Meet your neighbor: The Roundabout Gardeners

By STEVEN SPARKMAN
neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

Marcia Smith, left, and Deborah Finley, right, are the primary caretakers of Woodbridge's roundabout gardens. STEVEN SPARKMAN/Missourian

When the morning sun is just peeking through the many trees of Woodridge, those already up and about are likely to see Marcia Smith among her flowers. But while Smith’s yard is filled with vegetables and the smell of blossoms, her real flower display is in the middle of the road.

For about the last four years, Marcia Smith, Deborah Finley, and Ann Peters have volunteered to maintain flowerbeds in the neighborhood’s two roundabouts. Smith handles the north roundabout, at the intersection of Woodridge Drive and Evergreen Lane, and Finley and Peters maintain the southern one, at Arbor Drive and Lansing Avenue.

Smith has been gardening most of her life. Her mother and grandmother converted the entire yard of her childhood home into a World War II victory garden. She worked at the Superior Garden Center, and currently maintains several gardens, including plots at the Broadway Christian Church and on nearby land belonging to her brother.

She likes to stay active, even biking across the entire Katy Trail a few years ago with a group of senior women. She applies that energy to her gardening.

“I really try to do everything by hand if I can,” she said.

The north garden is at the intersection of Woodridge Drive and Evergreen Lane. STEVEN SPARKMAN/Missourian

Nowadays her morning jog takes her to the flowerbed, where she does a little work every day in the early morning to avoid the heat. Her flowerbed is labor intensive, being mostly stocked with annuals. Finley and Peters take a different approach.

The southern roundabout has a flowerbed mostly stocked with perennials. Finley and Peters like the variety, with different plants blooming in different colors at different times. They also prefer the less labor-intensive perennials, since they both work full time. Like Smith, they try to break up the labor.

“I drive by it every day, so it’s really easy to stop and turn the water on and do some weeding,” Peters said. She admits, though, that while she helps with tilling and mulch, Finley does 75% of the work on their garden.

Finley has learned a few things about gardening in the last few years. For instance, plants which are dying or look out of place have to be moved quickly. Some plants grow higher than advertised and obscure the view of flowers behind them.

“You have to be merciless,” she said.

The south garden is at the intersection of Arbor Drive and Lansing Avenue. STEVEN SPARKMAN/Missourian

Finley and Smith say community support for the roundabout gardens is very high. Residents donate plants, money, mulch, and their time and labor. Smith said that she has had several people stop and thank her while she was working at the flowerbed. Finley has had similar encouragement.

“I guess everybody in the neighborhood has contributed off and on,” Finley said.

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