Standing in front of his flower-covered yard beneath a canopy of rustling maple trees on Lefferts Avenue, Doug Bruha fielded praise from his neighbors.
“Congratulations. Great work. You deserve everything you’ve earned,” a man yelled from across the street.
“Congrats, congrats,” a woman said as she walked past.
Another woman patted him on the back without a word.
Bruha, 47, proudly donned a white T-shirt emblazoned with “Lefferts Green Team.” He and the other members of the team accepted the title of “Greenest Block in Brooklyn” from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Wednesday for their curation of the stretch from Bedford to Rogers avenues. The crew out-blossomed the competition to earn a $300 cash prize.
The 24th annual contest considered nearly 160 blocks from 30 neighborhoods, and included several other awards such as best window box, best street tree bed and best community garden streetscape.
Back on Lefferts Avenue, planter barrels overflowing with purple coleus plants and potato vines dotted the block, while hostas and black-eyed Susans sprang from the tree beds. Even the defunct telephone booth at the end of the street overflowed with red begonias.
But the block wasn’t so green when Bruha moved there five years ago.
The seeds were sown when Francisca Leopold, 55, moved to the block a few months before Bruha. She founded the Lefferts Green Team with the goal of beautifying the area.
“It’s been a lot of toil and labor because we didn’t really have the funding,” Leopold said. “We have to rely on donations from the residents because flowers are expensive.”
So the Lefferts residents got creative. When Martin Scorsese’s production company parked its vehicles on Lefferts Avenue to film a scene nearby, it funded the planter barrels as an apology for the inconvenience, Bruha said. Residents took advantage of the gesture and filled the planters with whatever flowers they could get their hands on. Bruha’s mother mailed him hostas she divided from mature plants at her home in Wisconsin, and Bruha planted them along the tree beds.
With the help of a Citizens Committee Love Your Block grant, the Green Team added perennials to the tree beds and lined them with metal fencing. A three-person beautification team regularly waters the plants, but community planting days can draw as many as 30 residents out to help.
“By trying to make this a value of the block, it’s created a bigger sense of community, of people getting to know each other,” Bruha said. “It’s an opportunity for conversation among complete strangers. There are people stopping from the subway stations to talk about the flowers.”
Sandra Worrell, 58, who has lived in the brownstone next door to Bruha’s for 28 years, proudly displayed her petunias, monardas and phlox. “I appreciate the win,” she said. “We’re happy to come out on top.”