Garden Residents


I visit gardens everywhere I go, yet I remain only a visitor.  Yet as a visitor I find meeting the residents of public gardens is (nearly) always delightful!

Wandering down a garden path can bring you eye to eye with a rabbit, a quail, a squirrel, a deer, all animal residents going about the business of their day.  Depending upon who startles who I have the opportunity to stop, muscles tense, holding my breath hoping to extend the visit.  If the little animal stops to stare at me I stare right back, examining the rabbits big brown eyes, the soft fur in shades of brown and cream.  I watch the squirrel nibbling on the pine cone.  The deer enjoying the grass or the quail stepping out to lead her parade of babies across the path.  All wearing their perfect camouflage for the surroundings.

Garden ponds are often the urban center of a garden with flashy hungry Koi rushing up to greet any shadow that falls over their portion of water.  Momma geese with their brood in perfect formation for swimming lessons move across the water.  The occasional great blue heron standing sentinel over the entire scene.  A bench nearby provides the perfect opportunity to sit a while to watch.

Tiny garden residents take more time to notice and enjoy.  While seated on that bench a rosy maple moth may crawl out beside you.  This amazing pink and yellow moth, is such a pretty surprise it is hard to believe it can be real.  A bird may fly down and gobble down a buggy snack. A sudden flash of light and you notice a spider move among the jeweled water drops of its web  Noticing these slight movements and not moving suddenly in response is a practiced skill.  Learning to stay still allows a chance to see color, patterns and nature’s drama during these brief encounters with the garden’s residents.

Some residents stand and share their ground and invite you into the scene.  Quail Gardens north of San Diego, near Encinitas opened their new Hamilton Children’s Garden in June of this year.  Happily adults may visit too!  An ivy topiary horse stands near the entrance. A true piece of garden magic to create and grow such a piece of work.  The under the sea garden of water wise succulents  creates an underwater scuba scene.  The sea horse is happy to let you stand and look as long as you wish.

Quail Gardens has a coastal view and trees and shrubs create a lush green garden.  This regional California climate lets succulents thrive.  Topiary creations of succulents are scattered throughout the garden.  Wandering into the main garden you find a dancing couple ready to twirl around the courtyard to the imaginary music of the Mariachi musicians.  A kitchen maid caries her basket out to gather the garden bounty of herbs.  All of these residents help you imagine life in this beautiful garden.

Visiting gardens gives me such happiness and I often feel a pang of jealousy as I leave aware of the residents who get to stay.  Though in truth not all garden residents are equally inviting.

Once during a late spring visit to Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Globe, AZ I was walking the trail on a hot sunny morning.  I was so happy to reach a shady tree lined stretch as for this visit my Mother was with me and the sun was beginning to take its toll on us both. Just a few steps into that cool shade and we both began to relax grateful for the immediate change of temperature.  Just a few steps more and we encountered a large rattle snake.  Initially it too was relaxing, stretched out in the cool shade along the edge of the path.  Our arrival caused it to instantly coil into a strike position!  Tail rattling it dared us to take a step further!

We stopped moving forward, the snake continued to rattle in warning.  Flustered we bumped into each other, we stepped back, we stepped forward, we took two steps back.  I looked longingly toward the shady path.  I considered a retreat back into the hot sun.  The snake did not yield us an inch.  The path was narrow so we could not safely slip past.  Our courage gone we made a hasty retreat back into the sun.  Scurrying back along the path, our nerves frayed, each blowing leaf, each skittering lizard caused us to jump, fearful of yet another snake encounter.

We didn’t relax until we climbed into our car in the parking lot where my Mother posed the question, “Why didn’t you take a picture of that snake? It was posed perfectly!  I could have shown everyone back home!”  I had no answer.

Visiting gardens takes us into the natural world.  All sorts of residents are in that natural world some I enjoy more than others.  Encounters with the locals is (nearly) always a surprising delight.

originally published


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *