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Yarmouth Port gardener has ‘flower power’

Photograph, above, by Helen McVeigh, and at right, by Paige Biviano

Another part of the garden with a unique story is the plants McVeigh did not grow herself. Her son, Chris, is a bioscience environmental technology teacher at the Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School in Groton, Conn., where he plants from seed with his students. During the year, McVeigh often visits the school to purchase the flowers. “It’s thrilling to have flowers that my son has grown with young people,” McVeigh says. “They start them from seed as another means to introduce these students to a career. I take all of these flowers and give them a nice home here in the summer.”

In late winter and early spring, while the ground slowly thaws, McVeigh begins preparing for summer in her backyard greenhouse. After a winter’s rest, she is rejuvenated and fresh with new ideas. “I spend a lot of time in my gardens, but I never count the hours,” she says. “They are hours spent with love. I don’t look at it as work, only because to me it’s a passion. I love to be out there.”

In summer, McVeigh’s time in the garden often begins at 5 a.m., especially when she is sprucing up for a garden tour. In 2015 and 2016, she participated in the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival Garden Tour, where visitors toured a collection of local gardens. In so doing, McVeigh helped to raise money for the Barnstable Education Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping fund innovative programs at the Barnstable Public Schools. In addition to her involvement in the tours, McVeigh’s gardening expertise has also been highlighted in Prime Time Cape Cod and Costal Home magazines.

Of her large collection of plants, McVeigh says her favorites are the unusual ones—some so unique she doesn’t even know their official names. A long skinny, pink plant she calls her “shrimp plant,” is a current favorite.

Aside from gardening, McVeigh enjoys several creative endeavors. Inside her home, which she decorates seasonally, current furnishings and accessories include brightly painted furniture, mirrors wreathed with shells, and various handmade knickknacks she has created. “All my friends tease me because I really change the whole décor for each season,” she says. “I love the change. I think that’s part of my past as a teacher and doing the bulletin boards. I do it for every season and for holidays.”

Whether it’s decorating the rooms inside her home, or planting in the “rooms” of her garden, McVeigh views the time she spends crafting and designing, planting and pruning as well spent. Gardening, though, holds a special place in her heart. The simple joys of working outdoors and breathing in the fresh air make her happy—and she hopes to inspire other green-thumbs-to-be. “Gardening gives me so much in return,” she says. “It fulfills me. It’s not my children in a classroom anymore, it’s my children in a garden.”

Lillian Lowe is a freelance writer and a former editorial intern for Cape Cod

Life Publications.

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