Saturday in the Park by
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(188 Stories)

Prompted By The Garden

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Grapefruit tree in my backyard, fruit just starting to turn yellow

I grew up in New Jersey, which is called The Garden State, although the area where I lived was very urban and industrial. Still, the soil was good for growing things. My father, who was a doctor almost 24/7, and had no other hobbies, grew tomatoes and was very proud of them. I didn’t like tomatoes as a child (although I think I came to that conclusion without ever tasting them), so I can’t say whether they were exceptional or not, but I bet they were, because anything he did, he did perfectly. We also had beautiful roses growing up the side of our garage, which made it the go-to spot for taking pictures.

I am always delighted to enjoy any garden, as long as someone else does the work to maintain it.

As for me, I have never been much of a gardener. As an adult I have had the occasional indoor houseplant, but even that seems like a burden rather than a pleasure. So I leave the gardening to my husband, who enjoys tending to his tomato plants and his citrus trees. Luckily, as an adult I discovered that I loved tomatoes, so I enjoy the fruits of his labors, literally. Delicious tomatoes in the summer and fall, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice in the winter and spring, and lemons ready for picking any time we have fish for dinner.

We live right across the street from a beautiful park, and from our living room, looking out the big picture window, the park appears to be our front yard. I always say that it is the perfect garden, because we get to enjoy it, but other people take care of the mowing and raking and pruning. It is a huge park, with baseball and soccer fields, a golf course, a kiddie amusement park, and the Sacramento Zoo all contained within its boundaries. It also has several duckponds. This year, in the largest duckpond, there has been a profusion of lotus flowers, which have almost entirely crowded out the ducks. Apparently in other years the park staff has pruned them back, but this year, because of the pandemic, nobody has done anything.

When the lotus flowers suddenly bloomed all over the pond in June, there were mobs of people showing up to take pictures of them, because they were so beautiful and so unexpected. My friend Margarita came over to my house one Saturday for a socially-distanced walk and she said “Have you seen the lotuses in the park?” At first I thought she meant Lotus, the British sportscar, because there are often gatherings of car enthusiasts in the park on weekends. They are usually Chevy lowriders, but I thought maybe Lotus drivers decided to show up for a change. I was not that excited about looking at cars. But then she explained that she meant the flower, so I eagerly went off with her to see and photograph them. Here are two of the dozens of photos I took in addition to the one with the ducks.

 

 

I also enjoy visiting public gardens in my travels. When I took my Girl Scout troop on a four-day trip to San Francisco at the end of their high school years and before the troop disbanded, we spent almost an entire day in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. It was so beautiful and serene, and the girls never tired of taking pictures of each other and of the arched bridge, pagodas, lanterns, and koi ponds that make you feel as if you could be in Japan.

From my years living in Cambridge, during college and especially afterwards, I came to know and love the Boston Public Garden. In the summer of 1970, when I had a job at Houghton Mifflin on Tremont Street, I would sometimes go there to eat lunch. When my children were young, I always made sure to take them there when we visited Boston and Cambridge. The swan boats, which have been around since 1877, are so much fun to ride in. I always thought it would be a kick to drive them too, sitting on the back of the swan. The shipbuilder who designed them was inspired by the finale of the opera Lohengrin, where the hero crosses a river in a boat drawn by a swan. Although as you can probably tell from the picture, since the swan is located at the back of  this boat, it is pushing it rather than pulling it.

 

Another great attraction in the Boston Public Garden is the Make Way for Ducklings statues, which were installed in 1987, after my time living there, but perfectly timed for my children to enjoy. The mother duck is big enough for an older child, or even an adult, to sit on, and the eight little ducklings (Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack, and Quack) are the perfect size for little kids. Somewhere I have pictures of my kids sitting on the various ducklings, and if I find them, I will add them to the story.

I am always delighted to enjoy any garden, as long as someone else does the work to maintain it. If I ever go back to Europe again, on my list of places to go is Monet’s garden in Giverny.

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Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Wonderful story of the gardens in your life Suzy!
    Do you remember when all the ducklings in the Boston Public Garden wore pink pussy hats?!?

