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God’s gardener! He’s is not religious, but he’s keeping one church beautiful

Brooklyn Daily
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Sorry, Carroll Gardens — this Garden of Eden is in Cobble Hill.

One charitable landscaper has a stretch of Court Street in full bloom, particularly in the gardens at one of Brooklyn’s oldest churches — and he’s not taking one penny for his work.

Ted Dell, 72, has been maintaining the sidewalks pro bono for years now, picking up litter and ripping out crabgrass wherever he can find them, but his most recent endeavor — the revitalization of the gardens at St. Paul’s Church on the corner of Court and Congress streets — has both the parish and the neighborhood singing, “Hallelujah!”

“He’s contributed to the entire neighborho­od,” said Jo Giovanniello, a congregant who was so taken with Dell’s altruism that she wrote a poem about him. “It’s an uplift — it inspires others to do a little bit more, to plant flowers in their garden.”

Dell, who lives across the street from St. Paul’s, began tending the gardens at the church last March, taking no compensation and paying out of pocket for the hostas and hydrangeas that now line the 150-year-old building.

But the church greenery wasn’t always the talk of the town.

“It was such a mess,” Dell said of the garden before his arrival. “I’m not religious, but this is a place that gives people a great deal of comfort, so I wanted to make it look nice.”

“Nice” might be an understatement: Sister Marie Innocent said that she can barely handle the compliments her parishioners give the garden.

“People are so grateful,” she said.

For a lifelong green thumb like Dell, however, planting, pruning and waging relentless campaigns against sidewalk weeds are simply part of his nature.

“I’m obsessive,” he said. “I’ve been gardening since 1950.”

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