Winter dormancy has reduced my garden to one small winter vegetable bed that may or may not produce as planned. In the interim, I will take a tour of the senses in the beloved and beautiful public gardens of Balboa Park, the crown jewel of planned public parks in the San Diego area.
As visitors stroll across the Cabrillo Bridge, they hear the hum of the busy freeway below and the sounds of auto traffic proceeding into the park. Little do some know, as they follow the thoroughfare of El Prado, the din of modernity dissipates into the tranquility of a Spanish style garden through the archways to the south. This is the Alcazar Garden, originally constructed for the 1935 - 1936 Pacific International Exposition.
We walked into the garden after the chimes of the California tower struck noon; they continued their tune, drowning out the buzz of traffic nearby. After the ringing of the chimes, the most noticeable music was that of the two brightly tiled fountains, bubbling in the dry autumn heat. The fountains were recently renovated in 2008. Previously, unsightly damaged tiles and empty basins greeted visitors. Skate boarders were accused of the destroying tiles, for it looked as if a skate boards had landed on and smashed the tiles. Ugly, caged-like bars attempted to protect the remaining tiles, further marring the landscape. In an ironic twist, renovating workers discovered that moisture had seeped through the grout causing the cracking and decay, rendering the ugly cages obsolete and necessitating an apology to the skate boarding community.
The Alcazar garden was designed to mimic the more famous Alcazar Gardens in Seville, Spain. Besides the tile fountains, it has a shade pergola and numerous benches for taking in the tranquil scene. It is a formal, structured garden with boxwood hedges and adjacent pathways that separate six large central plots, showcasing multi-colored annual flowers and eight plots encircling the garden with more permanent water-wise and butterfly friendly selections. At this time, the two largest central plots are planted with perennial lavender and impatiens, allowing the garden to retain its Mediterranean theme, while providing a water-wise solution for the dry seasonal heat.