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From her perch just beyond the tree canopy of Cherokee Road, you might find Wendy Sirchio and her family quietly observing the happenings of their community. While birds chatter and squirrels devise plans to siege the bird feeder’s bounty that hangs from a massive magnolia, Wendy watches mothers push strollers, young lovers hold hands, and life happen.
Just a block from the bustle of Bardstown Road, this urban oasis provides a sanctuary amidst the cacophony of the city — a not-so-secret “Secret Garden” where the family can simultaneously retreat from and be immersed in the interconnectivity of their community.
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This is a front yard garden, meant to provide protection and peace for the Sirchios, a space where the family can relax. But no fences partition off the beauty — this space is meant to be shared with those who stroll by.
“I wanted a place that lets you be part of the community and protected from the goings-on. Before, there were two skinny sidewalks and a lot of bad grass. We wanted to create an environment full of plants conducive to all types of lighting. Something that would look neat but be natural and diverse — a place that would welcome bees and butterflies. It benefits our surrounding community, not just us,” Wendy says, sitting beneath a towering willow oak.
“There is something so beautiful and so simple about green,” Wendy says about her preference for plants over flowers.
The landscaping, designed by Tracey Williams, celebrates the many shades and textures of green. Countless hellebores that bloom delicate flowers in pinks and whites in late winter nestle close to the soil with their dark, rounded juniper-colored leaves. Varieties of ferns, with their wispy fronds, flash their copper-green colors as the wind blows. Emerald-hued hostas stretch out their waxy plumage, showing the bed who is boss. The giant magnolia looks over the copper beech and Japanese maple — a monochromatic masterpiece.
The beds are bordered by limestone — a material used 120 years ago to frame parts of the home. So although the grounds are new, they flow seamlessly with the historical aesthetics of the neighborhood.
Wendy’s idea of living beautifully can be symbolized in this space: support the community and nature, leave things better than you found them, and do what you can to make a quiet impact. As co-founder of WE Day Kentucky, Wendy has worked with countless youth across the city, since 2012, to organize service-learning projects. Each April, all students that have given back to the community earn a ticket to a celebration at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. This past April, service brought more than 400 schools around the state together for WE Day.
“The WE Day movement is all about if you want to make a change, you have to start with yourself. We help young people help the community.”
Before WE Day, Wendy was a foreign diplomat for 13 years and had the chance to live and work in places like Nairobi. However, sitting beneath the tree in her urban oasis, you would never know of her feats. Flash and arrogance are not welcome here — there exudes an ambiance of understated taste, of humility, of community. In fact, that detail only arose because she said she liked rocks (something like, “I like rocks. When I came back from Kenya, I had a suitcase full of rocks I collected…”). This not-so-secret front garden is where Wendy and her clan like to live beautifully. “We are a fairly quiet family. You can walk by and enjoy the plants and trees from the sidewalk, but if you aren’t really looking, you wouldn’t even know we are here.”
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