westport for many years. It’s a shame it seems neither of them stepped in – and what a bit of advertising for them it would have been!

  3. And let’s hope the new gardens will stay clear of those ubiquitous signs.

  4. Everything sounded great, until I read about “trucking in water.” We have an opportunity here to be sensitive to our carbon footprint. It would be great to take advantage of that opportunity.

  5. Kudos to all those involved. A good example of some unselfish self-help. Those damn signs are an eye sore and haven’t been removed from around Long Lots or Staples schools. I do believe the Yankee Doodle Fair has come and gone as well as sign up for summer lacrosse. I guess I will just have to make an midnight run and yank all the damn things. Nice story.

    • Signs on town rotaries are apparently okay. Signs on state property — which is what the Gateway Gardens by the Post Road bridge is — are illegal.

      • Meaning “okay” that they do not violate town ordinance?? That seems very odd that anyone can just put a sign on town property??? While I am raging, I find the town seemingly uncaring or unaware of appearances. I did note, however, that they spruced up around Bedford Middle and Staples when graduation came around. They even machined cleaned the sidewalk along North Avenue. Unfortunately they left the 3 foot grass and trash alone for us taxpayers to deal with. Someone is asleep at the wheel or maybe nobody is driving????????????????????????????????

        • Yes, okay in that they do not violate a town ordinance. I think it has something to do with First Amendment rights, though I’m fuzzy on the details.

  6. The town has done a good job of cleaning up the dump. It looks pretty good for a junk yard.

  7. The Dude Abides

    Longshore looks spectacular!!!