  2. John Shutkin says:

    What a great anthology of “enjoying but not tending” garden stories! I come from the same school of thought (and inaction), as my own story this week reflects. That park across the street from you sounds beautiful, but I wonder if it is now being affected by the wildfires. And very funny that your first thought of “Lotus” was to the sportscar.

    I also love the “Make Way for Ducklings” ducks and, as noted in another story, they were featured on our Christmas cards recently. But even I didn’t remember their names, so I’m really impressed.

    • Suzy says:

      The park is doing okay. Like everything around here, it is covered with a thin layer of ash, but I don’t think that will hurt the plants.

      The ducklings’ names are easy to remember once you know the first one is Jack. They all rhyme, and they are consecutive letters of the alphabet, ending, appropriately enough, with Quack.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    I’m with you, Suzy. I love public gardens as well as those maintained by friends who enjoy gardening. That was never for me, so I was relieved when we moved to the condo. So lucky you live across from such beauty. Also love the swan boats and ducklings and have enjoyed visiting them with our grandsons in Newton.

    • Suzy says:

      I do feel lucky to live across from such beauty. The one disadvantage is that since there are houses only on one side of our street, because the park is on the other side, I think we have less of a feeling of community than there is on other streets in our neighborhood.

  4. Marian says:

    This is the perfect garden solution, Suzy. I’m with you about enjoying (visually in my case) and not tending. We also have tomato and citrus on our tiny patio, but it’s not as hot here as in Sac, so we haven’t had fruit from the trees. Fortunately Dick takes care of the very small number of houseplants we have, and a huge jade plant on our side patio.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great garden story, Suzy. How fabulous that you live right across the street from such a large botanical area in Sacramento and get to enjoy it all the time!

    Of course, I am rather partial to the Boston Public Garden, the first one in the country. The swan boats didn’t operate this year, first time since their inception, due to the pandemic. We lived in Boston when David was born and I’d put him in his stroller and walk down there all the time, telling him about all the statues and what everything meant. When I was pregnant with him, I walked through there on my way to work (and through the Boston Common, then I’d have to stop at the Parker House to pull up my stockings!), so really got to enjoy it in all seasons. I know the daughter of the sculptor of the Duckling statue. Her son went to nursery school with David, and now she dates a friend of mine. She is also an artist and very nice person. The sculpture brings in crowds from around the world and there is a Duckling Parade on Mother’s Day; little kids dressed as ducks…very cute.

  6. The lotus….blooming from the mud…so much hope, beauty and strength there! I too love to view gardens where ever I am, and love SF’s botanical gardens in every season. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Suzy says:

      Yes, you are right about the lotus, January. Hope, beauty and strength. They also seemed magical when they suddenly appeared in great profusion in our duckpond, and people could talk of nothing else for a while.

  7. What fun to live across the street from such a fabulous park, Suzy!

    It’s sad to think of that layer of ash but, while I’m no gardener (in fact, yet another member of the Black Thumb family), my understanding is that it’s actually a source of fertilizer with important nutrients that plants require. Maybe more disturbing are the ramifications of our parks not being properly cared for due to pandemic-related layoffs.

    I had to laugh at your reference to the lotuses — as a car buff, I would have been just as happy to see the Lotuses, but your photos are fabulous!

    I envy your ability to pick fresh lemon, grapefruit and tomatoes — three of my favorites that I regularly make use of. (And in case you’re wondering, I add a spritz of grapefruit juice to my martinis.) Cheers!

  8. A grapefruit as big as the Ritz! I loved your far-flung survey of gardens worldwide, from New Jersey to Giverny. The public gardens flow deep in my memory, with impressions from aged 3? How is that possible? Yes, we made frequent visits after we moved to the country, but the impressions remain at the three-year, three-foot level. I also loved your frank admission of disinterest in gardening. I never thought I’d love working in a garden after having so many lawns to mow in junior high (read “middle”) school. Thanks for the tour.

  9. Oh, and I loved the story of the lotus/loti and the ducks. I think lily pad loti have a wonderful scent. I used to hunt bull frogs in lily padded stretches of Massachusetts lakes. I was a terrible child. I shall atone, as I have done so forever, because I should. Also, ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ evokes the earliest of memories, as do Babar and Madeline. And all this stems from a garden… or gardens.

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