Herald reader Jim Zelmer called me about a house on Colby Avenue in Everett with a yard of flowers that makes him slow down and gawk.
“The display is like God’s wonder,” he said. “My hanging plants are dead and my grass is dead and theirs look beautiful.”
“What’s up with that?” he asked.
I knew just the place he was talking about. I thought the same thing when I drove by that flower-power house at 5611 Colby Ave., but often it takes a reader to validate my crazy ideas.
So, at Zelmer’s urging, I walked through the floral wonderland and knocked on the door.
Who lives there?
Five elderly people, it turns out, including three in their 90s. It’s an adult family home, a nursing home alternative.
The flower genies are Debora and Adan Balangue, husband-and-wife registered nurses who opened Golfview Residential Care Facility a year ago. The couple spent months doing renovations to meet state guidelines on the one-story house across from Everett Golf &Country Club, hence the name.
They wanted to make the adult family home as attractive on the outside as their own home in south Everett, which was honored with a city Monte Cristo award in 2015. The Golfview home also received a Monte Cristo award in the Renovation and Transformation category in 2016 while it was still a work in progress.
He’s the gardener. She’s the waterer.
The couple, who are in their late 40s, moved here from the Philippines, where Adan had a big garden. He previously worked at an adult family home in Silver Lake. She is a night shift nurse at Sunrise View Convalescent Center in Everett. The Balangues do not live at the Golfview home, which is staffed around the clock by certified caregivers.
There are about 60 flower pots and 30 baskets in the garden, all brimming with begonias, petunias, pansies and more. Big pots in front are anchored by golden arborvitae conifers the size of small Christmas trees.
Most adult family homes, including two others on the same street, A Beautiful Place, 5009 Colby Ave., and Paradise Island, 5005 Colby Ave., have signs in front.
Adan chose flowers to make a statement. “If you’re taking good care of the plants, same as the residents, too,” he said.
Adult family homes allow the elderly and people with developmental disabilities to live in a residential setting. Homes provide room, board, personal care, supervision, social services and medical therapies.
Snohomish County has 400 adult family homes licensed by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, listed at www.dshs.wa.gov. The homes are subject to unannounced site visits by inspectors. The website shows the reports.
Residents at Golfview have individual bedrooms, lounge in a communal living room and eat meals together around a dining table. Some of the vegetables come from a sprawling backyard garden with spinach, squash, peppers and tomatoes planted by Adan.
The residents often sit on the back deck, which is festooned by flowers that can also be viewed from the living room.
“They are beautiful,” said 95-year-old Lorne, whose family asked that his last name not be used.
Darlene Gorham, 86, is blind, but that doesn’t keep her from enjoying the flowers.
“Everyone describes them to me,” she said. “They tell me what they are. My friends mention it to me whenever I go out. They say, ‘It is beautiful, absolutely beautiful.’ ”
She said it brings back fond memories of the gardens she had over the years.
Gardening is a lifelong passion for Adan.
“It’s my hobby since I was in elementary school,” he said. “It gets my stress out.”
He’s a thrifty gardener, hunting down deals.
He snags the big pots for $30 at Ross. The plants are from big box stores, always on sale and often on the clearance rack. Some aren’t so pretty when he brings them home.
“Then he makes them look better, he really takes care of them,” his wife said. “He talks to them every morning, as if they are human beings. That’s why they flower.”
What does he say?
“I say, ‘Hello, good morning, how’s your day?’ ” Adan said. “I treat my residents the same. I consider them my father and my mother. I consider my employees as my sisters and brothers.”
It is not uncommon for strangers to walk on the front lawn.
“A lot of people stop by,” Debora said. “They turn around and park their car and take pictures in the garden.”
It’s fine with the Balangues.
So, there you have it, Jim Zelmer. Next time you don’t have to slow down for a peek. You can stop and smell the flowers.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reporterbrown.