Merrimack Valley Life

Sunflowers brighten a garden in the heart of the city

Neighbors Richard Curtin (left) and Blase Distefano stand in front of Distefano’s garden featuring a row of tall sunflowers. The garden, located in the Mount Washington neighborhood, has been tended by the Distefano family for 65 years. Haverhill Life staff photo

Neighbors Richard Curtin (left) and Blase Distefano stand in front of Distefano’s garden featuring a row of tall sunflowers. The garden, located in the Mount Washington neighborhood, has been tended by the Distefano family for 65 years. Haverhill Life staff photo

In past years, Blase Distefano has planted a few sunflowers in his garden. “I really liked the way they look, so I thought it would be nice to plant a whole row of them this year,” Distefano said while standing next to a long row of tall stalks, their bright yellow blossoms facing the sun.

The sunflowers are a whimsical addi­tion to a very productive and carefully tended vegetable garden, which is sur­prising to see in the city’s Mount Wash­ington neighborhood. “My family lived on Jackson Street, and we kept a garden here for 65 years,” Distefano said. “This area was all farmland once. Many local families had gardens here before all the houses were built.”.

About 25 years ago, Distefano and his wife decided to build their home on the land. “We were going to build close to Pilling Street, but the builder suggest­ed that we build on the other end so we could look downhill instead of uphill,” he said. “That was a good suggestion.”

Distefano’s garden is so productive that he brings his excess produce to Pe­ters’ Farm in Salem, New Hampshire, to be sold.

Distefano works full-time at Haverhill High School and still finds time to farm the sizeable plot of land, which is locat­ed in a residential neighborhood a block from Tilton school. Gardening is clearly a labor of love for Distefano. “The land is here,” he said, “so we may as well put it to good use.”

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