Past the Ruben H Fleet and beyond the dramatic Bea Evenson fountain, off the beaten path of El Prado, visitors will find the maze-like grotto of the Zoro Garden. As the elevation descends, so does the temperature, the foliage providing cooler pockets of air in between patches of sun. The garden is historically and presently a tactile tease, for the visitor is tempted to touch what the garden rules have deemed forbidden fruit.
Like the Alcazar Garden, the Zoro Garden was also constructed for the 1935 - 1936 Pacific International Exposition. But rather than showcase fountains and plants, the Zoro Gardens was marketed and portrayed as a Nudist Colony. Ever popular and scandalous, many peeped through the garden fence to get a glimpse of the comely women nudists cavorting in their “natural environment.” See pictures.
The Zoro Garden is now a butterfly garden, providing sanctuary to migrating monarchs on their way to Mexico. It has multiple varieties of plants that serve as food as well as shelter for transformative chrysalises. There still exists that tactile temptation to touch one’s surroundings or even a brave butterfly that ventures too closely. Park signs forbid it: Do not touch butterflies, caterpillars, cocoons, or disturb the winged wildlife in any way. The visitor must be satisfied to run a hand over the uneven mortar and stone that forms the meandering pathways of the garden.
While we missed the migrating monarchs, we followed the paths toward the central amphitheater, noting the remaining autumn blooms, white milkweed, purple salvia, and yellow cone flowers. The dappled sunlight was unmoving in the still air, providing relief from the late fall heat. The tall ferns further augmented the sensation of tropical coolness.
I hope to revisit the Zoro Garden in early spring to experience the northward monarch migration. Perhaps if fortune favors me, I will be blessed with the light, feathery touch of butterfly wings.