EVERETT — Amy Turnbull was tired of finding drug paraphernalia and trash strewn in the ditch just steps from her front door on Gibson Road.
So, she planted flowers. About 100 feet of cosmos and other colorful blooms, sprinkling in kale, corn and gourds.
What’s up with that?
“Yesterday, a man stopped and told me my garden needs to be shared,” Turnbull wrote in an email to The Daily Herald. “In the shadow and echoes of Paine Field airplanes, a place known more for shootings, robberies, homelessness, drug use, tagging and loud speeding cars, grows this garden of hope.”
You never know what you’ll find behind these emails.
The flowers spoke louder than the navigation system telling me I’d arrived. Her home is on the first turn on the mile stretch of Gibson Road that zigzags from Beverly Park Road to Highway 99.
I was greeted by two sword-buckling costumed pirates: her sons, Ethan, 7, and Mitchell, 4. Behind the privacy fence is a pirate playhouse, thousands more blooms and a 675-pound misshapen pumpkin.
“It’s a square,” Mitchell explained of the giant squash.
The two boys assist with planting and weeding. The third son, 8-month-old Jackson, chortles from the baby carrier strapped to his mom. Her husband Jacob does the heavy lifting. The two cats, Ciscoe and Morris, are named in honor of her Seattle green-thumbed superhero.
The flowers and produce by the road are free for the taking.
The biggest cost was renting a sod cutter.
“Most everything out there has been sown by seeds or propagated,” she said. “I got a few bags of cow manure.”
The roadside color is her way to connect with people in an area that is disjointed geographically and diverse ethnically.
Neighbors started stopping to talk, even when languages didn’t match up.
“I’ve had a few conversations where we signed and pointed to answer garden questions. So even if we can’t speak everyone’s spoken language, we can speak the language of the heart,” she said.
“I talk to people I might not normally be able to connect with. There are some Thai grandmas who come to harvest some of my gourds and pick and choose.”
On Monday afternoon, Sumeye Teken, an au pair, paused to pick a flower for the 2-year-old girl in the stroller on their way back from nearby Paine Field Community Park.
“It is so beautiful,” Teken said of the garden. “Sometimes I’m just walking and, yes, it smells so good and I’m feeling so better.”
Turnbull, 42, worked in accounting and office management before motherhood. She said the affordability of South Everett was the lure for their one-income family to move here in 2018 after living in Ballard for nearly 20 years.
“Ballard has a community feel. You walk with your family, ride bikes and talk to your neighbors. We didn’t really have that access here,” she said. “It wasn’t as cohesive to community.”
The density of the area has increased as old homes are torn down and replaced with pocket developments. The main way in and out is Gibson Road.
“I didn’t realize how bad the speeding was until I was pulling out sod every day for three months and realized it was more of a death trap working in the ditch on Gibson more than anything,” she said.
She lost count of how many drivers are going too fast and looking more at their phones than at the road.
“It’s 25, but they’re usually going 40 or 45,” she said.
The ones pulling over to thank her for the Garden on Gibson make her day.
“I used to farm wheat in Eastern Washington,” a motorcyclist stopped to tell her. “This brings me back to those days.”
Two women from Lynnwood get seeds to share in their community.
“A lot of people take flowers and photos,” she said. “I didn’t realize how many neighbors I would meet working in the ditch. Flowers can make a difference.”