June 7, 2023

Neighborhood Urban Gardening Takes Root in Trenton and Lambertville

IN FULL BLOOM: Backyard settings like this one, from last year’s Mill Hill Garden Tour, will be open to the public in Trenton this Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. (Photo by Jeffrey Tryon)

By Anne Levin

In Trenton’s Mill Hill neighborhood and on the streets of Lambertville, summer gets off to an unofficial start this time of year with annual, self-guided garden tours in urban settings. This year in both locales, residents open their gardens —some meticulously tended, others a bit more wild — to the public on Saturday, June 10.

The Mill Hill tour coincides with Taste Trenton, the capital city’s seventh annual restaurant crawl (held Friday-Sunday). And in Lambertville, a native plant sale known as Lambertville Goes Wild is held Saturday at Cavallo Park, 2 Mount Hope Street, with experts on hand to give gardening advice. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This is the 32nd year for the Mill Hill tour, which raises funds for historic preservation grants that assist the district’s homeowners and business owners in maintaining its landmark standards.

“The garden tour is one of Trenton’s most longstanding, celebrated summer events and offers everyone — including neighbors, families, friends, and attendees — the opportunity to browse dozens of incredibly landscaped urban gardens and public spaces, situated behind one of the most beautifully historic neighborhoods in central New Jersey,” said Meaghan Singletary, who is co-chairing this year’s event with her fiancé, Joseph Kuzemka. The two own the Out of Step Offbeat Boutique and General Store located at the Trenton Farmers Market.

“Our garden at the side of our house at 264 Jackson Street is one of the stronger ones in the area,” said Kuzemka. “There is a deck garden at 159 Mercer Street, owned by Dan Spalding, who is the conductor of the Capital Philharmonic. It’s on the tour for the first time. Bill Kucas’ garden at 113 Jackson is spectacular [Kucas owns Garden Makers Landscaping]. And those are just a few standouts.”

Entertainment, art in action, and refreshments are part of the day. At Singletary and Kuzemka’s garden, painter/illustrator/photographer Nagiyd Ewell, who painted the mural on the entrance of the Artworks building, will be creating a work of art, and cold drinks from Kafe Ojala at the Trenton Farmers Market will be available. Artist Alia Bensliman, known for drawings and paintings inspired by her Tunisian heritage with a focus on North African and Berber art, will also create work during the day.

At the newly refurbished garden on Clay Street of Old Mill Hill Society President Oriol R. Gutierrez, the James Stewart Trio will be playing live jazz. Sponsors of the tour are hoping to have experts from Isles, Urban Agriculture, and Climate Corps on hand at the Friends Community Garden at 151 Mercer Street [headquarters of Mercer Street Friends], which is planted by neighborhood residents and especially colorful this year.

Tickets to the tour, which is open from 12 to 5 p.m., are $20, available at TrentonMillHill.org in advance or at Artworks Trenton, 19 Everett Alley, the day of the event.

For sustenance, those attending the Mill Hill tour can stroll over to the eateries featured as part of Taste Trenton. Cuisines include Costa Rican, Venezuelan, Dominican, Polish, Guatemalan, BBQ, classic African American, New Orleans, and more. Hours have been expanded this year to include breakfast, and the traditional Irish pub Tir na nOg will offer a special drink. The tour is self-guided and offers reduced price dishes to those who wear special wristbands.

The tour was launched in 2015 as a one-day event focused on 12 restaurants in the Chambersburg area, and has since expanded. “When we were invited to join in the second year, we jumped at the opportunity,” said Reggie Hallett, co-owner of the 1911 Smokehouse at 11 West Front Street. “I can confidently point to 15 or 20 of our regular customers who first came to the Smokehouse for that event, and they haven’t stopped coming.”

Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of the Hidden Gardens of Lambertville tour, presented by the Kalmia Club. Their historic pink clubhouse at 39 York Street is the starting point for the event, which is held rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Several private gardens in this architecturally distinctive town are included. “The amount of tips gleaned in a few hours can be real estate-changing,” said Kalmia’s Shirah Gray before last year’s tour, which was the first to be held after the pandemic. “At worst, you stopped to smell the roses and possibly discovered an heirloom variety. Hence, gardening groups from all over the state have regularly attended Kalmia Club’s Hidden Gardens of Lambertville Tour.”

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of the tour. Proceeds assist with Kalmia Club’s community outreach and annual scholarship programs for local young women. Visit kalmiaclub.org for more information.