DESHELLE-MONIQUE TAYLOR’S GARDEN HAS BEEN CHOSEN TO BE FEATURED IN BRIGHTON HEIGHTS’ HOUSE AND GARDEN TOUR ON SATURDAY, SEPT. 16. (PHOTO BY AVERY CARTER)
Garden to be featured in Brighton Heights, Sept. 16
February 28, 2020, is a date that DeShelle-Monique Taylor can’t forget, even if she wanted to.
Yes, it was just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a normal world back then. It was a normal, cold February day for Taylor, nothing out of the ordinary for the Philadelphia-raised woman, who fell in love with the City of Pittsburgh after attending and graduating from California University of Pennsylvania in 2000.
She had just left a seminar at a friend’s residence. She returned to her home in Brighton Heights, at 1419 Orchlee Street, in the evening. She parked in the driveway, got her bag out of the car, “and that’s when the gunman lurched out from the driver’s side of the car…”
A man with bad intentions had been hiding, waiting to strike someone. That someone was Taylor. “When he pushed me backwards, I fell and hit my head on the ground,” Taylor told the New Pittsburgh Courier exclusively, Sept. 5. “I blacked out for what felt like forever, but probably was like, seconds…he still had the gun in my face asking me if there was anyone else in the house…”
Someone who was in the home ran out yelling Taylor’s name, scaring the gunman off.
Police detectives were called to the scene. A police report was filed. Taylor had suffered a concussion. The gunman took Taylor’s phone and credit cards, but dropped Taylor’s car keys nearby when he ran off.
“I went to the ER the next day, which was Saturday morning,” Taylor said. “I was in Philadelphia by Tuesday morning.”
DESHELLE-MONIQUE TAYLOR (PHOTO BY AVERY CARTER)
THE TRAUMA, AND THE GARDEN
Taylor’s father was from Charlottesville, Va., and his family was full of farmers. They had vegetable gardens, apple trees, Taylor recalled. Taylor’s mother was from Philly, and had a love for interior plants. So it wasn’t out of the ordinary that Taylor would garden from time to time, but she said it was merely a hobby.
By 2014, she started to have more of an urge to take gardening more seriously. She took classes in horticulture technology at the Bidwell Training Center on the North Side, classes designed by the former Head of Horticulture at Phipps Conservatory, Gary Baranowski. Pretty much, Taylor said, “it was the same education you would get at Phipps, you got at Bidwell.”
She had to volunteer, do internships and externships, but she didn’t pursue the courses “to the degree that I wanted to,” as she accepted a job at ALCOSAN, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, in 2016.
Turns out, it was her love of gardening that played a major role in her overcoming the trauma of being attacked at gunpoint four years later.
“You don’t give a timeline to healing trauma, that’s not realistic,” Taylor said, as she was trying to remain employed at ALCOSAN while dealing with the 2020 incident. “I was displaying PTSD, stuttering, other symptoms of the traumatic event. My therapist talked about different ways to alleviate (the pain) since I had to be back at work, or at the house, ways to manage the trauma.”
Taylor left for Philadelphia to be back with her family in the days after the attack. But eventually she had to return to Pittsburgh. She still had to live at the same house where she was attacked. She still had to work to pay the bills.
“I was angry, I was depressed, I was fearful,” Taylor told the Courier. “They never caught the person…I’m one of those people where I try not to let life get the best of me.”
DESHELLE-MONIQUE TAYLOR PREPARES HER GARDEN.
The garden that she had been working on, off and on, since 2014, sat to the right of her driveway at 1419 Orchlee. “Before the incident happened, the garden was a place for me to mediate and alleviate stress,” she said.
But since the attack, she decided to “throw all of my energy into this garden.”
She learned about an organization called the Horticulture Therapy Institute, and she learned how to use horticulture therapy to deal with PTSD through sensory gardening. Taylor then completed a 72-hour Permaculture Design Certification Program, which earned her the title of a landscape designer and master gardener.
She could see the progress she was making, not only in the professional gardening world, but in her well-being. “They say if you face your fears, it disengages whatever the trauma is. I think there’s some truth to that, because working in the front of the house, in that garden, it did help me,” Taylor said. The continuous exposure to people, the exposure to different sounds, to sudden sounds, to even the sunlight. Remember, for a long time following the attack, “I just wanted to hide away,” Taylor said, “because I didn’t know who did it.”
Today, Taylor is the founder and landscape designer for “Your Garden Karma,” which is known nationally. She has clients she helps with their garden designs in small-to-large sustainable landscapes and container gardens.
DESHELLE-MONIQUE TAYLOR TENDS TO HER GARDEN.
Her garden in Brighton Heights was noticed by the Brighton Heights Citizens Foundation. Each year, the organization holds a House and Garden Tour, its largest fundraiser. People from different neighborhoods purchase tickets and then are taken on a tour of the best gardens in Brighton Heights. Taylor accepted the invitation for her garden to be part of the tour, which occurs Saturday, Sept. 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Taylor will be on-site, talking to all the different people who will view the garden that Taylor said is more than a garden—it is her safe haven. Her therapy.
“People, young and old, have said a lot of compliments” about the garden, Taylor told the Courier. “What stands out the most is that people love the color, the texture and how it makes them feel when they walk past. It is something you have to see for yourself, and it’s also something that evokes the senses.”