How Does Your Garden Grow?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow that I’m semi-settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m looking for volunteering adventures in my own backyard. So when my friend Aura suggested I volunteer with her one Saturday morning at the Gardens of Lake Merritt in Oakland, I jumped at the chance to pitch in!

“Oakland’s Hidden Oasis”

Although I lived in Oakland for several years (right near Lake Merritt in fact), I had never heard of the Gardens. Established more than 50 years ago, the Gardens reside within Lakeside Park, the nation’s first wildlife refuge. (Although I only saw a few ducks.)

The 7-acres of flora are divided into themed gardens: the Mediterranean and Sensory Gardens, the “Google” Succulent Garden and the Rhododendron Garden, the Edible Garden, the Japanese, Bonsai and Torii Gate Gardens, as well as various Palm and Pollinator Gardens.

Getting a Little Dirty

The Gardens used to be cared for by a professional staff dedicated to keeping the grounds beautiful. Cuts in City of Oakland funding, however, means now the Gardens rely on the commitment of community volunteers to keep the flowers blooming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ended up volunteering in the Sensory Garden, lending our limited gardening skills to help weed and mulch. We were teamed up with the highly-skilled Esteban and Carlos, two regulars who take their twice-monthly stewardship of the gardens seriously. (We joked that they might lay awake at night worrying about the weeds!)

There were about 15-20 of us working hard that morning, battling a battalion of onions that were threatening to take over. A few hours in, Sue, one of the Garden’s matriarchs, even stopped by to introduce herself and thank us for our participation. Nice!

Gardens as a Reflection of Your Community

Want to be a part of keeping Oakland beautiful? Here’s how you too can help:

  • Volunteer – The 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month, from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. Gloves, garden tools and snacks are provided.
  • Donate – Become a Friend of the Gardens by making an online tax-deductible donation.
  • Advocate – Join the Pollinator Posse to help raise awareness about the irreplaceable role pollinators, such as bees, play in urban gardening.
  • Be Social – Like the Gardens’ activities on Facebook – I did!
  • Attend an Event – Each October the Gardens host the Autumn Lights Festival, a celebration of local horticultural, arts and music. Plan to join in the fun!






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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015 and is filed under Hot Orgs.

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