By Ginger DeShaney

MaryAnne Miller’s backyard garden oasis on I Street is a haven for bees. 

“Bees are our friends,” she said. “I love bees.”

MaryAnne has myriad pollinator-friendly plants to attract the bees. 

“I understand these are our friends that are too busy working to bother you. So you need to keep the bees going.

“I’m obsessed with bees.”

MaryAnne combines plants that she knows the bees like and that she likes as well, such as sage, salvia, dill, calendula, mini sunflowers, wildflowers, dahlias, lobelia, and Dusty Millers (in honor of her last name).

“I’ve had many, many bumblebees, which makes me so happy,” said MaryAnne, who has lived in her I Street house for 45 years.

Her garden is a retirement/pandemic gift to herself. It was created on the cusp of when the pandemic got really bad. “I don’t know what inspired me at that moment,” she said.

The neighbors had put up a fence that provides an amazing backdrop to MaryAnne’s yard. 

She heard that Jeff Mc Ardle of Cuchulainn Construction was doing backyard work so she reached out to him. And Peter DiBona did the beautiful landscaping. 

They transformed her small backyard into the oasis it is today. 

“It’s just a really smart layout for a very small space,” MaryAnne, 67, said. “And that feels like you have another room. Another two rooms.”

MaryAnne’s son, Michael, was also instrumental in putting the garden together. And her dog, Ziggy, “helps” in the garden, too.

Her love of bees stems from her time at Mt. Ida College, where she was Dean of Student Success. “I just became transfixed with the nature that was there in the urban campus.

“While I was devastated that the college closed, I took a few lessons from it because you could really make a lot out of a really small space.

“So, this makes me happy. This is what I spend my days doing.”

MaryAnne, who also has tomato and basil plants, has always been interested in gardening, but it really took off over the pandemic. Her beloved late husband, Mitch, loved gardens and flowers, too.

MaryAnne began experimenting more with gardening about 10 years ago while working for Bunker Hill Community College after she brought in a landscaper for the Chelsea campus.

“I may be a higher ed administrator by profession, but I’m a gardener at heart,” she said.

MaryAnne has advice for anyone who is interested in gardening. “Just be bold. Read up on the plants you like. Study your space over the course of four seasons, over the course of a week at different points … see what kind of light you’re getting,” she said. “And buy the best soil, even if it costs a ton of money.”

While she loves all flowers, her favorite is the pansy. “And there is pansies; that’s for thoughts,” she said, quoting Shakespeare.