From early mornings to late evenings, Malinda Davis cares for the plants that cover her yard across the street from Eastway Elementary School.
Many students, such as Brandon Callender, a current UNC student who attended Eastway Elementary, remember “the house with the plants.”
Davis, with a broad smile and short dark hair with a touch of gray, sits on her porch from time to time as she watches the community develop. Over the 10 years of living on the corner, she has met plenty of neighbors and visitors who stop by to greet her, share a drink or a slice of pecan pie.
“Out of everyone, there are good and bad people” says Davis. But she thinks the overall changes in the past 10 years have been good.
Davis moved to the house on the corner of Taylor Street and Alston Avenue when owners decided to make renovations on the Fayetteville Street Apartment complex where she was living.
When she moved with all her plants, which she calls her “babies,” she observed that Taylor Street was a drug-infested street. Between the traction from Few Gardens and Taylor Street, the crime and drug rate could keep anyone from leaving their home, let alone lounging on the porch.
“Few Gardens was a hell-raiser,” commented Davis. “I was glad when they started revamping the complex, as the community started looking different to me; a good different.”
Helping with plants and around the house, Jeffery, Davis’ son, has observed the community over the past years.
“I remember there was a teacher who used to being her class outside and walk around the community,” commented Davis. “She would bring her class by my home and we would make plants. The children loved making plants to take home.”
Davis’ home became a safe haven for the community and other patrons of Durham. Her neighbors has been good neighbors to her. They come to sit and have a drink anytime they are free. When Davis lost her leg, most of her neighbors came to check on her. They would water her plants and make sure she ate. Davis enjoys making hanging baskets for neighbors. Everyone on the street knows the house with the plants.
“We have always seen her around and stopped to wave,” says Rosco Davis, a neighbor. “She seems really nice and loves to take care of her plants.”
Although the neighborhood has improved, Davis offers a piece of advice.
“If you want your life saved, you should call a fireman,” says Davis. “Police patrol, but the fireman show up to the scene quicker. I give them a thumbs up every time I see them and they beep their horns as they drive by.”
“She said she had a plant for us. As soon as we get a chance we will stop by for drinks and get our flower that is promised,” said Joe Difini, another neighbor.
One change coming soon to Davis’s corner is the widening of Alston Avenue. According to City of Durham memos from February of this year, the NC widening project is approved and will take effect over the next few years. It will widen Alston Avenue from the bridge over NC-147 to Holloway Street.
Davis’s spacious home that smells like fresh plants and coffee, is located on the corner or Taylor Street and Alston Ave. The NC Dept. of Transportation has told her that she will not be affected by the widening of the streets. The sidewalk located on the side of her house will be taken away, but a new lane and sidewalk will be replaced after the project is done. Overall, her property will not be damaged during construction.
Besides from looking over the community for relaxation, her plants range from 17 years old to newborn. She takes care of them all, one by one — and even names some of them.
“Jeremy,” an elephant ear plant, is one of her favorites. “Big Baby,” an aloe vera plant, is one of the oldest plants she owns. “Brenda” is the tallest plant, standing over five feet tall.
As a leaf falls, she replants the leaf and creates new plants. She hopes that more people will come sit to talk.
As her plants grow, so will the community.
Durham City Council Memo February 2016 http://www.durhamnc.gov/agendas_new/2016/cm20160307/10951_MEMO_ALSTON_AVENUE_SUPPLEMENTA_384021_679218.PDF