Street Corner Gardens and Hanging Baskets

IMG_0292My usual writing spot at the kitchen table was all cleared off and waiting for me. A song bird chirped in the patio, a few wispy clouds decorated the soft blue sky, and John Williams–randomly chosen by my “mellow” iTunes playlist–plucked his guitar. I pulled out a chair and paused. Nope. Pushing the chair back in, I rolled up the pages I was planning to work on, slid them into my rather commodious handbag, and grabbed my car keys.

IMG_0285Once or twice a week I like to get out of the house and write in one of my favorite tea or coffee shops. Cafe Louvre, where I was headed that day, is within walking distance, but I was eager to get started, so I drove.

IMG_0303In the summer, Edmonds has a lively feel. People emerge from their wintry nests to fill the sidewalks, shops, and cafes. Not surprisingly, when I drove past the cafe, all the nearby parking spots were taken. I drove farther down the street and up the hill. After a few loops, I ended up several blocks away from Cafe Louvre.

IMG_0293No problem. The walk gave me a chance to enjoy the street corner gardens along the way. These mini gardens, planted and maintained by Edmonds city staff and community volunteers, are a real delight.

IMG_0302 Unlike private gardens, street corner gardens are open to all, and they’re free. The Butchart Gardens near Victoria BC, for example, charge $31.45/adult this time of year. Even Seattle’s beautiful Japanese Garden, which is a public park, charges $6.

IMG_0301In the 21st century we no longer dress up and entertain ourselves by promenading through formal gardens. Street-side gardening with hanging baskets and street corner plantings fit better with our lifestyle. We don’t even have to get out of our cars or leave the sidewalk table in front of Starbucks where we’re sipping our iced lattes.

IMG_0284I lived once in a place where I was surrounded by too much gray and not enough green, too many hard, brittle surfaces and too little that was supple and alive. I’ve experienced the way everyday ugliness saddens the soul and how, in contrast, beauty imparts joy.

IMG_0298 Look up. What could be lovelier than a blue sky and wispy clouds!

IMG_0306Do you have street corner gardens or hanging baskets where you live?

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About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She's working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early '90s.
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  1. How lovely to see the flowers! Some industrious gardeners planted flowers in the yard outside of my apartment building. There are also pots of flowers in front of the library. I posted about those:

    • We’re in debt to those industrious gardeners. On the other hand, the people who plant and tend our gardens probably enjoy them more than anyone else. They’re like us writers; we get such pleasure in seeing our work bloom into a published book.

  2. The city near us does planters and hanging baskets off of street light poles and it breaks up the concrete. I always love our beach trips to New Jersey where they go in for huge planters in a big way. There is nothing like colorful flowers to perk up your soul.

    • Taking these photos made me think of Lady Bird Johnson and her beautification campaign. “Ugliness is so grim,” she once said. “A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.” Thanks to her, the Highway Beautification Act became law in 1965.

  3. I love the flowers! And hanging baskets and hummingbirds. What a great place to write.

    In the spring, the brick planters around my front steps are filled with freesia. I like to just sit on the glider on Sunday mornings and breathe.

  4. Jim Wassall

    And today is Edmonds in Bloom when you may visit seven gardens in Edmonds.

  5. I had a difficult time peeling my eyes away from your beautiful photos to comment, Nicki. I love the hanging baskets. I’m not aware of anything like that, but we do have an abundance of wildflowers growing along some of our major highways. Many of the smaller towns have garden areas. In downtown Charlotte, we have tree-lined streets.

    • Trees lining city streets are so beautiful and so valuable, especially on hot days. When we lived in Manila, there was one–only one– street I drove down that had big enough trees to convey a sense of coolness and shade. It was the street in Makati leading to San Antonio Church. The trees there were old and graceful. For one block or so, I felt as though I was driving in a park. Old-timers said that before WWII Manila had many tree-lined streets. But Manila was the second most devastated Allied capital of World War II, after Dresden.

  6. What lovely photos, Nicki — and what a beautiful place to live! Having moved gradually from a huge city, to a smaller city, to a country town — and now to the country itself, I can empathise entirely 🙂

  7. Gorgeous flowers! Our little town hangs gorgeous flower baskets from the old fashioned gas lights that line the street. There is a bridge leading out of town and it is lined with window boxes on the railings. It’s always beautiful.

  8. Lovely shots, Nicki! One of my favorite things about Florida is the year-round blooms and greenery. And, of course, the blue skies!

    Hope you enjoyed your writing “retreat.”

  9. Nicki, as you can probably tell from my blog that I absolutely love flowers [and sunsets and blue skies as well.] These pictures brought a smile to my face today. Those hanging baskets along the street are so stunning.

    In Taiwan, blooming season is usually in spring as temps these days who make a flower whither in record time. Flower festivals are usually held in fall and winter so people can enjoy them without contending with the heat.

    In my area, there are not many flowers growing these days. There is not even a single boom in my backyard. But, there are white puffy clouds and blue skies and wonderful sunsets, so I guess that will have to be my dose of nature for awhile.

    BTW, that last picture is just wonderful.

  10. This was such a colourful and cheery post, Nicki. Gorgeous photos of the flowers in the summer, looking fresh and in full bloom. And the last shot – what gorgeous cloud floating through the sky. It looks as if they are streaking and running across the sky to another part of the world. I hope you got some writing done that day 🙂

    Here where I live in Melbourne which is near the city, we don’t have colourful street corners or flower baskets like that. The walk down from my place to the city is devoid of flowers, all I see is roads and buildings. However, once I hit the city, it’s a different story. Trees lining the city streets and baskets of flowers along most blocks, right in front of retail shops. Currently it’s winter but spring is just around the corner for us so hopefully there’ll be colourful flowers here soon.

    • I so often enjoy looking at clouds, but I seldom think of taking a picture of the sky. I’m glad you enjoyed that photo, Mabel. What I like most about summer, I think, is the long days. We’re far enough north that we have about sixteen hours of daylight during the summer solstice. You must be having short days now. As our days get shorter, yours get longer.

  11. Gorgeous flowers, Nicki. Edmonds city staff and the volunteers deserve a hand. I could look at flowers all day, would be hard to stay focused on my writing.

  12. Love this post, Nicki… so full of joie de vivre – and beauty

  13. Lovely! 🙂 Reminds me of myself in some respects because on sunny mornings I have one eye on the laptop and the other on the kitchen window. Wondering if the sun will last long enough for me to breakfast out there…. or if I should just stop and go now!!! I’ve just started this week’s walk and the tussle is strong 🙂
    We do have lovely kerb side front gardens here, so even a trip down to Aldi is not without a few delights. 🙂

    • English gardens are the inspiration for gardens around the world. When we visited Sydney, Australia, it was interesting to see how they had combined flowers transplanted from England in their gardens with tropical flowers.

      I’m glad, Jo, that you take time to combine your time at the laptop with your beautiful photography and your interesting walks.


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