The city is full of secret gardens—lush little gems hidden behind tall fences, backyard oases nestled in the center of city blocks like Edens in the cones of urban housing volcanos.
But there are also many public gardens. Community vegetable gardens continue popping up all over and many of our city parks are lovingly tended. Plus, we have little visual havens planted and maintained by individuals as seeming gestures of good will and hopeful generosity.
Some years ago, while walking my dog, I stumbled upon a little secret garden in the middle of Alamo Square Park. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes at the charmingly whimsical vision: hundreds of cast off shoes—baby shoes, clogs, beaded Victorian spats, loafers, pointy spiked-heelers, cross trainers, velvet dress pumps and more—perched on stumps and logs and nestled into the ground, sprouting crocus, narcissus, angel’s trumpet, primrose and calendula, cacti, jade plants, and “hens-and-chicks”. I later learned this shoe garden was started by David Clifton, a gardener for SF Park and Rec. He began by collecting discarded shoes while cleaning up the park, but soon had neighbors contributing to the collection to make it a real community project. Even after returning to this little garden over and over, I still find myself completely enchanted.
Then just last week, on my way up to Coit Tower, I came upon the stump of a recently cut down tree and saw that some kind neighbor had planted it with a lovely variety of succlulents, transforming the sad stump into a small garden of delight for everyone passing by to enjoy.
As is so beautifully described and shown in Kathi Appelt's inspiring MISS LADY BIRD'S WILDFLOWERS, creating, planting and sharing something of beauty for the delight of others makes this old world a place worth cherishing.