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Gardening with my Grandpa.

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My Grandpa and Grandma Fernandez lived in San Fransisco, (off Alamany) in a typical SF style house. Two story, bay windows, giant garage and touching the neighbors house on each side. The back yard is just as typical – boring Euonymous shrubs in the front and a rectangular strip of land in the back. I was really young when my Grandpa died, but the few memories I have of him are in the garden.

I remember the garden was laid out with a square lawn in the center and a little concrete sidewalk around the perimeter. When I was super young I remember thinking – this walkway is too small. If you ran too fast or lost your balance, it was easy to veer off the walk and onto the grass. Each side of the square had a long perennial bed, mostly planted with roses and ‘Meyer’ Lemon shrubs. By the time my Grandma passed away, the roses were at least 60 years old and the Lemon even older. (I’m still sad I never took cuttings from that garden when my family sold the house.)

On the West side of the garden off the lawn, stood an old wooden arbor, white washed a million years ago and always peeling and cracking from the whipping SF wind. It stood entrance for the back half of the yard – a small orchard. This was very typical in SF gardens back in the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s. A tiny plot with a couple rows of old, gnarled fruit trees. This was the area I remember seeing my Grandpa the most, spending a morning in the orchard with loppers and a giant canister of DDT or something crazy toxic. (Hey, he was an old-school gardener and I was too young to give him shit for it.) How he ever grew all those Apples, Pears, Figs and Plums is beyond me. On the rare occasion that back yard was sunny and warm, I remember it mostly being foggy and windy as all hell.

I don’t remember talking with my Grandpa or working with him at all. But I do remember standing off to the side, on that tiny concrete walkway and turning the hose spigot on and off. On and off. It was galvanized steel with a flat oval knob and I loved it. I loved feeling the stead pressure and how fast the water came out. 

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This weekend I’m planning on bringing out the pair of garden clippers that belonged to my Grandpa. I want to sand and oil them, since a few Winters ago, I carelessly left them out in the rain. I hope one day I get back to 445 Amherst Street and maybe ask the new owners for a clipping of the old Lemon tree.

3 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I had a very influential gardening-grandpa too. I love how memories like these stick with us through the years. Sometimes it would be wonderful to wind back time. I wonder if the lemon tree is there? My grandpa was also a rose grower. He’d been cultivating them in his garden for 50 some years by the time he died, and used to win awards for his garden design. I was crushed one evening when I made the mistake of looking at the house today, via Google street view (the house is in London, so seeing it in person is a bit more challenging). His beautiful rose garden…is now paved over with solid concrete, and has been turned into parking. I shouldn’t have looked. So sad. I hope you find your lemon tree, though, and can take a cutting…maybe with your grandpa’s lovely pruners, once they’re all cleaned up.

  2. jenn

    Ahh, thanks for your lovely comment, CVF! I know, it’s hard to watch a garden change or disappear altogether. I have a thousand moments of – Shoot, I should have taken a cutting of that! But I guess, even if I did, I don’t know where I would put all of it. That’s why the blogs are so cool… to be able to go back and look at years of gardening.
    When I go back I’ll update this post and let you know if I found the lemon tree. :)

  3. Such a wonderful post. You may love so much your grandpa and grandma. You also love trees like them. Best of luck.