Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr Day of Service

Around the nation today, thousands of people joined together in volunteering to mark Martin Luther King, Junior Day. This federal holiday was first observed in 1986 to mark Dr. Martin Luther King’s, birthday. In 1994, in honor of Martin Luther King, Congress designated the third Monday in January as a Day of Service; it is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” As described by the Martin Luther King, Jr. website, “the MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Once again, people in the Bay Area fully supported their Golden Gate National Recreation Area by quickly filling up the volunteer opportunities. Park-wide, 587 volunteers registered!

On Alcatraz, I had the pleasure of working Sifting compost for MLK Day of Service. Photo by Shelagh Fritzwith a variety of community members. A family with two daughters learned all about composting from our own Worm Man of Alcatraz, Dick Miner.

While the other group of volunteers was made up of 10 youth from BuildOn, a non-profit that builds schools in third world countries, and four park enthusiasts, who have volunteered for the Park before. For many of the volunteers, this was their first time to Alcatraz.

Working together, the groups accomplished clearing an overgrown pathway and sifting a yard of compost that will be used in the gardens.

 

 

Joining in by cutting back Ivy and Mirror Bush. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

 

A fulfilling morning with the cleared pathway. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

 Thank you for supporting MLK Day and your Park!

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Cutting Back

We have been busy the past two weeks cutting back perennials and pruning the roses. This is the ideal time of year in Northern California to clean up perennials before new growth starts. The perennials in Officers’ Row have been tidied up and the bare bones of the garden are taking prominent stage at this time of the year.

Fast growing Beard Tongue, Penstemon,

Penstemon that have been cut back to control the sprawling plants. Shelagh Fritz photo

Valerian, Centranthus ruber, Fuchsia, and yellow bush daisy, Euryops pectinatus, were all cut back hard this year to encourage denser new growth. The sprawling beard tongue tends to overtake its neighbors if not kept in check. The fuchsia and yellow bush daisy is fairly low maintenance and only needs to be cut back every other year. The growth of the yellow bush daisy tends to become very heavy and weighs on the branches, eventually cracking and breaking the stems. Pruning is not essential it helps to keep the plants more compact otherwise the plants will become ‘leggy’, having very few leaves at their base, if left on their own.

As well, boxwood and spirea bushes were given a light haircut, adding shape to their formal appearance.

 

Karolina Park, our Garden Conservancy gardener since February 2009, looks forward to pruning the roses back each year. Removing any damaged and older canes from the point of origin, she selects four or five newer canes that are angled outwards. This will direct new growth outwards and will encourage light to enter the center of the bush when growth resumes in the spring. Each cane is cut back to about one foot high, with strong, healthy buds pointing outwards at the top. Again, this will direct new growth outwards.

Karolina pruning the roses in Officers' Row. Shelagh Fritz photo

 

 

A pruned rose bush with a basin around its dripline. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Fallen leaves and debris are brushed away from the crown of the plant to prevent insects and disease from overwintering. Basins are then formed around the drip line of each bush, to hold irrigation water.

By the end of the day there is a huge pile of trimmings for the compost; and the garden feels refreshed and ready for another growing year.

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A Record Year for Volunteering

 

The opportunity to garden on Alcatraz has always been one of the more unique places to volunteer in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Volunteers are

Volunteers tending the pelargonium trough. Photo by Fergal M. Moran

drawn to the island for many reasons: to learn about gardening, to meet new friends, to learn the real stories about Alcatraz or to simply brag to their friends that they gardened on Alcatraz. The popularity of the volunteer garden program continues to grow and 2011 was a record year with 7987.25 hours being logged.

This staggering total was achieved with the help of 138 volunteers that turned out for the regular Wednesday or Friday volunteer program, and from 711 people that came to garden as part of a work group. Over the course of the year, 47 work groups participated in stewarding different garden areas. Many of these people were first time gardeners.

With 4.5 acres of gardens that are seen

Dick using the chipper. Photo by Fergal M. Moran

by 5000 people a day, it takes special dedication to have the gardens looking their best every day. Working alongside Garden Conservancy staff, volunteers are an integral part of caring for the gardens. Many volunteers have their own area that they tend faithfully while others are happy to do whatever is needed. Still, others enjoy the big projects of re-setting brick walls, stabilizing terraces and turning mounds of compost. I believe there is a job for everyone, no matter what color their thumb is.

