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Glen Ellen’s ‘Dunbar Blooming’ project grows

“Remember this grim landscape, because when you drive by in a few months or a few years, you’ll see a river of daffodils,” said Rory Tira. “We’ll bring these streets from black to green.”

Tira’s parents, Tim and Lauri Dorman, lost their house on Sylvia Lane during the October fires. That Glen Ellen neighborhood, called Trinity Oaks, suffered massive damage in the Nuns Fire – many homes were lost and its beautiful oak lined roads are now a black landscape of ash and debris.

Neighbors “needed something immediate and beautiful,” Dunbar Road resident Anna Pope said, “and they need to do it together — a collective healing endeavor.”

And from that sentiment bloomed a unique fire recovery project. Trinity Oaks neighbors are working with business and community volunteers to plant tens of thousands of bulbs along both sides of Dunbar Road and around the mailboxes of all Trinity Oaks residents who’d like to have them.

Pope, a real estate attorney and trustee of Bartholomew Park, has lived in Sonoma Valley for more than 20 years and in Glen Ellen since 2006.

She and a few neighbors conceived the beautification project and discovered they could order a huge amount of bulbs from Bill “The Bulb Baron” of Moss Landing.

But then something remarkable happened.

Two cyclists from Petaluma, Erik Ott and Dave Sheldon, were pedaling the fire-scarred Dunbar Road and stopped to ask if they could do anything to help.

They sure could. In fact, could they drive a truck to Monterey County and fetch a huge load of daffodil bulbs?

They said they would, happily.

Ott also stepped forward to help serve as a project manager, with help from Tira, Bonnie Barnes and a slew of others.

Mid-project, more than 20,000 bulbs are already in the ground in Glen Ellen, thanks to more than 50 volunteers. Last Saturday, the group broke for lunch and gathered together to share a meal on a 40-foot-long table, set up under the oaks on Dunbar Road.

Lunch was donated by Catherine Venturini Burdick of Cuvee Wine Country Events. Volunteers sat together for a chili bar and panini lunch station.

“Catherine and John have served the community at other fire relief events in recent weeks,” said Tira. “It means so much that they wanted to join our team.”

“This spring, masses of daffodils and wild flowers will remind us that beauty and life go on,” said Tira.

The community is welcome to help in one of several ways.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden is accepting tax-deductible donations tagged for “Dunbar Blooming” to cover the cost of the thousands of bulbs already purchased.

While the bulbs are sold out at Swede’s and Sonoma Mission Gardens, seeds for native and wildflowers are still for sale at both spots. These will go into the soil and create new habitat for the pollinators – bees, hummers and butterflies. Pope can arrange pickup from both stores.

The wildflower seeds are an important Phase 2 of the project,” said Pope. “As one of our neighborhood bee keepers reminded us, the daffodils make the humans happy, but the bees, butterflies and hummers need the wildflowers.”

While Pope had enough volunteers the second work day on Saturday, Dec. 2, when 10,000 more bulbs were expected to be planted, she is collecting names of people who would like to help out when it is time to rake in the wildflower seeds.

Care is being taken to plant in areas that will not be damaged by FEMA and contractors when they come in to clear properties. At some properties it makes more sense to hold off on the planting. For those neighbors, Pope will warehouse the bulbs until they can be planted properly.

Prep work started in late November. Neighbors “opted in” and told Pope if they would like flowers planted. In late November, a small crew started digging holes. On Nov. 25, volunteers fanned out to fill holes with 40 to 50 bulbs along Dunbar Road and side streets.

Among the other organizations that made the project possible are Oakmont Garden Club, King’s Nursery in Santa Rosa, Geary Construction of Penngrove – which lent the excavator to Ott’s wife Milagros – and Sheldon, who drove it.

Pope said that from day one, they have had more volunteers offer to help than they could handle,” said Pope.

“The first weekend’s crew was made up primarily of families in the Trinity Oaks fire zone,” she said. “We wanted the first phase to be neighbors working side by side together,” said Pope.

“The planting days have the spirit of a barn-raising,” said Tira. “But with flowers and hands in the dirt. Each new act of generous community spirit absolutely dazzles me – and the flowers aren’t even in the ground.”

“The nurseries have been fantastic,” she added. “These folks believe so strongly in the healing power of gardens.”

When Tira first saw her parents’ burned property and surveyed the scorched earth of their neighborhood, she said to herself, “This is not how this story ends.”

Anyone interested in donating to the project can email Pope at popeab@gmail.com.

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.