As I pulled around the corner, I saw people exiting their cars, groups congregating on the sidewalk. This must be it. The next stop on the California native plant tour.
I had been surprised by the number of eager onlookers at each house I had visited. They peppered the homeowner with questions. Snapped photos with their smart phones. Gathered up brochures from volunteers parked under an umbrella on the driveway. In the midst of devastating drought and increased urbanization, more and more people were looking to reduce their water consumption, improve wildlife habitat, and "go native."
What was my number one takeaway? Gardeners are good people.
A number of houses on this tour - and the edible garden tour I went on last May - were peppered with signs, showing just how much gardeners care. Wildlife Habitat. Pollinator Habitat. Bay Friendly Garden.
Gardeners, true gardeners, do not use pesticides. Instead they strive to bring their small plot of land into balance by inviting in beneficial insects, amphibians and birds.
Gardeners are some of the least wasteful people I've ever encountered. Their compost bins overfloweth but their gardens are full.
Leaves instead of wood chips for mulch. Less sent to landfill, better for wildlife and soil.
Gardeners are not fastidious. They accept mess and the cycle of the seasons.
And yet, gardeners have the greatest appreciation for beauty. They see it in the smallest butterfly wing, the gentle opening of a flower and in the way the mature oak tree sculpts itself against the sky.
Gardeners are patient, with a stillness inside them. One that comes from drinking the fresh air, from watching pollinators buzz from plant to plant, from standing stock still when that mother bird jets in to a hidden nest with a beak full of worms. Gardening, as they say, is better than therapy.
Gardeners will be the first to take your hand and guide you through their small bit of paradise. This plant does well in shade. That one does not like summer water. I've had great luck with this variety but not that one.
They start seedlings and propagate plants - then set their plants out for free ("I just want to help the monarchs!") or for a donation to the local plant society.
Gardeners want to make the world a better place. And they start with their small plot or yard. But their warmth, their acceptance and their good hearts do not stop at property lines. They extend to each person who passes by the garden. To each small creature who stops to visit, for a drink or a nip of nectar. To each child whose eyes light up at a dragonfly or whose mouth waters at a fresh picked peach.
Gardeners are good people! Seriously good.