Giant bowls of green and lavender hang from the long, neat front porch of the Union Gables bed and breakfast in Saratoga Springs.
Wicker chairs and tables stand on the wood, ready for people and small parties on Union Avenue.
“It helps create environment on the porch, and the porch is used just like another room in the house, especially in the summer,” said Kelley Hamik, one of the innkeepers at the 107-year-old mansion. “People spend more time out here on the porch than they actually do in their rooms.”
Color and comfort are found up the steps and behind the railings in many homes located near Saratoga’s historic race track. When flowers begin blooming in May, both bees and people want to be near the petunias and marigolds. Afternoon snacks and evening cocktails near front doors and windows are also part of the appeal.
C. Kirk Nichols has stocked his front porch at the Brunswick bed and breakfast, another Union Avenue guest house, with rocking chairs in burnt red and flowers in similar tones. He says proper maintenance of the open air dens is a devotion, and a nod to tradition. Ferns and other lush greens were regular patrons on city porches during the 1800s.
Union’s streets and sidewalks show plenty of color during spring and summer. “The main thing is to keep up with our public works department,” Nichols said, aware city officials plant pinks and whites in municipal sod. “They have the center island on Union.”
‘Making Saratoga look nice’
Private homes also strike their colors during the summer. Bob and Denise Herman’s home at 85 Nelson Ave., across from Saratoga Race Course’s training area, is a study in stems starring red, purple and yellow.
“We want to make Saratoga look nice,” Bob Herman said. “We have thousands of people come by here every day, and we want to put our best foot forward.”
Denise Herman does most of the planting, and puts pink begonias, yellow marigolds and purple petunias on her summer payroll.
“I love the flowers, that’s part of me,” she said. “I always like to make the porches pretty and inviting.”
A horse in silhouette is tacked above the front door, just one of the equine touches on the porch. “We get a lot of positive comments, which makes you feel good, because it’s a lot of work,” Bob Herman said. “And you’ve got to love horses if you live here.”
Ray and Deanne Palmer own a brick home — and a spacious porch — at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East Avenue, four blocks from the race track’s main entrance on Union.
“It’s the best part of the house in the summer,” said Deanne Palmer, who has installed white-and-green striped patio chairs and lounges in the big room. A bonus is a bit of seclusion behind the high porch bricks. The Palmers and their friends can watch people walking to and from the track; people can’t always peek back.
Bob Melvin, who with his wife Stephanie runs the Westchester House bed and breakfast on Lincoln Avenue, dresses up his gray and blue porch with baskets of red double impatiens. They look like tiny roses.
“This is the hospitality industry, and we have to look good,” Melvin said. “There’s a lot of pride in this town.” Enough pride to convince people that flowers, cushioned chairs and globe lights are not the only extras for the exterior.
“We paint every year,” Melvin said. “We have to, and I think most of the folks paint their porches if not every year, every couple of years.”