Thank you to everyone that supported the gardens this past year, the gardens continue to thrive!

 

@WIX

 

Americorps

Habitat for Humanity. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Bay Area Whaleboat Association

Boy scouts

Buildon

Charles Schwab

City College of San Francisco

Cloudkick / Rack Space

Cresswell High School

Denver Academy

Gay and Lesbian Sierrans

Goldman Sachs

Government Services Association (GSA)

Hotel Vitale

InterContinental Hotel

Americorps volunteering in the Rose Terrace. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Kaboom

Lanier Law Firm

LINC

McKesson

Merritt College

Msquared Consulting

MTV

Nixon Peabody LLP

Ruth Bancroft Garden

Salesforce.com Inc

SCA commuter group

Sleep Train

Goldman Sachs tending the north road calla bed. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Stuart Hall Sacred Heart School for girls

UC Irvine

Union Bank

Wells Fargo Bank

Zoomerang

 

 

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Volunteers give a Saving Fix to Historic Terraces

Volunteers have been steadily working the past three weeks stabilizing the inmate built terraces on the west side of the island. The garden area referred to as the laundry terraces, was developed and tended by penitentiary inmates after the 1930s and was cared for until the maximum prison closed in 1963. The original terraces are still standing and survivor plants dot the terraced hillside. However, the terraces and the access stairs are in need of repair.

The laundry terraces during the Federal prison era. Photo by J. Simpson 1942-1946c

 

 

The inmate built terrace gardens today. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

Working within the parameters of the West Side Treatment Plan that was developed and approved by the National Park Service in 2009, we have permission to stabilize these historic structures. Under the guidance of the National Park Service’s historic architect

The recipe ingredients: sand, Portland Cement and lime. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

and mason, all repairs done to the terraces must match the existing historic materials. Most significantly, the mortar that we use to cement the concrete blocks back together must be accurate. For this, we mix the mortar using a ratio of 8 parts sand to 2 parts Type 2 Portland cement to 1 part lime. The volunteers love this part of the Alcatraz experience. One of my long-time volunteers explains that to be a gardener out here, you are also a carpenter, a mason and a plumber.

Bharat re-setting the concrete blocks with mortar. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

These historic terraces are closed for public accessed and we are only able to work in this area from September to February.  A large colony of Brandt’s cormorants call this area home the other months of the year and this vital nesting site would be disturbed. Still, it is important not to allow these terraces to further degrade and we will be working diligently over the next few years to make the necessary repairs.

Interestingly, a volunteer group, the Bay Area Whaleboat Association, weeded the terraces December 10 and uncovered never seen before inmate graffiti. They found numbers etched into cement that formed a basin underneath a spigot – perhaps the numbers correspond to inmates that did work in this garden area? The Federal inmate records held at the National Archives in San Bruno will hopefully yield some answers.

Numbers etched into the cement that once formed a drain basin under a spigot. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Carola Ashford, the garden’s first project manager, described the garden work as “garden archeology”. And, it certainly is. The garden restoration is about to enter its ninth year and we are still discovering the gardens.

 

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Overlapping Worlds of Art and Gardening

The world of gardening and art often overlap; I often find gardeners who also like drawing, photography, or who partake in other crafty pastimes. One of my long-time volunteers, Margaret Zbikowski, is no exception. Margaret began volunteering in February 2006, just as the winter rains were hitting. She recalls “it was February and knee deep in mud; the blackberries were the target and I began to wonder if I was able to do this hillside gardening”.

Margaret drawing in the Rose Terrace. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Aside from tugging at the stubborn blackberries, Margaret applied her librarian skills to organize the island’s staff library; but her childhood love of drawing plants found her a special niche on the island.

 

Margaret starting an Aeonium drawing. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Raised in rural Michigan, Margaret’s mother would name plants to her when she was very small. The large lot next to their home was planted as a Victory garden and was a haven for the three-year-old Margaret, where she would sit and watch the plants. Impressively, as a three-year-old, Margaret remembers smelling her neighbors mint bush, “This all was a marvelous world to me”.

