BLUE HILL — Part of the charm of this seaside town is its U.S. post office bursting with blooms, cultivated and tended by Peter Clapp.
Perennials and annuals grace either side of the post office steps as well as the roadside entrance to 104 Main St. Clapp owns the post office property.
Six years ago, Clapp retired after working and running the Blue Hill Garage for a half-century. His father started the business in 1941. That change has given the Blue Hill native time to work garden soil instead of engines and the paperwork that comes from owning a small business.
If you lose track of what month it is, you only need look at Clapp’s post office garden to remember.
Hyacinths and tulips mean spring. Snapdragons take their place and drifts of lavender show up in early summer. Lemon lilies will join them. Hydrangeas display showy, pink puffball blooms.
By mid-August, sunflowers tower over the mailboxes by the post office entrance and the parking lot entrance. In September, the giant sunflower heads will begin to droop in earnest. One season, a gentleman expressed concern the flower heads might fall off and hit someone’s head.
The former mechanic said a lot of people ask him why he keeps gardens at the post office.
“For years, my father and I ran the garage over there,” he said. “I’m kind of like doing this in appreciation for all the good customers we had.”
Clapp relies on his wife, Sandra, who is a gardener, as well as his daughter, Leslie, if he has questions.
“There’s more trial and error more than anything else,” he said.
Granddaughter Lael Clapp, a freshman at George Stevens Academy this year, helps him in the garden, filling a bucket with spent blooms.
Clapp also has a bit of help from Larry Maxim at Downeast Landscape and Design in Blue Hill. Maxim puts down a layer of fresh mulch every spring.
Clapp has packed a lot into the space. Something new always seems to be blooming.
There are peonies, riotous gladiolas, a large variety of red-hued zinnias, false bleeding heart, azalea and a ninebark shrub. There’s also a barberry, which Clapp thinks he’ll dig out since it’s on the list of invasives no longer allowed to be sold in Maine.
“Some things survive and some don’t,” he said. “I blame it on the salt. They use a lot of salt on the driveway.”
“I plant new bulbs in the fall, but if I leave them sometimes they lose their vibrancy,” he said.
Railroad ties, grass, juniper and whiskey barrels of flowers were the only ornamentation at the post office before Clapp retired in 2013.
“Not much anything at all,” he said.
Eight years ago Mike Astbury took the ties out and put in granite curbing.
Advice to the locals:
“Just enjoy it,” Clapp said. “If you have any suggestions let me know.”