El Jefe del Jardin

by Margie B. Klein

Henderson, Nevada, United States

He was El Jefe del Jardin,

the neighborhood garden king.

His reign was 95 years, his throne

a simple chair in the yard.


His long life held many tales, from

a child learning a father’s craft

to time in the merchant marines,

seeing many ports of call.

A visit to California prompted

transfer from sea to land,

where he built a home for his family

and landscaped a site of wonders.

His story one of beloved immigrant,

garnishing the cornucopia that

exhibits America’s beauty.

Drafting and planting were

the tools of his trade.


Builder of all sorts of things,

he was always in the garage

hammering, sawing, constructing

a new “something” for the garden.

His was a public garden

located in the front yard.

There he would sit

while not buzzing to and fro,

beckoning all comers 

to stop, enter, visit.

He had no end of stories.

Only your number of visits would tell

if you heard an untold one

or one repeated for effect.


The garden took over his front yard

and overflowed onto the driveway –

always room for one more pot,

another plant, one flower more.

Decorations accented the whimsy,

from stakes and wreaths to bird houses

and a miniature fountain complete

with figurine characters set up 

in a kiddie pool to attract the kids –

he loved when the children stopped in.


The garden was always changing.

We visited daily to see what was new:

zinnias from his native Chile –

you couldn’t get them here;

special flowers that his wife loved,

and blooms impossible to grow.

“Come, look, come, look,” he’d say

and beckon to neighborly passers-by.

To step into his garden world

was to enter a secret realm.

With admiration people left him gifts

of garden books, supplies and flowers. 

Inspiration was but one gift he gave,

relaying that you can garden, too,

whether five, twenty, or ninety.

It’s what keeps you going on.


And on he went ‘til he could move no more

but only with assistance look over

the gardenscape and there to stop

and rest for just a while.

Towards the end we shouted with joy

when he appeared from his garage

like a flower blooming for a rare moment

or a rainbow in the sky.


Then the planters dwindled and

El Jefe came out no more.

We wondered what had happened

though in our hearts we knew.

Saddened for losing his company

and the bright spot of our day,

but comforted by knowing

his pain was gone and he

could now plant flowers

that would forever bloom.


When he died the flag in his yard

stood at half-mast for the day.

His chair now sits empty

but his presence still is there 

in the flowers, vines, and trees,

in the concept of design,

in the idea of garden sharing.

His gardening spirit will live on

as he touched so many lives,

inspiring dreams of gardens unending.

Now king of those memories.

Margie B. Klein is a freelance writer and retired natural resources professional. A long-time resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, Klein has spent many years educating residents about nature and growing things. She is a fellow with the International League of Conservation Writers, winner of the Conservation Education Award in writing from The Wildlife Society, and a member of the Nevada Poetry Society.