At age ten, she would roam on the family’s ‘back 40’, drawing trees,

Margaret captured the Shirley poppies. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

plants, mosses and leaves. “No-one in my family said anything about my drawing, so I continued happily. At school it was harder, as someone told I could draw and everyone wanted a portrait right there, right now.  I always gave these drawings to the fools.  That’s why I prefer PLANTS.”

Margaret has never had any formal training, other than taking lessons at the local town Museum of Art for the summer months, which was considered ‘appropriate’ for all young ladies. Apparently, only students seemed to notice who had talent. Margaret did ask to be sent to an art school in Chicago, but sadly, the answer was ‘No’.

But, natural talent can never be discouraged and Margaret continued to draw, and expanded into designing and making knit sweaters. Her San Francisco apartment is a treasure trove of her passions – books, paintings, orchids, and her drawing notebooks of Alcatraz plants.

Leafing through her notebooks, many of the drawings catch my eye. I wonder how she can capture the essence of the plants with such few pencils and with such simple looking drawings? On average, Margaret takes about 20 minutes to do a drawing, but has worked on one a lot more when she is not quite satisfied.

A closeup of Margaret's grasses. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Amazingly, penitentiary inmates were privileged to be allowed ‘landscape drawing’ and must have spent hours gazing at the plants, not to mention the City and freedom, lying just beyond.

One inmate, George Hecht, was sentenced on kidnapping charges and was sent to Leavenworth Prison in Kansas and was later transferred to Alcatraz for an escape attempt. Hecht spent 1944 to 1952 on Alcatraz and his work detail was for the inside garden by the incinerator on the West Side. An article in the Washington Post dated July 1949 tells of a local San Francisco artist who went to teach evening classes on Alcatraz to help with the creative program. George must have benefitted from this program as he produced many paintings during his time on the Rock. In fact, five paintings from Alcatraz were exhibited in Paris, France in May 1951. Amazingly, after George passed away, his children found in his attic his paintings from his time on Alcatraz. His years on Alcatraz were not his happiest and yet he held onto his art that he had created during his time there.

Inmate painting of the inmate gardens and the city beyond. The painting was done by George Hecht in 1951.

I do wish more visitors would come armed with paper, pencils and an extra 20 minutes to sit in the gardens, take in the moment and sketch a few plants.

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Come Discover Alcatraz

We have just launched a new outreach program for island visitors called Discovery Table. The Discovery Table aims to engage visitors with interactive displays themed on the Gardens of Alcatraz. With the entire island to use as a resource, we want to share with visitors captivating information about the gardens that they otherwise would not learn about through our garden tours, brochure or website. We want to draw people’s attention to the details of the garden that might otherwise be missed.

The Discovery Table invites kids and adults to use their senses to experience the gardens in a different way. In only its second week, we have covered drastically different topics such as ‘Life on the Rock with Lichens and Moss’ and ‘Nose around Alcatraz: Scented Plants in the Gardens’. More topics to come will have visitors watching hummingbirds zip around the purple blossoms of pride of madeira, Echium candicans, getting your hands dirty with a demonstration of our worm farm and our award winning compost; as well as learning about how the succulents on the island survived without care for over 40 years.

Garden volunteers, Corny and Marney, hosted

Corny and Marney point out a banana slug to visitors. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

the premier Discovery Table to introduce visitors to Life on the Rock, literally. Using a banana slug to draw people in, visitors were given a hand microscope to take a closer look at the sandstone that makes up the island. A surprise for many, lichens and moss have found their way into many niches on the rock and brick that make up Alcatraz. Just like the residents that called Alcatraz ‘home’, lichens and moss have to cope in the harsh marine environment to survive. As Corny and Marney found out, lichen and moss cope with chilly temperatures in the winter. Armed with hand microscopes, visitors could see the lichens were ‘flowering’ and could appreciate the variety of colors with the many species of lichen that are living side by side.

