Observed within a few blocks of each other, two volunteers and a planting. The first one is a small agave planted in a hole in the sidewalk. A valiant effort indeed. Given Caltrans and/or Sonoma County’s neglect of these areas, it may survive a while. The second one looks like volunteer tomatoes springing up at a storm drain. I hope that’s what they are! Third is a humble little California poppy growing in a crack between the curb and sidewalk. Symbolic of California today?
Sometime between March and November of 2019, Tony started constructing his installation of flowerpots, plants, garden ornaments, lumber, and concrete blocks on the side of the street in front of 67 Central Avenue in Boyes Hot Springs. I originally assumed his name was Richard because of the sign he posted in 2021. The sign, which is not up currently, is a bit puzzling, but I’m glad he gave himself credit, no matter what name he used.
Tony was born in Nayarit state, Mexico and came to the U.S. 50 or 60 years ago (he’s a bit vague on this). He has worked as a landscaper his whole life. “I know how to take care of plants,” he told me.
Joanie Bourg via Facebook:
“He used to come into Sonoma Mission Gardens where I worked for many years.. order plants or buy soil. The thing that struck me about Tony was his super boisterous laugh and spirit, and he obviously worked hard as a gardener.. I would see his truck everywhere. He’s a larger than life dude. I’m also a gardener by profession, so I know just how hard the work is. I love his fighting spirit.”
He has worked at that trade until he got sick. “The doctors took my money, and I’m still sick,” he said. He will go back to Mexico when it’s “time for the ‘cementary’,” he joked. He usually walks with two canes, which he made himself, because he doesn’t like the store-bought ones.
Tony has lived in the apartments next door to his garden for five or six years.
His garden evolves with the seasons. He grows geraniums and plants annual flowers in season. He also uses artificial flowers. Periodically he paints the pots a new color.
Tony drives a Ford work truck. I find it charming that he has replaced the Ford logotype on the tailgate with stick-on lettering, which is slightly askew. It’s a very competent looking truck.
Tony’s garden is getting noticed on social media, probably because it’s close to a popular restaurant, and it’s so great!
Thank you Tony Perez for your gift to our neighborhood!
This post will be updated as Tony’s Garden evolves.
June, July, and August 2022. Tony is bringing a lot of tools and material out of storage to sell.
Fences and trees: they have conversations, disputes, collaborations. Time is involved.
This year there have been a lot of volunteer sunflowers all over the neighborhood. Why this year? Whatever the reason, they are a welcome sight, even amongst the weeds and bromes.
Artists and obsession:
Artists, aging, and obsession:
“I have drawn things since I was 6. All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting. At 73 I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At 90 I will enter into the secret of things. At 110, everything – every dot, every dash – will live. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age, I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'” ~ Hokusai
“Mount Fuji is a popular subject for Japanese art due to its cultural and religious significance. This belief can be traced to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where a goddess deposits the elixir of life on the peak. As the historian Henry Smith explains, “Thus from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai’s own obsession with the mountain.”” Wikipedia
Here in Boyes Hot Springs, we have a similarly visible, tall monument, and while the Spa does not claim to bestow eternal life, it definitely makes life more enjoyable, and is a worthy subject of an artist’s obsession.
“It all adds up to a reminder that, even as the art historians have been slowly trying to squeeze the history our their discipline, artists have been assiduously turning them selves in to historians, archivists even collectors of a sort.” Barry Schwabsky, The Nation Magazine, April 2014
“Historically revered by Native Americans for its healing power, the elegant Spanish mission–style Inn boasts an enviable location atop an ancient thermal mineral spring, flowing from 1,100 feet below the surface. The tranquility and beauty of this environment is echoed throughout the 40,000-square-foot spa, which offers endless opportunities to find your energy.” From the SMI website
Photographs courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the author.
In 2008 final construction drawings for “Phase 2 Stage 1” of the Highway 12 sidewalk project were issued. The drawings are detailed and very specific, as they would be. Everything is spelled out, down to the design of the hardware used to hold up mail boxes, sign details, and the depth of fence posts.
One thing that was not thought about is the space created, or delineated between the edge of the sidewalk and buildings, fences and walls along the highway. Formerly just part of the shoulder of the road, these unpaved spaces became the chaotic province of weeds and trash, unclaimed and untended by anybody.
This 300’ strip on the east side of the highway between Hawthorne and Thomson is a good example.
Other examples of wasted space.
The new sidewalks, streetlights, and other amenities provided by the project are much appreciated in the community. It’s a shame that the interstices of the design were not dealt with originally, but they now represent an opportunity for creativity and community engagement. Let a hundred fledgling landscape architects bloom!
A fiesta on Mothers Day, 2019:Mariachi in Boyes Hot Springs. https://youtu.be/fUv7VsVHFw4
For lovers of the prickly vegetable, the presence of groves of wild artichokes, as we have in the Valley of the Moon, might seem like an indication of paradise. In addition to being delicious, artichoke flowers are beautiful, fragrant, and attract bees.
However, the wild cynara carduncula is a fearsome invasive plant.
According to the California Invasive Plant Council, the thistle was probably imported from Europe in the early 19th century as a food plant. It becomes invasive when it escapes cultivation and begins to reproduce from seed. Darwin found it growing in the Argentine pampas in 1889 in an area of “hundreds of square miles.”
At its worst, the “edible thistle” forms thickets that are impenetrable by humans or animals and that shade out native plants. As they develop tap roots eight feet deep and produce seed banks that endure for five years, they are very difficult to control.
More info at this link:
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2021-Someone, probably Caltrans, has eradicated all the cardoon along the sidewalk north of Sunnyside. They probably used Roundup. I have no doubt that the “forest” will be back this winter, because that lot is full of seeds, some of which could have been there for five years and still be viable.