There have been a few years that I avoided looking at my garden this time of year as it was often overrun with weeds and overgrown plants that I did not have time to tend. I was fortunate this year to have Keith from Kelley Garden Service over for a late winter cleanup before Covid-19 Stay Home orders were issued and he was unable to work.

The February clean up left me unable to ignore the fact that a lot of the plants that I put into this garden 19 years ago, when I transformed it from a dirt and gravel driveway into a patio and garden space, had died leaving awkward spaces and a lack of interest and symmetry. More time at home allowed me to observe some things about the garden that I had not previously noticed. For instance, there was an especially muddy area where it had always been difficult for plants to thrive. One rainy day last month, as I was taking one of my many “mental health walks” around the yard, I watched the rainwater run off the patio and pool up in this muddy zone. This sparked a project idea that kept my family active and engaged for a couple of weeks.

Before March 25th when the full Stay Home, Stay Healthy order was instated in Washington State but social distancing recommendations were already in place, we began taking day trips out to the Snoqualmie River and enjoying hikes and picnics. On those trips, we collected buckets of rocks from alongside the river. It was a full family affair with a bucket brigade along a rocky hillside from the river to where the car was parked at the trail-head. Everyone willingly participated. You know pre-teen and teenagers are bored when they’re excited about hauling rocks with their parents.

Over two weekend trips, we had enough rocks to complete Operation River Rock Drainage Creek. I outlined the area and the kids wielded shovels and dug a small ditch with some parental coaching reminiscent of my father’s sweeping lessons when I was a kid. We doused the adjoining patio area with a hose and Voila… our mini riverbed worked like a charm!

After the creek was created, the kids became really engaged in the garden and wanted to find more natural art to incorporate into the space. We collected some interesting pieces of driftwood from a local beach and planted succulents in its crevices. We put up a bird feeder, which has since provided great entertainment for us AND our cats. My boyfriend and I had a “Quarantine Moment” recently when we suddenly realized that we had just spent 30 straight minutes talking about birds. I don’t believe birds were something that he and I had discussed before March. If we had, it was certainly not at length. We even discussed sending pictures to our Moms to help us identify what types of birds were visiting the feeder. A good long laugh and a bottle of wine followed that conversation.

Our local nursery, West Seattle Nursery, adapted to Stay Home orders and began taking appointments for people to shop for plants. I loaded up on veggies and plants that will flower through Summer and into Fall and worked with the kids to place and plant them.

This garden that I often avoided looking at in the early Spring, has turned out to be a place of solace to our family during these strange and stressful days. We have spent hours in it together and now no one can walk through without pulling a weed or stopping to look at something. We’ve discussed the changes to individual blooms on flowers each day, once again not something my busy family had probably ever paid attention to.  I will always treasure this garden and the bright spot it has been in our home and to our family through some dark days. I hope we never stop noticing the blooms, enjoying and caring for it together and, of course….talking about the birds.