Underground Gardens

Are you up for a weekend dash to California?

Come on, let’s go.

I just learned of a place I’d love to see near Fresno.

“Fresno?” you’re thinking. “Have you gone urban on us, MJ?”

Not a chance. The destination we’re out to discover is actually beneath the city in a sort of secret garden that defies the parched climate and pavement above …

underground_tree

Photo of underground fruit tree courtesy of PlayFresno.org

This unlikely oasis is called the Forestiere Underground Gardens, created in the early 1900s by Italian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere, who was inspired by ancient catacombs that he had admired as a boy. Using a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow, Forestiere excavated his own private paradise deep in the sun-baked California desert over the course of 40 years. By the time he was 44 years old, he had transformed over 10 acres of seemingly unyielding dirt into a labyrinth of rooms, passageways, patios, and courtyards that are still beautifully intact today.

Of course, I was instantly beguiled by the bath …

Forestiere-Underground-Gardens

Photo of bathtub grotto courtesy of Garden Toolbox News

But, what about the garden aspect?

This I would love to see.

“Incredibly, Forestiere planted multiple varieties of fruit-bearing plants at different underground levels. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits—many on a single tree—as well as more unusual varieties like kumquat, loquat, jujube, strawberry, quince, and dates could be easily plucked from the surface by simply bending down,” says the Forestiere Gardens website. “Wine and table grapes also grace this sanctuary and dangle lusciously in great clumps everywhere.”

Can you imagine?

I knew you’d love the idea, too, so I arranged a private tour. Take a look …

If you’re near Fresno in person, you can stop in for a visit. Just be sure to tell me all about it when you get back to the surface!

 

Leave a comment 5 Comments

  1. Deborah McKissic says:

    Oh, my! I would so be ready for a dash to California, Mary Jane! What a beautiful, beautiful place! What perserverance from one man! Thank you for sharing this video..it just made me smile and made my day…I am a gardener and heading out to work in some of my gardens later today..finally a sunny day with cool temps., but so now inspired! And, the “bathroom”…the clawfoot tub…my husband and I had one refinished from the 1880’s and it sits in my bathroom…a small, 4 and a half foot one…just big enough to lay your head upon the back and relax after a long day in the gardens!

  2. Sarah Blue says:

    MaryJane, I’m floored that you heard about the Underground Gardens and will be visiting my neck of the woods. Baldasare was a true artist and used many ingenious engineering principals to make his tunnels bright, comfortable and livable. Have a wonderful tour!

    Just east of Fresno, past our foothill ranch, lies Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Forest, home to the Giant Sequoias. One of my goals this year is to go hiking there once a week. Sometimes I go with my husband, sometime with friends, sometimes just alone with my dog. One of my favorite groves lies within view of a forest fire lookout and so I think of you when I go there! Please do let me know if you’d like to stop by for iced tea or if you plan to visit the big trees and would like some easy destination tips.

    Enjoy your trip!

  3. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is so amazing. What a creative genius of a gardener who had fewer tools, that would be available today, to do the hard work of digging and creating these spaces. For sure, If I ever get out that way, this will be on my list of must see.

    Sarah, I had the privilege of visiting the Sequoia National Forest a few years ago and it is truly one of the most incredible forests ever. How lucky you are to be close enough to visit on a regular basis!

  4. Karlyne says:

    I had no idea this existed! Amazing!

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