Lichen living on a military era brick wall. Photo by Corny Foster

 

The second Discovery Table was presented yesterday on a calm, sunny day; a perfect day to invite visitors to follow their nose around Alcatraz and learn more about the scented plants in the gardens. Many of the heirloom plants in the gardens – bearded Iris ‘King’s Ransom’, Rosa russeliana, daffodil Narcissus ‘Grand Soliel d’Or’ all have wonderful scents that remind visitors of their grandmother’s house. Old-fashioned garden plants such as cherry pie, Heliotropium arborescens and nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, and sweet alyssum, Lobularia maritima, along with recently introduced plants to the island such as pineapple sage, Salvia elegans were presented to visitors to sniff and were then asked what scent they detected. It was interesting to hear the responses: the expected answers such as vanilla, peppery, honey, and pineapple versus the surprise of hearing that cherry pie reminded one young visitor of play dough.

 

Scented plants awaiting island visitors. Photo by Karolina Park

A long-time garden volunteer commented ‘You can always tell what season it is by how a visitor asks “What’s that smell?”’ During the winter and spring, island gum trees, Eucalyptus globulus, delightfully fragrant the air. However, during late summer and fall, the island is home to over 3000 nesting seabirds and their guano permeates the air.

I like to think that the small pleasures in the gardens enticed the inmate gardeners to stay on their best behavior in order to keep the privilege of working outside. I hope these same pleasures will entice visitors to stop by our Discovery Table and learn more about the fascinating gardens.

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Giving Thanks

Earlier this week, the Garden Conservancy lost its founder,

Frank Cabot

Frank Cabot. We mourn his passing and are thankful for his passion of horticulture that led him to begin the Garden Conservancy in 1989. We are very much in his debt for his vision and leadership. His accomplishments will continue to inspire us for years to come.

Following is the text of his official obituary, which he approved himself in advance.

 

CABOT, Francis Higginson of Loudon, New Hampshire, and La Malbaie, Quebec, died peacefully at home on November 19, 2011after a long illness. He was 86. Born in New York City on August 6, 1925, graduate of St. Bernard’s and Groton Schools and Harvard College class of 1949 where he was a founder of the Krokodiloes, he served in Europe and the Far East during World War II with the Signal Corps. He worked initially for Stone & Webster Inc. and subsequently as a venture capitalist in New York. His overriding interest in horticulture consumed his later years when he was active in the American Rock Garden Society, the Friends of Horticulture at Wave Hill, New York Botanical Garden, and the Garden Conservancy, which he founded in 1989. During these years, with his wife Anne, he created Stonecrop Gardens, a public garden for plant enthusiasts in Cold Spring, New York; founded the Aberglasney Restoration Trust to rescue and restore a sixteenth-century garden in Carmarthenshire, Wales; and enlarged his parents’ garden in La Malbaie, Quebec, into what has been described as the most aesthetically satisfying and horticulturally exciting landscape experience in North America. His book, The Greater Perfection, received the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries’ 2003 Literature Award, and was described as “one of the best books ever written about the making of a garden by its creator” by The Oxford Companion to the Garden (2006). He was the recipient of numerous awards from horticultural societies, including the Gold Veitch Memorial Award of the Royal Horticultural Society. He was also named a Chevalier of the Order of Quebec as well as a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of his efforts, through his family’s Quatre Vents Foundation, to preserve the patrimony of Charlevoix County, Quebec. He is survived by his wife of over 62 years, Anne Perkins Cabot; by three children: Colin and wife Paula of Loudon, New Hampshire; Currie and husband Thomas A. Barron of Boulder, Colorado; and Marianne and husband James S. Welch of Prospect, Kentucky; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

 

Funeral services will be private. A memorial celebration will be held in the garden of Les Quatre Vents for family and friends in 2012 at a date coinciding with the inception of spring and the peak of the primula moment. Contributions may be made to the Garden Conservancy, P.O. Box 219 or the Quatre Vents Foundation, P.O. Box 222, both at Cold Spring, NY 10516, or to the charity of your choice.

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The Gardens in Review

Usually, the dead of winter is when gardeners haul out their stashes of seed catalogues and start planning for next year. On Alcatraz, we never receive any frost and are lucky to enjoy year round gardening, so we skip an obvious break and instead start planning for winter and early spring annuals during fall.

