About four years ago, Lourdes Velasquez -- who always loved gardening -- started to do some work around her Bellport yard with her husband, Juan.
While they worked to clean up their front yard on Agamemnon Avenue, Lourdes Velasquez said she couldn’t help but notice that the town-owned piece of land on the side of her property on Atlantic Avenue was a stark contrast. So she started doing some work over there, too.
“My husband and I started cleaning a little bit, a little bit,” she said. “Until we had landscaped and gardened the whole thing.”
She said she planted low-lying bushes and flowers, including day lilies, roses, gladiolus and mums, and eventually other residents and the civic organization saw their work and offered to help with seed and garden tool donations.
The garden continued to grow after Velasquez’s mother, from whom she learned to garden, came from Puerto Rico in 2006 to live with Velasquez and her family in Bellport.
“I told my husband, ‘Just wait until my mother comes over, she’ll get to the other side of the street,’” she said, and her 86-year-old mother, Carmen Arroyo-Santos, did just that.
Velasquez said the whole neighborhood took notice, and whenever she and her mother were outside working in the garden, people who walked by would stop and thank them. But a bigger “thank you” came last month, when the women were recognized by the Brookhaven Town Board for their service.
Councilwoman Connie Kepert (D-North Bellport) said she first noticed the garden in the fall of 2009 and began asking around to find out if the town had planted it.
“It really is a spectacular garden display with flowers of all different colors,” she said. “It just looked so nice in that area of North Bellport, it was such a surprise to come across.”
The Brookhaven Town Board presented the women with a certificate of appreciation for their beautification efforts at its Jan. 6 organizational meeting. Kepert said Brookhaven aims to increase its own beautification efforts with its Keep Brookhaven Beautiful campaign, so she wanted to reward citizens who were self-motivated enough to advance that project.
“We’re trying to multiply this throughout the area,” she said.
Velasquez said the best part of the experience was how happy it made her mother. She said that Arroyo-Santos had worked on her family’s farm in Puerto Rico since she was 5 years old and deserved to be recognized.
“My mother has been a very hardworking lady for her whole life,” she said. “It’s like her reward for all that.”
Carmen Arroyo-Santos, Lourdes Velasquez and her son Justin, 5, stand in the garden they planted on Atlantic Avenue in Bellport. (June 2010)