Flower garden transforms eye-sore to eye-popping.
Posted 22 September 2011, by Janet Klockenga, Des Moines Register (Gannett), desmoinesregister.com
A once-vacant lot at 19th Street and College Avenue has blossomed this summer, now offering eye-popping color in three flower beds, thanks to the loving care of neighbors in the Mondamin Presidential neighborhood.
The garden, which residents are terming the Mondamin Glen, sits just to the east of busy 19th Street. In spring, residents started clearing brush and overgrown trees from the 155-by-75-foot lot during a Habitat For Humanity Rock the Block cleanup event.
From there, the garden grew.
Mondamin Presidential Neighborhood Association president Valerie Allen is proud of the way neighbors combined forces to work on the project.
“Hundreds of hands touched the Mondamin Glen over these past several months,” Allen said, adding that the idea came from longtime resident Rhonda Cason. Another resident, Terri Mitchell, a Master Gardener, led the way to map out the garden and plant it.
“There were so many folks involved with that project, I couldn’t begin to thank them for all their donation of time, energy and materials,” Allen said.
Mitchell got some help in plotting and planning the garden from fellow Master Gardener Chris Quinn of West Des Moines. Mitchell’s husband, Stan, also showed up nearly every evening, hauling water for the garden from a nearby fire hydrant on 19th Street.
As the garden grew, so did the attention paid to it.
“It was great for attracting hummingbirds,” Quinn said.
And honks from passing drivers.
“People love it,” said Terri Mitchell. “They drive by and honk all the time while we’re out here working. Sometimes we worry a little bit; some people have to stop and look at it, backing traffic up.”
“It’s in a perfect location because a lot of people see it when they’re getting off work,” said Stan Mitchell. “I can’t believe how many people have stopped and said they like it. Young kids have actually stopped to pick up trash here.”
Terri said one woman told her “it’s the most beautiful garden in Des Moines.”
“Another one called it ‘eye candy,’ ” she said. “It makes me happy to hear that.”
The garden features three round flower beds, one that’s planted to attract butterflies. The main bed holds a large new neighborhood sign the association paid for, along with three cement deer sculptures that Stan repainted. The sculptures had long resided in the yard of James Strode, who died a couple years ago.
Dramatic castor bean plants, each well over 6 feet tall, are planted in the middle of two flower beds, which boast tidy rings of salvia, bee balm, coneflowers and Asiatic lilies. A separate seating area in the corner provides a shady place for reflection.
The resident gardeners got most of their annuals at no charge from the city’s greenhouse on the east side, and the Mondamin Presidential Neighborhood Association kicked in some money to pay for other plants and landscaping materials. Terri Mitchell estimated it cost less than $2,000 to get the garden planted.
She said she hopes next year to plant more roses, and to install a couple trellises. The neighbors plan to lay a path of pavers among the three flower beds.
The constant watering, especially during the August heatwave, was worthwhile, Terri Mitchell said.
“I’m surprised how pretty it turned out,” she said.
Neighborhood association prssident Valerie Allen likes the way the garden has drawn admiring glances from passing motorists.
“When you drive north on 19th Street, it makes you slow down and take notice,” she said. “It’s just one of the many things the residents have helped accomplish this year. We take pride in our neighborhood, and we truly care how it’s perceived.”
The caretakers of Mondamin Glen are hoping to plant tulips and other bulbs in the garden this fall. Mitchell said she hopes eventually the garden will be filled with perennials. The group will welcome donations of bulbs and mulch this fall.
For more information about their needs, call Terri Mitchell at 282-9709.