Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Great Princeton Garden

Update, Oct/2021: The life of Dorothy Mullen, 1955-2020, will be celebrated at Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville on Oct. 30, beginning at 10am. Here's a link to watch via zoom. I wrote a song called Dorothy's Garden after seeing Dorothy for the last time. The song on the video starts about two minutes in. 

Update, August 18, 2019: Dorothy tells her story in a wonderful article in US1, and gets honored with a proclamation by the Princeton school board, starting at about 26:23 in this video. It's very moving, as many people speak of the impact Dorothy, her gardening and the Suppers program have had on their lives. As reported in the article, Dorothy has been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

One of Princeton's great gardens is Dorothy Mullen's. For many years she managed the educational gardens at Riverside Elementary, which eventually became integrated into the school's curriculum.  Now she focuses on her own garden, using its produce for her Suppers program. Many people dabble in gardening, but Dorothy is hardwired to care for gardens, keeping them in beautiful shape year after year. The more she vanquishes weeds one year, the fewer seeds in the soil to sprout new weeds the next. Eventually, the soil loses its "memory" of weeds.

An unsuspecting passerby on Patton Avenue will be greeted by a figure enrobed in runner beans who seems to take the leguminous embrace well, with a gesture that says "Why not?"

Why not, the statue seems to say, why not convert your whole lawn to garden?

Why not mix raised beds of vegetables

with wildflowers beds?

Why not grow fig trees that actually bear figs?

And why not invite passersby to help themselves to a sample of food or flower? Forgot your scissors? There's a pair provided, protected from the elements by a plastic bag. Like a screened porch that has elements of indoors and outdoors, the garden mixes elements of private and public. Dorothy does gardens right.

(photos taken in mid-August)


  1. The beans are called "Cherokee Trail of Tears" and the statue came from Yugoslavia with a businessman in 1963 who was working for the CIA.

  2. Dorothy's garden is beautiful, tasty and an inspiration!

  3. Yes, why not? Intermingled in the garden you'll find straw bale garden beds overflowing with tomato plants, herbs and flowers - so many no longer have the excuse that they don't having a place for a garden. Dor's Garden is amazing and she's an inspiration to those who learn from her and Suppers! Thank you for shedding light on this amazing work.

  4. I'm still getting emails from friends who have picked this up from my autosignature. It was a gorgeous post in August and it's still a gorgeous post in October (although the deer finally made their way to this garden a few weeks ago).

  5. Steve, this is the gift that keeps on giving. I just shared it with a group who came to a workshop and wanted to see garden photos. Thanks!

  6. Thanks to Dorothy, for many things, of course, but also for alerting me to an issue with the comment function on this blog. She said people were trying to comment on this post but the comments weren't being posted. I finally researched this and found the comments in an archive, but for some reason I didn't receive the notification that there was a comment waiting to be approved. There are lots of spammers so I have to check each comment before posting it. Apologies for the mysterious snafu, and the delay in looking into it. Thanks to all for your comments, and for all you do for gardening and healthy food.

  7. While Dor can still give a tour of this garden, are there any takers? Much of the garden will be transplanted to a farm and preserved by NOFA-NJ until Suppers sets up a teaching garden and bricks and mortar home.