Mill Hill Garden Tour is Back in Business
URBAN BLOOMS: The enthusiastic gardeners of Trenton’s Mill Hill neighborhood are reopening their gates following a virtual Mill Hill Garden Tour last year. Some 22 are on the map for the Saturday, June 12 event.
By Anne Levin
Tucked behind the brownstone facades of the capital city’s historic Mill Hill district, homeowners are hard at work getting their gardens ready for the annual Mill Hill Garden Tour on Saturday, June 12 from 12-5 p.m.
Held virtually last year due to the pandemic, the live tour is back — with reserved, timed visits at the top of the hour, and walk-ins on the half-hour. Faithful visitors who return each year will find some more expansive yards this time, as well as some lushly planted more intimate spaces.
“This year, we have our first-ever sidewalk garden, which the owner describes as an urban rainforest with lush, tropical plantings,” said Mercer Street resident Amanda Chevalier, who is co-chairing the event with neighbor Ed Wengryn. “There is a popular garden with chickens named after Jane Austen characters and Mrs. Patmore from Downton Abbey. Ed has a double garden, and he is also a beekeeper. Jean Bickal, who has been on the tour for several years, has a new garden out back.”
Mercer Street resident Bickal also has a new mural painted on her alley wall, by well-known local artist and muralist Leon Rainbow. Other outdoor spaces on the tour combine nature and urban living with residents’ distinctive styles. Visitors are often surprised to discover what is behind these houses, which on Bickal’s block go down to the Assunpink Creek and the leafy park across the stream.
This is the 30th anniversary of the tour, one of two major fundraisers held each year by the Old Mill Hill Society. The annual Holiday House Tour, also halted last year due to COVID-19, will hopefully be back in early December.
Mill Hill is a diverse mix of people from many professions. There are artists, academics, architects, writers, musicians, state workers, and more. Chevalier is in pharmaceutical marketing; her husband, George Chevalier, does marketing for Grounds For Sculpture. Wengryn works for the New Jersey Farm Bureau. Full disclosure: this reporter is a resident (but without a garden that is tour-worthy).
This year’s garden tour coincides with several other events taking place in Trenton. At Mill Hill Park, which lies at the base of Mercer, Jackson, and Livingston streets, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12 p.m. will officially mark the recently completed restoration of the 1888 bridge over the creek, one of New Jersey’s premier historic metal trusses. Bridge historian Patrick Harshbarger of Hunter Research will be on hand to offer remarks and answer questions.
Also planned is a reading at 5 p.m. of Passage Theatre’s OK Trenton Project, taking place in the ampitheatre next to the bridge. Written by David Lee White, Richard Bradford, and members of the OK Trenton Ensemble and directed by Passage Theatre Artistic Director C. Ryanne Domingues, the documentary-style play centers around the reaction to a controversial community sculpture. Visit passagetheatre.org for details.
The city’s annual Taste Trenton restaurant crawl is June 11-13, with several of the 30 restaurants on the list located within walking distance of Mill Hill. Visit TasteTrenton.com for information.
Tickets to the garden tour, which are $20, can be purchased in advance at trentonmillhill.org/events. All tourgoers should check in at Artworks on Everett Alley. Masks are required at check-in.
“Following last year’s virtual house tour, the Mill Hill neighborhood looks forward to once again welcoming new and returning guests,” said Chevalier. “We can’t wait to reconnect with visitors, share our welcoming and diverse community, and return to the annual tradition that hundreds look forward to each year.”