MSP’s massive new planting eradicates devil’s strip


Just before the frost hit, Main Street Portsmouth closed the season out with one last surprise planting for the community, with the erection of a new 54-foot flower bed on Front Street.

The flower bed is in a space known as a devil’s strip.

The devil’s strip is the land between curb and sidewalk, often known for being barren and unhospitable, and generally a gray area of maintenance and use.

“Well, it’s a devil’s strip no more,” Executive Director Joseph Pratt said. “It was previously an eyesore on the gateway to the beautiful murals but will now further frame them in beauty.”

The organizer of the project was Main Street founder and Design Committee Chairwoman Sue Burke, who recently won a national community champion award for her efforts, and has been recognized in the past for her volunteerism.

“We have been planning on this for a short while now,” Burke explained. “I’ve been buying plants here and there, always on discount and usually half off, to have enough for such a large space. I’ve been storing them at my house and keeping them alive so we could knock this massive planting out. It can be tough to grow and keep things alive there, but we have some hardy selections and I think the garden will grow in beauty each year.”

Once again, Burke points all fingers to her volunteers.

“I couldn’t do it without my Main Street Flower Girls. They are a good group of mostly retired ladies who help us make the magic happen,” Burke said of her crew.

Pratt said the planting is also a major step in the organization’s mission of improvement.

“We’ve recently pivoted some of our focus on a program called America in Bloom. We brought judges in over the summer and receives scores, recommendations, and awards for our efforts. We only received our scoring sheets two weeks ago,” Pratt said. “One of the topics addressed was Front Street and the desire to see more plant life there, because if it being considered too ‘sterile.’ Well, we took one big step in changing that this week.”

The committee is now focusing efforts on Christmas and general winter decorations, as they rotate displace and arrangements out throughout the season.

Learn more about the organization at The group is responsible for year-round events, the hanging baskets and flower pots in downtown, Alexandria Park, the Roy Rogers Esplanade, 535 on Second, the seasonal displays, and more.

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