Q: Who is beautifying the junction at Highway 116 in Monte Rio? it looks wonderful! — Christoph at Village Inn
A: Monte Rio is blooming — thanks to Ed Brochu
Not even several hundred sweaty triathletes running through town could distract Ed Brochu from tending his highway garden in Monte Rio last Sunday. After all, he has been planting his flowers at the town’s entrance to cheer up whoever’s going by.
“Everybody passes here,” said Brochu, working on his garden at the Highway stop sign in Monte Rio last Sunday. “This is a pleasant stop now. I think it helps the town.”
Brochu began planting flowers this spring as a memorial to his late mother, Nola Dianne Abbott. Since then visitors and residents have been treated to a bright bloom emanating from the triangular patch of dirt.
Rows of bright purple zinnias now encircle yellow and pink flowers around the Highway 116 and Bohemian Highway intersection where the overhanging welcome sign announces “Monte Rio Vacation Wonderland.”
“Zinnias were my mama’s favorite flower,” said Brochu.
Brochu said he’s also motivated by February’s Russian River flood disaster that inundated the main intersection and flooded the adjacent Rio Theater and the entire Monte Rio beach parking lot.
“Everybody was pissing and moaning after the flood,” said Brochu, a burly Cazadero resident who looks unafraid of physical labor. “I thought I’d spread some cheer, and honor my mama at the same time.”
Since he went to work, passersby have admired the splash of color on the otherwise barren patch of ground at the corner of Bohemian Highway and Highway 116. Brochu hopes to eventually get a clematis vine climbing up the old sign posts still standing at the site.
Brochur’s memorial garden has a thumbs-up from Monte Rio’s Recreation and Park District and the Monte Rio Chamber of Commerce.
“He said his mother was a wonderful woman who loved flowers, especially zinnias, and he wanted to plant a few zinnias at the triangle,” said Monte Rio Chamber of Commerce President Marina McTaggart. “He’s done it all himself, all at his own expense. We weren’t aware at first it would turn out as beautiful as it looks.”
Brochu said he’s gotten some support, with Grab N’ Grow soil products of Santa Rosa donating mulch and Guerneville’s True Value hardware and nursery providing strawberry plants.
“There has been a very positive response,” said McTaggart. “We’re looking into possibly expanding that area with more plantings and flowers. What’s been done so far is fantastic.”
Is there something you’ve been wondering about Sebastopol or west county — something about local politics, local people or even local history — that would make a good news story? We want to hear from you. SoCurious? — a new project from Sonoma West Publishers — invites you to be a part of the local news reporting process. The idea is simple: You ask a question, and we track down the answer. For more information or to submit a question, go to sonomawest.com and click on ‘SoCurious’.