Forestiere Underground Gardens

"Here beneath the hot, arid surface of the San Joaquin Valley, Baldasare Forestiere (1879-1946) began in the early 1900's to sculpt a fantastic retreat. Excavating the hardpan by hand, he created a unique complex of underground rooms, passages and gardens which ramble throughout a ten-acre parcel. His work is being preserved as a living monument to a creative and individualistic spirit unbounded by conventionality."

B & I were completely intrigued by the idea of an underground garden, especially one hand dug by someone with the grandiose moniker of Baldasare Forestiere. We navigated Fresno's endless Shaw Avenue, pulled up and found it closed for renovations until the end of the summer. I spent sometime mooning around the chain link fence, hoping to curry favor with the leathery old man who was watering the roses. I even dropped phrases like "All the way from Santa Cruz," but all I got was a brochure. "Look on the internet!" he advised me, which was so ironic in a way I can't explain..........
I discovered from a local Fresnoian that Baldasare did these gardens for the love of a woman, who in the end did not return his affections. Man, if a guy spent 40 years hand-digging the hardpan beneath a fruit orchard in face-of-the-sun hot Fresno in order to win my love, I think I'd go out with him. One date at least........
It sounds like the plantings are mainly fruit trees: Strawberry (Arbutus?), Carob, Jujube, Pomegranate, Mulberry, Date Palm, Avocado, Quince & Persimmon. B & I are already planning our return at the end of the summer (two voluntary trips to Fresno in one summer!) so I'll report back when I actually get inside. The photographs posted are from Ron's Log, which I discovered on Flickr. Thanks Ron!
"God only knows what has kept the Gardens this long. I think if it were not for the visitors, we would not have been able to make it this fair. How can one destroy or exploit the work this one man has done? Can not the strength and purity of a person's work survive in our age? Certainly we, at this period in history, desperately need examples of man's simple capacity to achieve with only the mind and body God has given us."

-Lorraine Forestiere


Franny said...

My parents grew up in Fresno, and as a result I spent many many summers at granparent's homes off Highway 99 (Avenue 22 1/2 on the Chowchilla/Merced border, and on Olive in Fresno). I always thought the Mexican food tasted better there, and that I would never, ever live there. I heard a lot of Armenians settled there because the land and and weather had a striking resemblence to that of their homeland, and after reading Saroyan I realised it's a weird sort of enclave that's still apparent (and that my little cousins attended Saroyan Elementary not too long ago). I try to avoid it as much as possible, but I occasionally find myself driving up and down Shaw and Blackstone wondering how many Dairy Queens/Sonics/Fosters Freeze one town really needs, even if it does feel like it's on the surface of the sun.

Rosa said...

I have never read Saroyan, and our hotel was on Blackstone. That whole area was mind-numbingly similar to Orange County. Eek! By the way, I like the new you!

jessica said...

this garden looks comletely amazing. it reminds me to some extent of cave dwellings in the west midlands in england (i can't remember the name and can't find them!) where people lived in the raised caved and had gardens on the ledge. cool though.

Rosa said...

yes, there's definitely something intriguing about hunkering down under the earth, and molding and shaping things out of it....like the Antonine Wall. Have you visited it? It runs from above Glasgow across to the Firth of Forth, and it mainly looks like odd hillocks in the landscape. Roman walls to keep out the crazy blue Picts!

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.