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Aishwarya Nair Brings Color to Pinehurst with Flowers Grown at Jackson Park P-Patch

Aishwarya Nair, Jackson Park P-Patch

Where are you from and what brought you to Seattle?

One of Aishwarya’s cats in a backpack at the garden

I was born and raised in India and moved to Seattle four or five years ago. I’ve loved finding a community. I’ve always been someone who never really felt a strong sense of community, even though I had people who considered themselves part of my community. It’s weird. But I visited Seattle a long time ago and fell in love with the place. I’m one of those people who is very nostalgic, and I am in love with the way Seattle feeds into that. There is something about fall here that is very wistful and mysterious. There is just a mysterious wistful vibe. I love being here and being my own person, doing my own thing. Just figuring things out with the help of my partner Connor and our wonderful little cats that frequent the P-Patch in their little backpacks.

How did you become interested in community gardening?

I would say my interest in gardening really picked up during the pandemic. I’ve always had houseplants, but I lived in Magnolia at the start of the pandemic, and we had a little side yard that was full of weeds. I just thought, “hey, you know I could put a lot of money and resources into this project and make it a little side garden that hopefully outlives me.” I planted some strawberries in a little container and eventually realized I wanted to do more! I got in at the Interbay P-Patch and started growing eggplants, tomatoes, you know the gardener basic starter kit. Then, I realized that vegetable growing is not my thing, because I feel very bad when I don’t pick them in time, and they rot on the vine. It’s just not a good feeling for me. When I switched to Jackson Park P-Patch, I decided I was going to give that up and grow flowers instead, because I don’t feel as bad when flowers die. That’s their whole point, right? They are ephemeral. I just love working with flowers because they are so great, and I love seasonal flowers. So many people at the P-Patch make fun of me for it and tell me I’m a vegetable hater, but it’s more nuanced than that! I love growing flowers because even if I’m not doing anything with them, people are always walking through the garden and enjoy looking at them.

How did you get involved in a leadership role at Jackson Park P-Patch?

Broken raised garden bed

I came to Jackson Park P-Patch last year, sometime in April. I was used to the environment at Interbay where it’s a huge community garden. There is always something going on there. Jackson Park P-Patch is a much smaller garden and just a very different dynamic and atmosphere. When I came to Jackson Park, I started asking about what they do to bring money into the garden and Becca, who runs the Giving Garden program, mentioned that they just make it work! I wrote to the leadership team and asked if they needed someone to do fundraising. I was immediately drawn to the pressing issue at hand which was that the raised beds were falling apart. The raised beds are used for people who can’t access the low-grown beds. I brought some people together to brainstorm ideas and took the project on. We started selling dahlias, which was kind of our first entrance into fundraising. We set up a stand every Friday on the side of the street next to the garden and just waved over people who were passing by.

Jackson Park P-Patch members assembling the new raised garden beds

Last year, we raised $600 with our dahlias and got a $500 grant from GROW, our fiscal sponsor. We were able to scrounge up the rest of the money needed to buy the raised beds and got a group of people to put them together in February…in the cold. If you remember, last February, we had that freak snowstorm that damaged most of our old raised beds. I truly didn’t expect anyone to show up, given the weather. But they did, and that’s how committed our gardeners are! I think it’s really special when we can gather together like a community, even in the winter, to make sure that the people who need the raised beds are able to dive into things at the beginning of the garden season. It wasn’t the easiest process either; it took around three hours to establish one, with five people working on each. We assembled them over four work parties, and they were all great!

I’m not always great at accepting compliments, it’s hard for me, but every now and then people will say “you’ve brought so much light to the garden,” and it’s pretty great. It’s nice to hear efforts being validated. It is energizing and makes you want to keep doing it.

How did your flower sales bring in community members and neighbors who aren’t part of the P-Patch?

Oh, so many new people have stopped by the garden since we started selling flowers! The way I promote the flower sales is by telling people they will know where their flowers are coming from. They are coming from your local community garden, grown by your neighbors. You are helping grassroots community-building efforts. The flowers brought people to the garden; some of them wanted to see where the flower arrangement in their house was grown. I loved that whole experience! We have a neighbor close to the garden who has been supporting us pretty consistently through flower sales this year. We recently found out that her son is officially in remission [from cancer] and we were able to give her free flowers. I love doing stuff like that because it builds goodwill and connection with the community. It’s a cyclical thing.

Sweet peas trellises at the community garden

Over the summer, we also had a U-Pick sweet pea event for people to come buy the sweet peas we had grown up on trellises. It was great! It was an opportunity for people in the community to come to the P-Patch, meet gardeners, and take photos of themselves with the sweet peas. For our fall fundraiser, we are selling the sweet pea seeds that we grew. We have little stickers for the seed packs that say “Jackson Park P-Patch Community Member” and I love that because I hope people will see that and know they can be involved in the garden without having a plot. They can have our seeds or flowers, take a walk through the garden, come to a potluck. It brings people together. We need that. I love people associating themselves within the constructs of a community. Even if you have your own yard, you can still be part of the community by supporting us. Also, the fundraisers are “pay what you can” so even if you are just coming to participate and mingle that’s all we want.

Why do you think spaces like community gardens are so important in bringing people together? 

A community garden is a great way to bring people together. I interact with people at this garden whom I wouldn’t have a chance to interact with in my day-to-day life. These are people that I would consider my friends. Especially within different age groups. I’ve always been locked into friendships with people who are generally in my age group, but now I have people who are older and people who are younger. I love intergenerational friendships. It’s super important. Our society feels so disconnected from each other. We live in a world where it is so easy to look at our differences instead of finding the common shared humanity, which has led us to where we are right now. I really believe we should be focusing on the little things we can find in common. There is always something.

Ten years down the line, that’s what it’s going to come down to, community connections. Sometime in the near future, we are going to be depending on community members and strong community connections just to get through this world, and I feel like this is a great way to prepare for that.

Aishwarya and other Jackson Park P-Patch members shelling sweet peas for seeds

The community is invited to attend the Jackson Park P-Patch Fall Harvest on Sunday, October 23. Learn more at: