The Underground Gardens of Fresno, California

Citrus tree under a skylight
Citrus tree under a skylight

This was a grand adventure for a day off during the PDC in Southern California, a trip to Fresno to visit the amazing underground gardens. Created by Baldassare Forestiere in the early 1900’s, this 10 acre underground labyrinth was hand dug over 40 years with a pick, shovel and wheelbarrow.

It’s quite an experience descending down the stairs into this cool underground environment from the intense heat of a southern Californian summers day, and takes a lot of willpower to leave and confront the heat again.

 

To create such a cool paradise in this hostile arid environment, Forestiere excavated a complex web of underground courtyards with skylights shaded by citrus tree canopies and ancient grape vines dripping with fruit.

The shady courtyards are connected by a maze of tunnels and use thermo-syphoning to create pleasant microclimates and cooling breezes.

tunnel--courtyard-wrTunnels converge on a series of garden courtyards planted with citrus trees and one with an ancient grape vine. Other garden caves simply have a conical skylight tube carved out up to the surface over raised gardens with a citrus trees reaching upward to the light.

It’s not only designed to protect from the intense heat of summer, winter brings severe frosts which make growing citrus in the region difficult. The stable underground environment also moderates the extreme cold in winter.

A master of microclimate creation, Forestiere displays incredible ingenuity and a whimsical sense of humor throughout this facinating and captivating underground living and garden environment.

Up on the surface looking at the Forestiere property one would never guess what lies below – the  last photo below is a ground-view of the the same underground garden courtyard skylight pictured above with its timber slatted shade structure.

Photos and article by Robyn Francis

Fresno Gardens Official Web-site

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