Fairy lights and stars twinkled over beds of coral and white begonias, purple and pink sage, towering oak leaves and strawberry-vanilla hydrangeas and black-eyed yellow Susans as friends sipped lemonade chilled, munched on fresh seafood, read crafts and mingled in a balmy night at Beds & Borders gardens in Laurel.
During the day, this nursery is a marvel for the eyes, a paradise for butterflies and hummingbirds fluttering over multi-colored flowers, in search of nectar. But its new Friday Night in the Garden attracts those looking for an oasis of the workweek and edible delights of the human variety.
What started as a one-off idea – manager Luisa Alvarado thought she would host their annual midsummer evening plant sale and turn it into a party with food and drink – turned into a Friday night party. After painting the garden center in bright colors to make it more visible from the main road, she hung fairy lights for the affair. And there you have it, the people have come.
“We lit up the place on a Friday night, and since then people want to come back for more,” said Alvarado, who was happy to oblige. “I like to see my friends enjoying their time.”
But there was something more at stake.
“We’ve had a great year, but some of our friends haven’t,” said Alvarado, who runs the garden center while her husband Freddy is responsible for growing their wholesale operation. “I wanted to support my community and the Latino vendors who didn’t have it easy during the pandemic.”
The 25-acre patch of flora and fauna known as the Gardens is more of a sanctuary than a stand of plants. “This place is magical,” said Alvarado, from Guatemala City who lost her mother when she was seven and didn’t have much home growing up. “This community is my refuge. I love my clients and my new family here, and we wanted to give back.
After her mother’s death, Alvarado’s older sister moved to New Jersey, worked in restaurants and the cafeteria at Princeton University, earning enough to send her to Guatemala to educate Luisa. After graduating from college, she moved to Florida to live with her father, who had separated from her.
Eventually, she moved to New Jersey to be with her sister in 2010 and discovered North Fork through her childhood friend Angelica, whom she found on Facebook. As fate willed it, the day she reunited with Angelica, Alvarado met her future husband, another native of Guatemala. The two married in 2013 and began renting the Beds & Borders gardens soon after to owner Kevin Cande, widower of its founder, Kathryn Pufah, who died of melanoma in 2003.
“It was like learning to swim in the depths. I just got started, ”said Alvarado, who grew up in an urban environment, had worked in the banking industry and knew very little about horticulture when she and Freddy took over the Gardens. But the move turned out to be successful. Not only did she discover a new passion, devouring as many botany books as she could find in the library, but she and Freddy took their own roots in this fertile soil.
“Maiddy was born that first year and I was at work three days later,” said Alvarado, now a mother of three.
Any weekend, you can find Maiddy, now 6, selling homemade lemonade with her brother Marcello, 4, while Maya, 15 months, dashes out. But the real stars of their Friday nights aren’t the kids, as adorable as they are, or even her rainbow assortment of annuals, perennials, succulents, shrubs, flower arrangements and flowers. tropical flowers – although they have a way of shining in starlight and will be deeply cut this Labor Day. It’s time to shine for the region’s little-known chefs, food suppliers, musicians, artisans and entrepreneurs, which she lovingly takes under her wings.
“I try to give them the exposure that they are struggling to get on their own,” said Alvarado, who has become like a sister to Balo Alvarez, who served his delicious ceviche, made with fresh squid and local, shrimp, octopus and peppers. , red onions and topped with North Fork-grown cilantro microgreens and stuffings, or baked seafood cakes that have become a cult favorite. After 12 years working behind the scenes as a chef at Southold Fish Market and then helping set up various Lucharito outposts locally, he took a small business course at Stony University. Brook and started Balo’s Foods, a restaurant business and soon to be a food truck.
She has also included vendors like Cornell Oysters, sweet and savory snacks from bakery company Tr (eaterly), singer-songwriter Deanna Hudson, and art by North Fork artist Kara Hoblin, who painted a bright hummingbird-themed mural in the gardens earlier this summer. This weekend, Alvarado will showcase ceviche and lobster rolls from Balo’s Foods, beach jewelry and accessories from Sea Finds, handcrafted crochet accessories by Blue Merino Designs, seashells from Marni B, eco-friendly bags from Just Burlap Bags and of course, lemonade from Maiddy.
And if you can’t come this week, Alvarado says she will keep having fun until fall, switching to cold weather food and accessories.
Friday evenings at the Gardens are weekly from 5 pm to 9 pm 600 Laurel Lane, Laurel; 631-298-1836.