Locals form group to care for tree plots; jump at news of upgrades along Adams Ave
By Dale Larabee | SDUN Guest Reporter
For a number of years, several thought Adams Avenue – as it meandered through Kensington – needed more color. Sixty-three pear trees in small plots lined both sides of the street from the Interstate 15 overpass to a stop sign, where Adams Avenue plunges down Aldine Drive to Fairmount Avenue.
The trees were old and terminally diseased with fire blight, and the lifeless soil at the base of each tree was little more than a cigarette urn and trash collector. Day lilies once planted around the tree trunks were long dead and removed. Local merchants tried to keep the areas clean and trees watered, with little success. The City annually trimmed the trees, yet that was all.
In July 2012, plant lovers and Uptown residents Beth Guepin, Harriet Fukada and Diane Larabee decided that if they wanted anything done they had to do it themselves.
They started with the small plots surrounding trees fronting Ken Cinema and Kensington Video, first cleaning, loosening and re-energizing the rock-hard soil, then circling the trees with drought-tolerant succulents and brightening each plot with red, white, blue and purple perennials.
Three women digging in street gardens got noticed. Word spread. Buoyed by the interest, the women set their goals high: they decided to upgrade all 63 planters.
Larabee presented this idea to the Kensington Garden Club, and was blessed. Friends and some strangers volunteered. Business people and residents donated money to buy plants and topsoil, or agreed to adopt or maintain a garden or, sometimes, several gardens.
Homeowners gifted plants underappreciated in their own gardens for the freedom of the sidewalk. Larabee created The Kensington Sidewalk Gardens, opened a checking account for the group and received her first tax id number.
Soon the three founders had blossomed the group to 30 men and women. The two initial sidewalk gardens had spread to 60, and each garden gets the individual creativity of its own “Garden Angel,” a pet name for the person who brought the garden to life and others who volunteered to keep the garden healthy.
As the Angels neared completion of their project, they wondered what was next. They talked of upgrading Kensington, Marlborough and Biona drives, or perhaps others that branched north and south off Adams Avenue, always dreaming of some day taking on the daunting task of replacing the doomed trees.
In January, Larabee received a call from Scott Kessler, executive director of the Adams Avenue Business Association, and was told the news: starting March or April, his group would be replacing all the long-suffering trees along Adams Avenue, helped by some public money.
This means the existing plants must be removed and stored, while the new trees are watered for two years to become established. The garden spaces will be widened, and then the existing plants can be replanted.
Discouraged? No, the Angels jumped at the news.
They will save their plants. They will be part of the tree project from day one. Their “what next?” question was answered, followed by more questions: what kind of trees will line Adams Avenue? Queen Palms, Aristocrat or Bradford Pears? What can the Angels plant during the years it takes for the trees to take root? How much money is “some public money,” and will there be any funds for the Kensington Gardens?
On Feb. 8, a group of Angels met with Kessler to share their opinions. The Garden Angels “have trowels, will travel.”
And also, they will be heard.
—Dale Larabee is a 40-year resident of Kensington, who is an occasional writer for local newspapers. His wife Diane is a subject of this article.