Three men who run Portland’s Wild Burritos casual restaurant have turned their South Portland home and garden into a Maine version of Colonial Williamsburg or a Savannah mansion.

“I like dividing things into spaces,” said Miguel Collins, who confesses to being the driving force behind the conversion of the home that he and his partner, Daniel Dyer, and their housemate, Dana Long, bought two and a half years ago.

The project involves both the house and the gardens, and as this is a gardening column, I will focus on the gardens. But I have to mention a bit about the house.

Since buying the 1900 Sears & Roebuck saltbox three houses up from the South Portland waterfront on Clemons Street, the men have added a two-story wraparound porch with columns on the front of the house and a two-story porch on the back of the house.

“We have a friend who, when he comes over to visit, says he is coming to Maine’s Savannah, never just to Miguel and Danny’s house,” Collins said.

The affinity for the South comes naturally. Collins was raised in North Carolina, and he and Long ran a restaurant in Charleston, S.C., before coming to Portland. The affinity for things Southern makes some sense.

The backyard has a cross-like crushed-rock path dividing the space into four parts, with a huge fountain in the center where the two lines meet. Around the paths they have planted beds of wildflowers which, because of the late spring this year, weren’t showing much when I visited 10 days ago.

The yard also includes lots of arborvitae lining the outside of the property in a way that will eventually create an enclosed outdoor room. Inside are some Bradford pears, maples, azaleas, smaller fountains and sculptures — lots of sculptures, mostly of human forms.

Collins bought the centerpiece fountain from Harmon and Barton’s florists in Portland, but thinks it came from New Orleans. The sculptures came from a variety of places.

Collins said the yard was mostly vacant when the three men bought the property and moved in. While they have hired a carpenter to do the work on the house, they have done the gardening work on their own.

“When we looked at the yard, I said, ‘Oh my God, where do we start,’ ” Collins said.

He wanted to create something Colonial, but not what New Englanders think of as Colonial. “It is Williamsburg Colonial, very much like an old English garden,” he said.

The backyard also has a pond with a few water lilies and reeds growing in it. Collins was quick to point out that it is a real pond, without a liner.

“This is the low point of the neighborhood, and all the runoff comes in here,” he said. “It prevents water from going into the cellar and creating other problems.”

When I visited, tulips were the dominating blooms in the garden, but wisteria and roses will soon be climbing the pergola and arches.

The workers added window boxes to create a welcoming feeling in the house.

“We keep candles lighted in the windows all the time, which means you are welcome,” Collins said.

The work is not complete by any means. While the back porch is great for warm weather, Collins is hoping to create a conservatory on the south side of the house so they can have the sense of being outdoors even in the winter.

And while the house has a good view of downtown Portland from its third floor, Collins wants to add a spiral staircase and a widow’s walk on top of the home to improve the view.

Collins said the house is an outward expression of one of the main tenets of his life.

“You can’t control the things that go on around you,” he said, “but you can control your own area.”

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at

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