my ambitious scheme to maximize my social outing almost got the better of me today.

this day, though originally supposed to be fun, was one that i wasn't looking forward to very much. let me explain: today is the day of the cambridge secret gardens, an annual event where the residents of cambridge open their gardens to the general public (all for the sake of some library charity). i went for the first time last year and had a great time, so i was very excited to do it again this year. originally i asked my father if he wanted to do it with me, but he expressed some reluctance, so i asked renata. renata was happy to do it except she had to leave at noon to visit her parents in rhode island. i would've been happy with just two hours of secret gardens (doors open at 10am), but since there was 4 more hours to kill (secret gardens close at 4pm), i decided to call up eliza jones to see if she wanted to do it between 12-4pm, since i knew she was a bit of a gardening fanatic. i never expected her to say yes, but was surprised when she replied that she was willing to go. that's when my father re-entered the pictures, said he wanted to see some secret gardens. so i figured out a plan: 10am-12pm i go with renata, 12-12:30pm i go with my father, and then from 12:30-4pm i finish up the secret gardens with eliza.

so sunday rolled around as a part of me was looking forward to seeing the secret gardens but another part of me was dreading it because i had set myself up to do a lot of social juggling. renata showed up at my place at 10am. i hopped into her car and gave her a bag of tupperware containers her mother had given me from last week. we went to three gardens in the avon hill area. i figured since the area was so posh, their gardens must be of a similar ilk. this was not the case however. the first two we saw were very lackluster and i started to get worried since it felt like i was on the verge of another disastrous social outing with renata (found footage festival anyone?). the third garden was more interesting only because there was actually an animated "tour guide" there to explain what was happening in the garden. renata and i both had a chuckle when i read the self-description (from the secret gardens guide book) of the garden we just saw, how it was reflecting the colors of the bagua according to feng-shui design. next we saw two gardens on brattle street. the first one was part of the cambridge historical society and there wasn't much to see, but the second one was a two-time massachusetts horticultural society medalist and this place was amazing. renata and i had a laugh over the description of how the place was modeled after "a british garden, with a few oriental details." renata quietly informed me that most of the people viewing these gardens were senior citizens. i told her that i share many senior citizen hobbies.

bucket fall

jack in
the pulpit



after brattle street, we saw another garden nearby on longfellow street. a nice garden but after just seeing brattle street, it paled in comparison. the stone toad amidst a sea of hostas was a cute touch though. next we drove down to holworthy street besides the mt.auburn star market, the site of my favorite garden from last year. as if trying to outdo last year, this year they had live musicians playing at a corner of the garden underneath a gazebo.

stone toad

flower shells

live music

with 20 minutes to spare before the next shift (12pm), we saw two more gardens, one on lexington street, another on fayerweather. the one on lexington was cool in that it had a little babbling brook, which really makes the garden seem alive. the fayerweather garden wasn't much to look at, and the lush green lawn was mined with dog poop, but the house, a renovated former school, was breathtakingly amazing. renata kept on asking me, "did you see that house?"

renata dropped me off at the cafe at noon. i had invited her to come in, but having never met my parents before and realizing they'd probably give her free food, she didn't want her first encounter to be one where she appeared to be a freeloader, so she quickly took off. i got in a car with my father and we went out for round 2.

since i had only half an hour, we could only see the highlights. fortunately, since i had just seen 12 gardens already (renata and i made pretty good progress in just under 2 hours), i knew which ones were good. first, we to holworthy, last year's favorite. i was worried that the people there would recognize me and get suspicious, but if they did, nobody said anything about it. next, we went to brattle street to see the garden of the two-time massachusetts horticultural society medalist. with two of the best gardens under our belt, my father drove me back to my place where i waited for eliza to show up (she called earlier to let me know she'd be delayed until 1pm, so my father and i actually had a little bit longer to see the gardens).

i watched as eliza pulled up to my street and negotiated a cambridge parking spot. she came in and we played a round of "what's new at my house?" she showed me a deck of iraqi most wanted playing cards a friend of hers gave her. we left soon afterwards, destination north cambridge where there were three gardens waiting for our arrival. the one on chester street was dotted with small man-made ponds filled with kois, while the haskell street garden featured a dining table underneath a shady summerhouse along with free complimentary cookies and lemonade. the third garden on pemberton street was our favorite one in the region, featuring two skyscraper-tall norwegian maples and a multi-tiered backyard, plus a renovated garage decorated with mexican themed christmas lights inside. leaving north cambridge, eliza couldn't resist taking a photo of some fruit baskets on display inside a convenience store window.

we went back to my place briefly where i had to get some fresh batteries and something to drink. eliza accidently left her camera in the house when we continued with the rest of the secret gardens tour.

i brought eliza to the garden on brattle street. if they weren't suspicion when i went there a second time, i was pretty sure red flags would be going off on my third visit. i was surprised to realize that i wouldn't be escorted off the premises for being a multiple visitor. next, holworthy street. once again, i was worried that someone there would catch on, and prior to leaving the house, i even thought about maybe putting on a disguise, changing my appearance a little bit (pants instead of shorts, contacts instead of glasses, tan jacket instead of green jacket), but i figured that would even be more suspicious. nothing happened as i showed eliza the four gardens on holworthy street, i had visited so many times already that i could practically give a tour of the place.

with minutes left before the secret gardens of 2003 would be over, we decided to risk it and drove all the way across cambridge to inman square, where 5 gardens awaited us on antrim street. other than the one garden that was a miniaturized public park with matching symmetrical hedges and a most fragrant centerpiece of hidden rosemary and lavender, the gardens on antrim street were nothing to write home about. with that i had seem my 20th garden of the day (not counting all the repeats) and the tour official drew to a close around 4pm.

eliza drove me back to my place, retrieved her camera, filled up her water bottle, and left to go visit another cambridge friend (eliza lives south of the charles river, so anytime she comes up north is a chance to meet and greet friends she'd otherwise normally never ever see). later in the evening, my parents and sister came by my place for a family dinner. the big discussion was whether or not saffron was the chinese medicine that causes women to miscarry, and after some online researching along with consulting my various books on chinese medicine, we discovered that it's in fact safflower and not saffron that causes miscarriages.