Monterey, California


The first thing I saw walking through the wobbly gate of the community garden was a cluster of bright orange flowering California poppies. The garden was a ramshackle collection of overgrown planting boxes, a mix of flowers, vegetables, and weeds. Sweet peas grew in a tangle, climbing the chain link fence to reach the sun and spilling onto the paths. Purple sage stood guard with staffs of ringlet violet flowers.

Each garden and planting box overflowed with individual personality, a mosaic of colorful vegetation, as messy and brilliant as society itself. An ancient, pink, rambling rose draped over a sagging trellis like a living curtain, filling the garden with its sweet fragrance. I could feel the presence of this rose grower, carefree and wild, with a big heart, spreading love and beauty even in her absence.

Golden-red marigolds grew against a wall of peeling paint, indifferent to the southern heat. Bright yellow columbines stood strong against a dilapidated wooden fence, going to seed to ensure the same splendor next year. A magnificent crop of tomato plants thrived under the protection of a wire fence that undulated like an ocean wave. I could sense the gardener’s care and taste the juicy, red harvest. The eclectic variety of gardens fit together in a harmonious tapestry, filled with the character and charm of the plants’ human partners.