Bruce native Lee Yancy transforms Belhaven street corner into garden oasis

There’s an oasis not far from where you live. An oasis does not have to be in the desert, or by a river or a shady spot where camels graze under a date palm. An oasis is a plot of ground that provides refuge, relief or a pleasant contrast. There’s one on the northwest corner of Peachtree and Poplar in the Belhaven Community of Jackson. Don’t pass it by.

Jesse “Lee” Yancy began his little green space in 2009, on the corner in a city right-of-way.

Bruce native Lee Yancy transformed this street corner in the Belhaven neighborhood into a garden oasis.

He obtained permission by then acting mayor Leslie McLemore and was encouraged by Wendell Negam, owner of the adjacent apartment complex.

He began with a few seeds and bedding plants, made some structural improvements and over all seasons added to his plot until today it boasts both flowers and vegetables.

There are varieties of herbs, succulents, tomatoes, cucumbers, zinnias, cone flowers, day lilies, asters and a recently harvested crop of giant sunflowers. Roses have been planted along the Peachtree Street side to enhance the view.

“People bring potted plants by and leave them with me,” Yancy said, “knowing I will give them a good home.”

He speaks also of swapping seeds with neighbors as well as knowledge and advice and is always open for discussion of  new plants.

The favored plant near the garden center is a clump of verdant umbrella grass which spreads its fronds over a sundial. This plant forms the focal point of the garden.

Seems we’ve read something like this before. The man who cares for these lives nearby and is justly proud of his work, begun in memory of his sister Cindy Yancy, who died in 2007.

Lee Yancy is a native of Bruce in  North Mississippi. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi. He comes to Belhaven by way of work in Tupelo, the Hinds County Library System and the P.R. department at Millsaps College. He also does free lance writing for several local publications. He has worked as a chef in restaurants in Oxford, Tupelo and Florida.

“Cooking in restaurants is not always as exotic as it seems,” he said. “It’s hard and demanding work.”

Future plans for Yancy’s oasis are to include more perennials.

“Annuals move on from one season to another and I may someday move on as well," he said. "I want my garden to continue to bloom and provide respite and beauty for the neighborhood.”

The street corner before Lee worked his gardening magic.

Our days these days are demanding and long. We are busy and seldom take time to smell the roses or taste the tomatoes or speculate on the origin of umbrella grass. But as you walk, jog, bike, or drive by the corner of Peachtree and Poplar Streets, take a moment to pause and enjoy Lee Yancy’s Oasis. He put it there for you.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the "Being Belhaven – Greater Belhaven Neighborhood News" in Jackson, Mississippi.