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A garden grows
August 24, 2012, 05:00 AM By Jon Mays Daily Journal staff

San Mateo’s Central Park is both close to my house and my office, but I never spent significant time there until recently. Now, it’s practically my backyard. With a 10-month-old who likes to be outside, we venture there just about every day. Sometimes twice a day, like when we went for our morning walk just hours before our annual company brunch near the Kohl Pumphouse (The Daily Journal just celebrated its 12th anniversary!).

There is a lot of variety in the park — nice trees, flowers and other usual and unusual plants. There is an excellent swing set for babies, and the walk to it usually leads to casual encounters with a combination of slow-moving people in the midst of tai chi or sometimes hula and the quick-moving mommy and me exercise classes. With some looming buildings in the background, it has an urban oasis feel without a lot of noise — sometimes just the music from the Recreation Center and the sounds of children at play. And nearly everyone knows about the well-manicured Japanese Tea Garden. In short, it’s a nice place. Even sleepy newspaper editors are welcome.

I pretty much know just about every corner now and notice even subtle changes to its landscape. Now, there is a new addition ready to greet visitors to the park — one of the few large-scale additions in recent years if you don’t count the new redwood tree planted in May. The fine folks at the San Mateo Arboretum Society are in the midst of prepping a 60-foot patch of land that will be home to a butterfly/hummingbird garden in the eastern section of the park near the Laurel Avenue entrance and just to the north of the rose garden. Normally, I couldn’t give a flap or a flutter about butterflies and hummingbirds but I know my daughter is entranced by them, so I’m looking forward to it.

Phyllis Mitchell, a Arboretum Society board member and volunteer for the past 12 years, got the idea after coordinating an iris planting project with Brownies and Girl Scouts. Once the city’s budget was finalized, there was enough money to begin the process of prepping the ground, installing an irrigation system and buying the boxwood hedging similar to the hedging at the rose garden. Next comes a couple of bird baths and the planting of a variety of flora that appeals to both butterflies and hummingbirds. And don’t forget mulch. That is estimated to be completed around October. In the meantime, the society is also selling some celebration benches to be placed in the garden. There’s no guarantee when and if the butterflies and hummingbirds will come but it’s kind of a "Field of Dreams” scenario.

Mitchell reports working with the city’s groundskeepers has been super easy and much of the work has been done, as she put it, "lickety-split.”

There’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining a park, and it’s obvious the groundskeepers do a great job. But it’s also a benefit to have a group of volunteers at the Arboretum Society help out and pitch new and creative ideas for all of us to enjoy.

If you’re interested in inquiring about a celebration bench contact the society at 579-0536.

Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at

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