A little over two years ago, local artist Sheri Wood launched a public garden from the roof of an empty two story-building in downtown Durham. Her seed-filled “Pinata Anchor of Hope” broke open in a vacant lot near a pad of prepared soil. Children and volunteers pressed the carefully blended mix of summer annuals and drought-hardy perennials in place. Several weeks later I noticed the piñata’s insides had morphed into a rowdy collection of green stalks with a few spare cosmos flowers. Other seedlings would identify themselves later.
Working downtown at the time, I loved seeing the Anchor of Hope growing in a mostly empty and central location. It was a temporary exhibition, but supposedly so was the state of downtown- a lot of street construction and few pedestrians. Unlike the streetscape improvements, the Anchor of Hope project looked better as the summer wore on. I coveted the carefree blooms for my home garden and tried to identify the jumble of plants in the circular plot. I made a list on the back of an envelope with plans to recreate a version myself one day.
Sometime in September, Sherri and a helper put the flowers to bed. The conglomerate was still flowering, but the summer was over. As I stopped to chat, she gave me a few packs of seeds from the original Anchor of Hope mix as well as a division of aster. The aster had almost a dozen powder-purple daisies clinging to the sticky bundle of stems. I took these back to my windowless office on the first floor of City Hall and thus began to day-dream about a humble start for my own yard. That weekend, I put the aster in the ground and saved the seeds for the next spring. I was giddy. My list was now inside of an envelope.
For the past two springs and summers, my family and many a bumblebee have enjoyed a decent growth of upright or “purple top” verbena courtesy of the Anchor of Hope. Their ability to reseed keeps them around. The gift of aster has given birth to its own clumps that have been moved around a couple of times already. They should start their display again in few days or weeks.
I am glad I got to witness the Anchor of Hope’s growing season. It lives on in my yard and probably several other lots in town whose owners were lucky enough to pass near the intersection of Main and Corcoran streets on the day it had to go away. The streets and sidewalks in downtown are much improved. New restaurants have come and more are due. Today, a promised revitalization for Durham’s core is easier to imagine. This vision includes a planned office tower for the site where the Anchor of Hope once held a small place. Perhaps a landscape architect can make room for some xeriscaping or low-maintenance plantings when those plans are fine-tuned. I’ve got some stuff that would look great there.
I wish I could have gotten a hold of Sherri before writing this post. I wanted to ask her some more questions and see if she would be offended by my attention on this blog. I hope she is not, and am glad that she was so generous with her project.