We live on a corner lot, with two wedge shaped beds on either side of the sidewalk that goes diagonally from the street corner to our house. When we bought our house a almost three years ago, the beds were nothing but dirt and weeds. I weeded them, but didn’t plant anything because my husband wanted to put in native plants. He didn’t get them in the first summer or the second. The third summer I’d had enough of weeding dirt to no good effect.
I checked with Clint before I went to get plants. He hates most of the little annuals: petunias, pansies, impatiens. I got clearance for something in the Compositae/Asteraceae family. So I got a trunkload of yellow daisies and pink pincushion daisies, a few bags of mulch and went to work. He didn’t like the yellow daisies, and he really hated the pink ones. (The pink ones didn’t survive the winter, so that worked out well.) “Why didn’t you get columbines?” Because he hadn’t suggested that when I asked. Because he snubbed the ones at the nursery because they weren’t natives. So he wasn’t best pleased with the beds, but they were improved enough to not drive me crazy.
A few weeks ago a neighbor complained about the big rocks in her backyard. “What kind of rock is it?” I asked. (If I had the means, I would be strongly tempted to steal rocks from Slate Canyon for my yard. Fortunately, lack of opportunity is working to keep me honest.) She didn’t know what they were, just that they were fairly big and unwanted. “I’d love to have them,” I said.
Two days later another neighbor pulled up to my house in his ancient pickup truck. “Where do you want the rocks?” I hadn’t even talked to Clint about it, and here it was, a truckload of quartz-streaked limestone. I helped unload, astounded that this man well into his seventies had gotten everything into the truck on his own. I know levers improve efficiency, but this was amazing.
Clint helped me plant the rocks today. We dug them into the front beds, and they look great with the yellow daisies, thyme, sage, rhubarb, and mulch. They fit, and make the beds look intentional, instead of too few plants looking to fill too large a space.
I love that we’re taking care of these little beds. We’ll put in our native flowers and grasses when we get them, and they’ll look good nestled in with our rocks. When we have enough plants, we’ll probably even take out the yellow daisies (I may find a new space for them away from Clint’s native plant garden). But in the meantime, we’re making it look good, we’re caring for it. We are acting as stewards of this little piece of land.
I love that the rocks in our beds came from our neighbors, that something unwanted in one place found its home here. It reminds me of a brief passage in one of Wendell Berry’s novels, where a farmer had over many years built up the embankment on the side of his roads with stones culled from his fields. I love our neighbor who cruises the neighborhood on his bike or in his old truck, looking for branches to be hauled away and other work that needs to be done. He was the first person we met when we bought our house. The neighborhood is his, and he cares for it with his time and his labor. He is a steward whose example I want to follow.