The question, sent on a postcard, was beyond blunt. It rudely asked: “What in God’s name are you doing to your yard!?” Its anonymous writer didn’t stop with that. He or she added: “Nice job ruining the street-scape of our Historic neighborhood — What an eyesore!”
Reading it, one would think the recipient was an offending neighbor who’d scattered trash all over, or junked up the place with wrecked cars. Hardly.
Patrick Hall, an electronics engineer with the Fluke Corp., is putting in a rain garden at his north Everett home. Not only is his project city-sanctioned, rain gardens are funded by Everett’s “Let it Rain” rebate program. Rebates of up to $2,500 are available through the Everett Public Works Department.
Hall’s rain garden — with red twig dogwood, Corsican mint, golden Japanese forest grass, black mondo grass and other plants — is on one side of his front yard. As part of it, the city is installing an overflow pipe. On the other side of his front yard is a thick layer of dirt and wood chips. Hall is removing lawn there to put in drought-resistant plants.
For him, the environment is top of mind.
According to the city’s website, rain gardens “are a great, low-maintenance alternative to lawn,” providing habitat for pollinators, recharging groundwater and assisting with drainage issues. By taking out his lawn, Hall said he’ll need little if any water and no fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. And soil-filtered runoff is safer for salmon.
“About the postcard, it was disappointing,” Hall said Monday. Postmarked Nov. 17, it was sent to “Resident” at his address. “I’m trying to do something good for the neighborhood,” he said. “It all comes from a place of caring.”
He recently posted a picture of the anonymous card on Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods. Hall is part of Nextdoor’s Northwest Everett group. In his post that began, “I received a piece of fan mail today from a neighbor who apparently doesn’t like my gardening style,” Hall explained that he’s creating “a city-funded rain garden.”
The rest of the yard, he wrote, will be an example of what’s called “xeriscaping,” which is gardening designed to conserve water. “It will be colorful and also attract pollinators,” he said in his post, which also asked neighbors to learn about natural gardening and be patient as he completes his work.
“Know that I care deeply about my community,” he wrote.
More than 20 Nextdoor members responded to Hall’s post, nearly all of them thanking him for his garden and blasting the anonymous critic. “Keep up the good work and ignore the haters,” one neighbor wrote.
At his home Monday, Hall said it’s ironic that the card writer accused him of ruining his historic neighborhood.
Hall, who previously lived in south Everett, moved to his current home about a year ago. “I’ve done quite a lot of renovation inside — historically appropriate,” he said. “I’d like to get to know some of my neighbors.”
Everett funded 18 rain gardens this year, said Apryl Hynes, a public information and education specialist with the city’s public works department. The rebate program began in 2014. It followed a city pilot program that created seven rain gardens in the Donovan area. “They went in after a big flooding event,” said Hynes, explaining that most rain gardens are connected to homes’ downspouts.
People applying for rain-garden rebates are encouraged to attend city educational sessions, Hynes said. The program gets going in March, and information will be included in utility bills early next year. Qualifying rain gardens are inspected by Paul Crane, a landscape architect with the city, Hynes said.
“I have never had any homeowner come back mentioning complaints in their neighborhood,” she said. “When there’s a big hole in the ground, people ask questions. It’s been more inquisitive.”
Hall is being helped with choosing plants by a friend from Brier who has a xeriscape garden. Dirt dug out to create his rain garden is now on the other side of the yard. “That part is going to get planted in the spring,” he said.
“It’s kind of disheartening to receive something like that,” he said about the postcard, which has an image of the Jefferson Memorial on the front. “Here I’m trying to do something good.”
As his garden grows, he takes heart in the responses on Nextdoor. One post highlighted the most neighborly thing to do: “Just think how it could be if we all talked to each other and asked questions instead of assuming and judging!”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn about Everett’s rain garden program, including rebates of up to $2,500, at: https://everettwa.gov/817/Rain-Gardens