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Adopting A Roundabout – Part 1

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the sustainable gardening plan we created at Sustainable Capitol Hill. Well, we have begun! On Tuesday six of us got together and walked the neighborhood, seeking a roundabout to adopt.

If you’re looking to do this yourself, try calling your city or town department of transportation – if it’s not through them, it’s likely they’ll know who to talk with. If you’re in Seattle, you can find all the information you need to start here. They call them “orphan” traffic circles here. How sad!

So we began with a map of the neighborhood, and set out to look for an orphaned roundabout. We also thought we’d get some ideas from those that are well maintained. Keep in mind that it’s still winter here, so they are not as beautiful as they will be in spring and summer, but here’s what we found…

Roundabout 1 - gathering

We gathered around the first one, and admired. Clearly it’s not orphaned.

Roundabout 2

This one is my favorites in the summer – full of towering cardoon flowers and beautiful bushes of sage.

Unfortunately it’s not so beautiful in the winter!

Roundabout 3

This one is quite beautiful. We also talked about how to discourage graffiti.

Roundabout 4

You’d never know, but this one beautifully disguises a manhole cover in the center.

Roundabout 5

Here’s where we realized we looked a little odd to passers-by!

Roundabout 6 Roundabout 10

Have you ever noticed the trees in roundabouts? These are gigantic!

Roundabout 7 Roundabout 8

And they got bigger! Note the tiny humans and cars.

And then, as the it began to get too dark to take pictures, we happened upon an orphan…

Orphaned Roundabout

And after talking and planning for a bit, we walked down the street, and found one twice as big and even more orphaned!

Orphan 2

And then one more, the most neglected of all. It made us all sad, actually: full of weeds, trash, and terrible soil. And so it was that we decided to adopt all three…

Orphan 3

This was an incredibly fun excursion. I got to know 5 of my neighbors, I learned quite a lot about our neighborhood, I saw details in things I normally pass right by, we talked with other neighbors as we walked (many people were curious what we were doing), and I exercised, walking several miles!

The next step will be to notify the city that we’ve found 3 neglected traffic circles, and then we’ll create a plan, and spend a weekend bringing them back to life!

We’re planning a native/edible garden. But each will have to be fairly maintenance-free, and both wet and drought tolerant, too (there is no running water in summer, and it gets quite wet here in winter). No small order, I know! Any ideas???!

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15 comments to Adopting A Roundabout – Part 1

  • Oh how awesome! Seattle does have some very well done roundabouts.

    Maybe salal?

  • Cool idea. How about looking into herb plants? Many of the perennial ones do quite well with neglect, have colorful flowers, and will spread. I have spring bulbs in my herb garden – early daffodils then later tulips, and then the herbs grow up to hide the foliage, but in your year-round climate the herbs will probably just keep going.

  • As a plumber Might I request that you plant no big trees around manhole covers please? It makes them hard to open when the roots decide to move to the manhole cover. Otherwise than that I am jealous. I wanna adopt a roundabout too. We have a few in burien. But as you might guess, Burien is not as progressive as Seattle in allowing roundabout adoption. The garden club… er… I mean BUrien City council feels they must have complete control!

  • Our town has two traffic circles (think large not small like your roundabouts), a triangle and a couple of long islands dividing the middle of the street. The public ones are invariably adopted by landscaping companies or our local garden center. I’m thinking they love the advertising involved since they can put up a sign.

  • That’s a great idea, and would be fun doing with like minded neighbors. Hope it goes well for you.

  • I love it that you have all these little potential oasis spots in your city. We have relatively few of them in our old city here, however one of them just happens to be in my neighorhood and is enormous. That is followed by a tree lined (at least originally tree-lined) center divider that is more than 40 feet wide.

    We’ve tried to make that into some sort of planned and shared space, but city planners won’t have that!

    I’d suggest not trying to create too much in the way of fruiting food. It does tend to draw city racoons and they tend to deposit disease carrying feces those places.

