The Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group knew they were going to have a special walk on September 29, but it was not anticipated how appealing this special walk would be. A record turnout of fifty walkers and three K-9 best friends were at the Exedra at the group’s normal walk start time. They were there because Hope Salzer was going to take them on a mini-tour of Piedmont Connect's Healthy Landscapes 2021 Fall Front Garden Tour. Piedmont Connect is a collaborative community organization supporting resident initiatives and city efforts to build a sustainable future. Hope is on its board, is communications chair, and a member of the Healthy Landscapes team.
There are a total of 14 gardens on the entire Piedmont Connect fall tour that goes from one end of Piedmont to the other. This is a nine-day event that offers a sampling of drought-tolerant and native-dominant landscaping that present the beauty of Piedmont’s early fall. The tour features Piedmont front gardens that have been transformed from conventional water-intensive or invasive landscapes into creative, healthy landscapes of a variety of styles. The locations of the tour’s homes and gardens are available at https://www.piedmontconnect.org/. Because of time and distance constraints, Wednesday’s plan was for Hope to take the walkers to five gardens in northwest Piedmont.
The day started with Hope being introduced to the group and her telling them a little about herself and why she has become involved in Piedmont Connect and environmental sustainability. She made a heartfelt statement that today’s adult generations have not cared for our planet and environment as we should have. She feels what she, and we, are leaving our children is not what it should be. Because of this, Hope decided to learn about native species and what we can do to better protect our environment. Even more importantly, she is acting on and sharing this knowledge.
The day’s first destination was 310 Hillside Avenue, which allowed the group to walk down Magnolia Avenue past the construction on the new high school buildings, which look like they are nearing completion. After getting past the workers’ construction noise, Hope stopped the walkers and noted the sustainable landscape choices that the school district has made in its campus renovations which reduce water needed for irrigation.
The group continued on to 310 Hillside where Hope told them of the owner’s strong involvement and commitment to making his garden environmentally strong. This seems to be the case with all the tour’s homeowners. Hope talked about the different plants in the garden and stressed the beauty of plants and flowers during all stages of their lifecycle, even as they fade and then decay. She said that the common practice of deadheading flowers may keep them from seeding and providing food for birds. The importance of butterflies, bees, and other insects in a healthy environment was also stressed.
After Hope finished her comments on the garden, the group squeezed together on the home’s steps and the next door driveway for a group photo. There were a lot of long time regulars on the walk, but many first time walkers too. Hope is among those who had just registered for Walking on Wednesdays. She said she likes the exercise.
The next garden destination was 10 Mesa Avenue. The large, long group walked up Oakland Avenue to Highland Avenue talking advantage of the stoplights to get to its east, uphill side. Along Highland the group couldn’t resist noting the front garden of a home that is not on Piedmont Connect’s tour, but still has an impressive, natural landscape garden. Hope commented on plants loved by bees and also drought-tolerant succulents. This homeowner, like so many Piedmonters, has made the move to more environmentally friendly landscaping.
The walkers continued down Highland to Park Way, up it, and then went north down to 10 Masa. Hope talked about “succession planting” which has plants showing explosions of color throughout the year. She identified many plants in the garden that provide this parade of blooming beauty.
The next destination was also on Hillside Avenue so the group retraced their steps to Park Way and down it to Hillside. They walked up it to a large, new garden at 145 Hillside. Hope pointed out native and non-native plants, and the importance of the former. Native plants are those that have evolved naturally in a region. They are the ecological basis upon which life depends. Without them, insects and local birds cannot survive. Hope is a backyard beekeeper herself, and she stressed the importance of native bees. She told the group, for example, that tomatoes can only be pollinated by bumble bees. She also cited research by the entomologist Doug Tallamy that has shown that landscapes need over 70% of their plant mass to be supplied by native plants in order to effectively support a diverse local food web. Additionally, she talked about Piedmonters’ efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions with their homes.
The walkers were thoroughly enjoying Hope’s tour and the information she was providing, so much so that the planned 90 minutes for the walk were just about up. It was decided that the visits to the other two gardens that were planned for the day would have to wait.
However, the walkers had a strong desire to see more of the gardens and learn about them from Hope. It was requested that Hope do an encore, and she generously said she would. So, this Wednesday, October 6th, Hope will be with the walkers again at the Exedra to take them to more Piedmont Connect gardens and learn about them. It will be another special Wednesday walk.