The other day, when filling my 7 Eleven Big Gulp with soda, I complimented Rachid, the owner, on his bountiful garden on the Elmwood side of his store. How did the beautiful — and beautifying — garden come to be?
Rachid said the project began when his daughter Djiga was in 5th grade at Council Rock Elementary School in Brighton. Djiga brought home some germinating seeds for a science project. With careful attention, Rachid and Djiga watched as the seeds grew into a mini-garden.
They enjoyed the quality time together so much that Rachid decided to grow his own garden outside his 7 Eleven store. Early morning passersby can see Rachid watering and pruning. Djiga often lends a tending hand as the two take the time to talk about flowers in particular and life in general.
Now an Elmwood Avenue landmark for about 4 years, the garden contains: roses, sunflowers, petunia. tomatoes, brussels sprouts, raspberries, peppers, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, onion, and artichokes of Jerusalem.
Given the quality time he and Djiga spend there, Rachid calls the mini-oasis a “recreational garden.” But it’s also a kind of public garden. Rachid welcomes people to take a vegetable if one strikes their fancy.
Business partner George says people are always complimenting the garden — “they love it.” As George notes, the garden is the only one of its kind nearby. People appreciate how the garden beautifies this part of the Clinton/Elmwood intersection. And they like the fresh vegetables occasionally taken, never to excess.
That same day down the road, I saw another blooming garden, Jack and Jane’s Friendship Garden in Highland Park on the corner of Highland and Goodman.
There, summer workers — a student at Allegheny College and a recent Northeastern University grad, and also Aren, a volunteer from the Charle Finney School — were watering the dozens of very yellow sunflowers.
The summer workers said the drought has taken its toll; rainfall is down five inches. So they’ve been done plenty of extra watering. And happy to report the Friendship Garden and the other gardens around the park are doing well.