Santa Rosa’s blooming with conversation
TENDING TO THE ST ROSE GARDEN
In the St Rose neighborhood, there are some great gardens but the one I am both envious of and inspired by are the gardens at Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church. St. Rose occupies nearly a full city block of downtown real estate. The historic stone building built in 1900 gets much of the attention but the gardens are what catch my eye on my regular walks with my dog. During the peak of Spring, the flowers will be everywhere with the crescendo being the rose bushes lining the walkway to the Parrish doors. Today, the buds on most of the plants and trees are just starting to be visible creating a sense that these grounds are well cared for by a pair of steady hands and a caring soul. Aurelio Hernandez is the soft-spoken man who tends to the garden and grounds.
Aurelio has been the gardener at St. Rose since 1992. Prior to that he had worked picking apples in the Sebastopol orchards. After helping with the grounds at the church in Sebastopol, the local Bishop recognized Aurelio’s good work, and sent him to work at St. Rose where he has been tending to the gardens here ever since.
Wearing masks and appropriately distanced as we walk through the grounds, we talk a bit about the future. Aurelio worries about the future of the garden and grounds if something were to happen to him or when the day comes that he retires. He mentions that he and his wife have a home in Sebastopol where he enjoys tending to his vegetable garden and fruit trees, but he is quick to say that his three days a week at St. Rose makes him feel like he lives here, too.
When asked which plant is his favorite, he redirects me to admire the variety of plants and how they all work together to make the garden beautiful. He alone tends to the 1000’s of plants and numerous trees – pruning, trimming, sculpting, and replanting. He can account for where each flower and plant is located. The St. Rose gardens and grounds are part of Aurelio’s heart & soul and from what I can tell he has become part of the very soil from which they grow.
125 YEARS OF KING’S NURSERY
Back in the 1890’s, George W. King owned and operated grocery stores in Santa Rosa which means that he sold just about everything people needed including seeds. George had been a dancer and class instructor when he moved up from San Francisco to settle down. In 1896, King’s Nursery was established and six generations later, King’s Nursery is still sprouting, blooming, and helping to grow a good deal of our neighbor’s gardens. Fred King and his son, Dan, operate the business which means that they know far more than just how to grow a bunch of plants. Fred bought the business in 1971 from his Dad and alongside his former wife, who still cares for the books, he has kept the business going for the past 50 of its 125 years in operation. In the 1930’s the store moved to its current location at 1212 13th Street and when you visit today it feels like it has always been there. In the scheme of things, the pandemic has been kind to this local small business since they were designated early on as being “essential,” they have plenty of outdoor space for people to shop and remain socially distanced plus a good number of folks have rediscovered that gardening is good for their personal well-being, the community, and the planet. Fred told me that he has boxes piled up filled with historical information about the family run business and when things settle down a bit, he will be working on getting all of that in order – he suspects he may even be able find documentation that proves the nursery’s existence prior to 1896. Until then he is as busy as a bee … with all the work that comes with spring season which makes him feel pretty lucky & blessed to still be dancing among the flowers.
PAINTING THE TOWN
Most Sunday mornings, my husband and I take our dog for a walk to Downtown Santa Rosa, enjoy a bagel, a cup of coffee and if we are lucky, we strike up a conversation with someone we meet. Recently, that someone was none other than Terrence Howell. Terrence and his assistant, Tara were out painting the town. The windows around town that is. They create the window art you see at businesses such as Oliver’s Market, Mac’s Deli, ER Sawyer Jewelers and when I struck up a conversation with them, they were painting beautiful cherry tree blossoms on the windows of The Store Next Door. Terrence is an artist. According to his bio, he studied early Renaissance and Impressionists works while in the US Navy in Europe. Afterwards he spent eight years at Memphis College of Art working in various mediums and styles. His current works were influenced by the artists Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper, and David Hockney. When you are out and about enjoying the spring flowers this month be sure to also check out local storefront windows – if they were painted by Terrence you can bet, they will make you smile. Terrance sells his fine art pieces and uses them in his home staging business – check him out at terrencehowellhomestagingandart.com and fineartamerica.com/profiles/terrence-howell