Laura Lea Evans has been tending a little garden in a city park on the corner of California Avenue and Newlands Circle since 2009. It’s called the Newlands Flower Bed Project and is sponsored by Jim Alder of Alder Properties.
You’ve been keeping the garden since 2009. Tell me a bit more about how the project got started.
Well, all I know is that Jim had talked, off and on, prior to that year about disliking how the property looked here at the corner. It was just barren, and it distressed him. He asked me a couple of times if I’d be interested, and I expressed that I was—but it took a while for us to jell it out and figure out what we wanted to do and what was doable with the city. And he made all of the arrangements with the city. Basically, he adopted this patch of dirt. And it was hard-packed dirt. There was nothing on it—just some weeds, which the city did spray. But that was it. So we pretty much started from literal ground zero.
You’d been gardening for Jim prior to this project, right?
Yes, I’ve been doing his office building for at least 15 years, probably longer. It’s at 2470 Wrondel Way. It’s a large complex.
Are you a gardener by vocation or avocation?
Well, sometimes I get paid, so it makes it a vocation. But I’m not trained, so I suppose it would be an avocation. You can make of that what you wish.
It’s been almost a decade you’ve been tending this garden.
That’s correct. I am the creator of this one.
Tell me about the flowers you’ve got growing.
Well, we have different kinds of coreopsis, which are the yellow ones. What’s nice about these—they are perennials, so one they’re deadheaded, which is the process I’m doing at the moment, they tend to regenerate and reflower, so you get a nice bloom throughout the season. They don’t taper off significantly ’til late October. … I have some Mexican poppies in here, which are perennials. I got those a few years ago. Those are pretty invasive, which is not something I like a lot—but I do like the flower on it, so it’s worth it. We have Dianthus, which are … kind of a miniature carnation; people recognize them as that. … You noted earlier that I have lavender. The city provided the lavender from their hothouse for me, the various daylilies that are in here, and some of the coreopsis. … The ground was very hard, hadn’t been watered or nurtured in any way when I started this. The second year, I was able to get the guy who was doing the landscaping on the lawns out here to put mulch on this dirt, which made a huge difference.
How has the community responded?
It’s been really interesting. I usually come on a Tuesday. Some days, people just drive by—maybe honk once in a while and wave or yell, “thank you” out their driver’s window as they go by. But some people will actually stop and talk a few minutes and say how much they appreciate it. And that’s really impressive to me. I’m deeply touched that flowers mean that much to people.
Is there any way people might help, if they wanted?
Jim is always open for donations. You have his address. People have stopped here occasionally and left money with me, which I do pass on. It’s better if it goes directly to Jim, I think, so that he experiences what people are feeling and why they’re doing something. It’s important to me that he’s acknowledged in all of this.