The Underground Garden of Baldassare Forestiere - Fresno, CA
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Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Bernd das Brot Team
N 36° 48.485 W 119° 52.836
11S E 243022 N 4077454
Quick Description: Orange Trees ten feet underground
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 6/12/2008 5:04:09 PM
Waymark Code: WM3ZND
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member J.A.R.S.
Views: 241

Long Description:

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This is probably the most unlikely place to grow orange and citrus trees -
ten feet underground. One dreamer and gifted gardener made it happen.

Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere (1879-1946) came to California in 1905 and bought a parcel of land upon which he intended to grow trees and vines. Unfortunately, Baldassare's dreams were dashed when he discovered that his land was a solid plate of hardpan rock, utterly useless for agriculture.
Undaunted and inspired by images he saw in his mind's eye, Baldassare began to dig down through the hardpan.

Over the course of forty years, using only a shovel and a wheel barrel, Baldassare single handedly carved out a network of nearly 100 rooms, grottos, and passageways covering almost ten acres.

This waymark concentrates on Forrestiere's work in gardening and horticulture.

For a tour of his underground living quarters, check out the other waymark
we created for this location.

To grow plants, one needs water and sunlight. For the water, Baldassare built a number of cisterns to collect rain water and lowered a well from the surface into one of his first caverns. (right picture).

In order to provide his plants with sufficient sunlight, Forrestiere dug a vast number of skylights (pictures below) through the hardpan. These holes in the ground are the only evidence of this amazing place on the surface.

This shows, how deep underground we really are. Skylight in the central hall Now, this is why it is called skylight

With water and light at hand, Baldassar could finally start growing his citrus trees. And they are everywhere! Unfortunately, the guided tour we took was a little bit rushed and we were not allowed to stroll away from the group to take more pictures. So, here are just some examples.

Always keep in mind, everything you see is ten feet underground.

Baldassar grafted many of his trees to bear more than one kind of fruit. As a devoted Catholic, he specialized in creating "Trinities", trees bearing three kinds of fruit like Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit. Here are two examples:
One of the weirdest things we saw (as if an underground orchard wouldn't be weird enough already) was the "Strawberry Tree" (Arbutus unedo L.) in the center court. Yes, there really is such a thing, check it out here.

The biggest threat to this underground world is excessive water, and the Central Valley has plenty of that in spring. So, when we visited this amazing place in May, large parts were not yet accessible, including Forrestiere's masterpiece, the "Seven Fruit Tree, a plant bearing valencia, navel, and bittersweet oranges, ponderosa and sweet lemons, grapefruit, and an Italian citron called cedro. A good reason to come back!

Until you get a chance to see this gardening wonder with your own eyes, read more about it at the Underground Garden's official website.

Forrestire's underground realm is a California State Historic Site and is registered in the National Register of Historic Places. However, it is still family owned and operated and sometimes there are already more visitors than the family can handle. Public tours are limited to the weekend. Be polite, expect waiting time and don't advertise it all over the world.

Check out the official website for directions, schedules, prices and a lot more information.

Arboretum address:
Forestiere Underground Gardens
5021 W. Shaw Avenue
Fresno, CA USA

Arboretum web site: [Web Link]

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