By Paula White
Got weeds? If you live in North Richmond, there’s hope for you. Last month a crew of North Richmond residents helped plant “Hope Gardens” for their neighbors. These five gardens have transformed planting strips between the sidewalk and street from weedy eyesores into beautiful urban oases. Each of the gardens was adopted by a resident whose home is behind the garden. In exchange for having an attractive new garden planted, the garden adopters have agreed to water and maintain them and received a tool kit containing a hose, large metal bucket, digging tools, and gloves to help them do so. Residents also consulted with The Watershed Project staff to help design the garden, taking into consideration factors such as color preferences, plant height and durability, and maintenance needs. All of the plants selected are drought-tolerant and adapted to the Bay Area’s climate.
Last Wednesday we admired the gardens during a walking tour–if you missed that, we invite you on a virtual tour of the new Hope Gardens.
Ramona wanted her garden, which extends 50 feet along the sidewalk, to be both attractive and functional. It features a vibrant color palate of white, orange, and purple flowers interspersed with pavers to enable passengers to exit from their cars onto a walkway instead of a plant. The mostly low-growing species are hardy and will provide habitat for pollinators, such as the gulf fritillary butterfly that was visiting the garden during the tour. Earl’s garden, located across the street from Ramona’s, echoes her plant palate, but is composed of only native plants. Though small now, this garden is likely to expand westward. The day that we planted the garden, two of Earl’s next door neighbors wanted to know how they could get a garden planted too. Earl plans to talk to the owner of the building about adopting a garden next year.
A few blocks away, Maria and Enrique were delighted to realize they could have a garden in front of their home on the planting strip. They love plants but their entire front yard is concrete. Maria has a beautiful collection of potted plants on her patio and now has many more plants to tend. During the garden tour, Maria exchanged gardening tips with some members of the planting crew. For over two years the crew members have served as block ambassadors in North Richmond by removing trash weekly from their block, cleaning up Wildcat Creek, and volunteering at tree planting events. The block ambassadors receive a small stipend for their efforts and they worked hard to install the gardens and pavers.
Eunice and Jesus were eager to get a new look for their planting strip. They had experimented with some shrubs but wanted more variety and color. Their garden features both California natives and some showy succulents. Mary’s garden was a longer walk from the other four gardens but worth a trip nonetheless. Her garden demonstrates how much can be done in a small space. In addition, it features a rainwater management feature. Her roof drains into the planting strips where two gray rushes are planted. The plants are both flood and drought tolerant. During the rainy season they can tolerate standing water but can also make it through the dry season.
It took a lot of effort to build these gardens, starting with finding people who were willing to adopt a garden and embark on something new. It will take a village to nurture and protect them. We are hopeful that by investing in the people of North Richmond through additional stipended work to help maintain these and future gardens and trees, it will create a ripple effect throughout the community. Next year we plan to build more Hope Gardens and we invite North Richmond residents to get in touch with us if you are interested in either in adopting a garden in front of your house or being part of the garden building and maintenance crew. Meanwhile, we hope these gardens will put down deep roots and help cultivate a growing gardening movement in North Richmond.