Planning for next year involves examining the past year;

Nasturtium with purple verbena. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

noting which plants did well, which ones need to be served their notice, and plant combinations that were striking. Some of the best plant combinations were ones that were created by chance. Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, was introduced to the island in 1924 and self-sows where it pleases. The whimsical seeding finds itself amongst contrasting plants – purple trailing verbena, magenta Pelargonium ‘Prince Bismarck’ and bright pink Persian carpet (Drosanthemum floribundum) to mention a few.

 

Nasturtium growing amongst magenta Pelargonium 'Prince Bismarck'. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

The annuals in the Inmate Gardens on the west side of the island did very well this year, especially the calendula. The calendula were sown in the greenhouse last December, planted out at the end of January and bloomed continuously through the summer. We cut them back in late September and they are blooming again. The cheerful yellow blooms contrasted nicely with many of the other garden plants.

 

Calendula with California poppy and Rosa 'Golden Showers'. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Expecting the calendulas to be replaced by summer annuals, we had sown many flats of snapdragons to be their replacements. But with the calendulas doing well, we had to find other homes for the snapdragons. Tucking them into pockets around perennials was easy. Interestingly, the snapdragons were slow to grow in the east side Officers’ Row gardens but flourished on the west side of the island.

 

Snapdragons with lantana. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

A native, California fuchsia, Zauschneria californica, was planted last year and finally flowered this past summer. The plant has soft grey leaves and bright orange flowers that complement the other plants growing near – purple agapanthus, pink Salvia chiapensis, and the freely growing nasturtiums on the hillside above.

 

Zauschneria with Agapanthus, Salvia chiapensis and nasturtium. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Another combination that did well was the purple annual flowering tobacco, Nicotiana alata growing with purple statice or sea lavender, Limonium perezii. The flowering tobacco self-seeds but not obnoxiously and the new plants are easy to transplant.

 

Nicotiana elata with Limonium perezii. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the new plants that was tried this year was butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa. The plant flowered but did not gain much height. We hope that monarch butterflies that pass through the area will stop in the gardens. Another new introduction to the island was lion’s tail, Leonotis leonurus to the west side lawn borders. Being a member of the mint family from South Africa, the evergreen shrub should have done very well on the island; but the plant was likely missed during hand-watering the borders and it did not make it. However, it will be worth trying again this coming year. Once established, it is very drought tolerant and the masses of orange flowers attract butterflies.

 

A plant that has had its final year on the island is the common purple cone flower, Echinacea purpurea. A row of these were planted in Officers’ Row in 2007 and every year I hope they do better. They start out blooming well with healthy leaves but then they decide they are finished and refuse to grow. Luckily, we had plenty of snapdragons to fill in around them.

 

Freddie Reichel, secretary to the warden from 1934 to 1939, wrote in a letter “I kept no records of my failures, for I had many – the main thing was to assure some success by trying many things and holding on to those plants which had learned that life is worth holding on to even at its bitterest”. These words are still true today, except that we keep better records of our successes and failures.

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Historic Landscapes

Last week I travelled to Miami, Florida to participate in a conference hosted by the American Public Gardens Association. The theme of the discussions was ‘On the Ground: Putting Preservation into Practice’. Listening to people from gardens all over the country

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

speak the language of historic preservation – Cultural Landscape Inventories, Cultural Landscape Report, As-Built Drawings and Maintaining Design Intent – was very informative, especially as each of us could relate to the lessons learned through hindsight.

I was invited to speak about lessons learned with the Historic Gardens of Alcatraz Project. Our project began in the later part of 2003, and now, at the end of 2011, while the project has been extremely successful in accomplishing our mission of rehabilitating five garden areas and interpreting their significance to the public, there are a few practices that could have been carried out slightly differently.

Palms capable of withstanding hurricanes are being grown at Montgomery Botanical Center, as well as many endangered palms. Photo by Shelagh Fritz.

