The next time you catch the 44 O’Shaughnessy — which is one of only 16 buses still operating in San Francisco during the coronavirus crisis — at Malta Drive you might want to stop and smell the flowers along the way.
Denise Louie — who resides only a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the boulevard that serpentines from Glen Park’s Elk Street to Twin Peaks’ Portola Drive — certainly takes time to do so. She’s been tending a garden of San Francisco wildflowers there for years,” she told the Glen Park News. “I do it for the bees, butterflies and birds.”
That includes watering them. For several years Louie has made a habit of transporting gallon size water containers to a patch of earth that overlooks the eastern slopes of Glen Canyon. There, with Recreation and Park’s blessing, she voluntarily keeps a host of California native plants alive.
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, she continues doing so while remaining a safe six feet from pedestrians she occasionally meets on the way to her miniscule plantings.
“The coronavirus hasn’t deterred me from weeding and watering,” she told the News.
While her neighbors leash their dogs for essential walks, Louie pushes a baby stroller filled with lapping water for her parched plants.
“As the seasons change so do the colors,” she commented. “The ceanothus, sticky monkey flower and morning glory are all blooming.”
Her curbside garden doubles as a Muni coach stop
On Friday, as April 3rd showers drenched those three varieties as a 44 O’Shaughnessy groaned up the hill.
“There’s wild cucumber, too,” Louie added, “and I saw one iris, but it’s gone now.”
Across the canyon floral companions kept distant company from her meadow. Since early March, sky lupine, California buttercups and checkerbloom have auditioned in Glen Park’s natural area that boasts grassland and riparian habitats.
“Driving by you’ll see the poppies in full bloom,” said Louie, about her bus stop bounty, “and you’ll notice a coast live oak near the yellow bus pavement marker.”
April showers mean May flowers. But even now Glen Canyon’s social distancing walkers are greeted by daily sights of crimson columbine, brown mission bells and yellow dudleya, each of which complements Denise Louie’s landscaping.
Louie has a word to the wise for those hiking the canyon during these difficult times.
“It’s important to tell folks to please stay on paths and sidewalks,” Louie emailed. “Walking compresses soil, which is not good for plants but excellent for weeds.”
And if you’re hearty, as Denise Louie is, you may want to bring a flagon or two of water.
If we’ve learned anything from the old normal, the normal before the current viral scourge, it’s that April showers surrender to June and July dry spells. And not just in summer. February saw not one day of rain for a month that usually average 4.46 inches.
It was the first time that’s happened in 156 years.
If things dry out again, think of giving a drink to the plants you pass, Louie suggests.
“If you come and if you like bring a jug of water for the two ceanothus near the crest of the slope. They’re short of the 10-inches of normal seasonal rainfall and need to grow deep roots.”
Louie has been riding the 44 O’Shaughnessy for many years.
“Normally I do weeding and watering while waiting for the 44,” Louie told the News. “My idea in the beginning was to beautify my bus stop with native flowering plants after I’d cleared thickets of invasive French broom.”
“I’m always pleased,” she continued, “when a passerby stops to enjoy the beauty, ask questions or take photos,”
You can still see her work despite the curtailment of many MUNI routes during the coronavirus emergency. The 44 O’Shaughnessy was given a pass due to its crosstown nature.
As you pass by, take a moment to notice the California wildflowers, each fragrant and bright, that she’s been stewarding for years.