    Might I suggest going with the seasons and perennial herbs that tolerate drought like thyme and lavendar for summer and even some wonderful aromatic rosemary bushes, which will bloom during that wet winter and keep their leaves. Even a small bay tree will not hinder views around the circle.

    This sort of herbal paradise will smell wonderful to walkers, be useful to residents, provide a long range of bloom and leaf times and not attract rodents and raccoons.

    Can’t wait to see what you do with them.

  • Wow, that is so interesting! We have very few roundabouts in my community, and nothing adoptable to landscape, that I’m aware of. People do adopt stretches of road to keep them litter free … the most recent sign I noticed was adopted by “Ninjas for Christ’s Love.”

    I am also laughing, because the “not very beautiful in winter” roundabout looks like much of the nicer landscaping (that is xeric) here in Denver — and that’s how it would look in summer here. So, enjoy your green, green climate!

  • monica

    I think they would be neat ways to have a community garden–provided that the traffic is not too busy. Lettuce and radishes would be my favorite, but spinach may work. A wide variety of herbs would look neat and orderly too though. We don’t have anything like this in our area–you luck out.

  • Too funny. I’ve always called those things “crop circles”, but it would be more fitting if there are actually crops growing in them!

    So, you should keep it up with your Crop Circle Movement!

  • Great post, Melinda! It’s awesome to see the Sustainable Capitol Hill out and about – this one got me very excited about the work to come! Great job!

  • Why don’t you try tomatillos? They get big and beautiful, and relatively drought tolerant compared to other vegetables. You need more and one planted in a circle if you want fruit though. Okra also handles heat and drought well compared to most vegetables, although it may not be as pretty.

  • Stacy

    What a great idea! There’s nothing sadder than walking down the street and seeing sad spindly old hedges no one has cared for in years, and of course the plastic bags, cigarette butts and used paper cups. Please show us photos when you have a chance!

  • I wouldn’t put anything edible in a traffic roundabout. The heavy metals in the exhaust fumes would making eating anything from them hazardous (the dirt is probably contaminated already). I suggested perennial herbs only for their hardiness and year-round appeal.

  • ChristyACB & Sadge,You guys are making some great points about edible food – we plan to test the soil, but that really is an awful lot of exhaust and road dirt that any crops would be exposed to. These are residential streets, but there’s still a small amount of traffic… We’ll have to think long and hard about that one. Maybe we can plant a perimeter of inedible plants to trap the street-level pollution?

    I had a thought that we might try a native butterfly & insect garden in one of the plots. And the group had talked about putting in a scented herb garden… that would be fun!

    Deb G, Great idea – we saw some salal in one of the well-kept roundabouts and it was flourishing.

    Rob, Great point! I don’t think there are any manholes in any of the 3 we are thinking of adopting, but will make sure.

    Daphne, We were .. um .. also thinking about putting up a very small “Sustainable Capitol Hill” sign, in hopes of drawing a few more people into our organization. Would that seem tacky? It’s a cute little bird logo. ; )

    Sande, Thanks!

    Cheap Like Me, The adoption system here is less than publicized, so it may exist in Denver but nobody knows about it. ; ) Ninjas for Christ’s Love brings interesting visuals… and yes, we do have green… and a whole lot of grey skies!! Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s worth it!

    monica, You know, even if we decided to grow an insect garden rather than a food garden, radishes aren’t a bad idea – when they bloom, they seem to draw the most insects of any flowers I’ve had!

    Crunchy, we’ve been trying to come up with a better term than “traffic circle” – “crop circle” is better!

    Susan, : ) Get ready!

    deep, I wouldn’t have thought of either of those. I think they’re both gorgeous plants – thanks!

    Stacy, Will do! There will be a part two, to be sure. ; )

  • I don’t know what a roundabout is, but it sounds really cool! I am yearning to have a place to plant things as well. Spring is coming and I want to welcome it. This seems like a great way to get some gardening in in a city, but not have to pay too much attention to it.

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