Starting out, there were limited funds topurchase a chipper a garden vehicle. Both pieces of equipment would have helped out immensely with the early gardening work of clearing 40 years of overgrowth. The accumulated biomass amounted to huge piles that was then hauled away mostly by wheelbarrow to decompose on the island’s Parade Ground. Today, we have our own chipper, a garden vehicle and most importantly, a designated compost site where 99% of our biomass is composted to be recycled back into the gardens.

Documenting changes and progress to the landscape is vital, especially when working with a historic site. The National Park Service holds an amazing collection of historic photographs that show the gardens and the landscape in the military and penitentiary eras. The photographs from the late penitentiary, 1940s to the 1960s, were used to design the gardens that visitors experience today. Taking pictures of the overgrowth from the same vantage point of the historic photographs was done for some garden areas but unfortunately, not all. Having a complete series of photographs of the historic, before, and after rehabilitation, and then continuing the series each year afterwards at different times of the year illustrates the work accomplished. A photo really does say a thousand words. We have used our before and after photos to apply for grants and on our website as well.

Lastly, funding for our project has been provided through many grants and donations -large and small. A federally supported grant, Save America’s Treasures, was awarded in 2006. Matching funds were required to be raised, which the Garden Conservancy was able to do. The combined $500 000 provided the funds for the rehabilitation work through to 2009. However, since 2009, the project has largely relied on donations. Long-term sustainable funding for these reclaimed historic gardens will require creative solutions.

One could wonder what gardens in Miami have in common with the Gardens of Alcatraz? We had the opportunity to tour the gardens of Vizcaya, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Montgomery Botanical Center and the Kampong. The plant material in these gardens could not be more different than

The Kampong garden.

Alcatraz. But, the horticulture history with each of these gardens is rich. Each of these gardens continue to carry out their owners’ original intent, as we do on Alcatraz. Botanic gardens provide vital homes for historically significant plants that are often rare and threatened in the wild. When possible, seeds are collected and distributed to botanic gardens around the world to help insure their survival. On Alcatraz, we not only preserve heirloom plants that were introduced long ago, but we also preserve the past by telling the stories of the island’s residents that worked and cared for the gardens. Preservation of historic gardens – whether it be a home garden, large estate, or a National Park, protects history.

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Elliot’s Fig Tree

Harvest season is here and the chill in the air at night says winter is on its way. The fig tree, Ficus carica, growing in the inmate’s garden on the west side of the island has produced a bumper crop this year, at least for the songbirds who will benefit most from the abundance of fruit.

Elliot's fig tree with the Golden Gate Bridge in view. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

The fig tree, believed to be a black Mission Fig, was planted by inmate gardener Elliot Michener in the early 1940s. In an oral history interview with Elliot conducted in the late 1990s, he visited the island and walked around his gardens once again, showing the interviewer where he had spent nine years of his life working in the gardens. He saw the fig tree still growing in its original spot; and in a proud gardener’s voice with a hint of tour guide points out “and here are my old fig trees.” Elliot clearly remembered the fig tree growing on both sides of the fence with the guard tower in the background. In the interview, Elliot remarks “Yes, they have lasted a long time, just all these years.”

The fig tree cleared of overgrowth and beginning of new plantings in November 2008. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 

The fig tree and restored gardens flourishing in May 2011. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Elliot obtained the fig tree is not known. Perhaps one of the guards that traded seeds for bouquets of inmate grown flowers was the source; or maybe the inmates were treated to figs for dessert and the inmates grew the tree from seeds? Nevertheless, the fig tree continues to prosper.

The fig has done so well, that in fact, during the 40 years of the gardens being neglected, the fig took on a life of its own and colonized the western lawn. The thicket of fig provides prime summer nesting habitat for approximately 80 pairs of nesting snowy egrets.

Ripe fig. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Elliot also comments in his interview “I’ve eaten figs off of this tree”. I too, have eaten a few ripened figs off of the same tree and have tasted what he has tasted. Working the same soil and tending the same plants as gardeners past, reinforces the importance of preserving historic horticulture and the stories of the people that tended these gardens.

For island visitors, many of them pause at the tree and wonder what kind it is. For me, not only is it a chance to show them their first fig tree but to also tell them about Elliot and what the gardens meant to him.

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