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Carmichael Times

Family Sponsors Jensen Memorial

Oct 26, 2023 09:22AM ● By Susan Maxwell Skinner

Grandchildren of Charles and Marguerite Jensen – Emily Elliott (left) Georgia Langford, Dan Terry and Shirley DicKard – survey their grandparents’ landscaping from the bridge at Jensen Botanical Garden, Carmichael. Photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner.

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - Grandchildren of Charles and Marguerite Jensen will honor their ancestors with new plantings, a plaque and a memorial bench in the gardens that the couple established in Carmichael.

“The memorial will validate grandpa and grandma’s vision,” says Camptonville resident Shirley DicKard. “They would be thrilled to know people are still enjoying what they created – far beyond what they could ever have imagined.”

Charles C. Jensen and his wife Marguerite came from the Bay Area to establish a home and garden on Carmichael Creek. Their legacy is a verdant reserve, now part of Sutter-Jensen Community Park. Photo courtesy of Jensen Family Archive.


Says grandson Dan Terry (77) “It’s really nice to have what we grandkids remember preserved here. The memorial is our way of giving back to Carmichael Community.”

In 1955, their energetic ancestors uprooted themselves from a home and thriving flowerbeds in Oakland and headed to Carmichael, where their three children had settled and produced 11 grandkids.

Charles and Marguerite Jensen are joined by adult children and grandkids for a celebration in the family garden, 1959. Photo courtesy of Jensen Family Archive.

Over ensuing decades, the retirees dug into their three creek-side acres and planted thousands of trees and flowering specimens. As Carmichael grew, so did their redwood, dogwood, rhododendron, azalea, magnolia, camellia and wisteria. Carmichaelites were enchanted. Garden enthusiasts came from far and near to tour the lush oasis.

They still do. Now known as Charles C. Jensen Botanical Garden, its acres are incorporated into Sutter-Jensen Community Park. The garden is administered by Carmichael Park District and largely maintained by a volunteer group called Friends of Jensen Botanical Garden.

When flowerbeds explode with spring color, the masses descend with cameras. Graduates and bridal couples pose beneath flowering arbors. Little girls pose in Easter bonnets and the park annually makes its way into hundreds of family albums.

Jensen descendants have their own memories. Grandchildren Dan, Georgia, Emily and Shirley recall egg hunts in the 1950s. “What eggs we didn’t find, we usually encountered mowing the grass the next day,” says Citrus Heights resident Georgia (72). “Grandma and grandpa put us to work when we visited. Mowing that vast lawn was hard-going, in summer. In 1969, I was the first bride married here. It was a beautiful day, and the azalea were in full bloom. My younger brother got married in 1985, under the same oak tree.”

The Jensen clan celebrate granddaughter Georgia’s marriage to Duffy Langford in the family garden, 1969. Photo courtesy of Jensen Family Archive.

The Jensens’ vista was born of back-breaking work. Retired produce buyer – and WW I flight instructor – Charles first raised a tent in his Carmichael valley. Here he and Marguerite camped for more than a year while their ranch-style house and sprawling garden took shape. “Grandma had been a missionary in Guatemala,” notes Dan. “She had a machete and she’d slash through blackberry bushes and poison oak. We formed family work parties to help.”

When foxes threatened her chickens, Marguerite moved the brood into her kitchen. “I remember them roosting on top of a cupboard,” says Shirley. “When the chicks grew up, they headed back to grandma’s kitchen to hatch their own babies.”

Dan (now a Stockton resident) remembers his grandpa diverting water from Skunk Creek to fill the pond he’d dug. “Grandpa and I went up to the newly formed Folsom Lake and fished. We brought back live perch and catfish to stock his pond.”

Now living in Boisie, Idaho, granddaughter Emily (75) recalls her grandmother face-down on the family’s wooden bridge. “She’d call – ‘here, kitty, kitty’ – and fish swam up to eat Graham Cracker crumbs from her fingers.”

The pond project had flaws. “It wasn’t very deep,” explains grandson Dan. “When big rainstorms flooded the creek, the fish were washed away.” Jensen plantings nevertheless thrived and the green-thumbers hung a “visitors welcome” sign on the gate. Proudly pointing out specimens, Charles conducted thousands of tours.

“He would never think of charging for visits,” notes granddaughter Shirley. “His garden was a gift from the love in his heart. I used to walk with him in spring, and he’d share his gardening philosophy. I learned that including white flowers among garden beds highlighted surrounding colors. I use that tip in my own garden.” An ecologist before his time, Jensen eschewed chemical sprays and blasted aphids with water. He planted flowers in varying degrees of shade to prolong blooming periods.

When Jensen died in 1974 (Marguerite predeceased him by several years), their property was saved from subdivision by subscribers to the Jensen Botanical Garden Corporation. Carmichael Recreation and Park District eventually took over and, more recently, combined Jensen reserve with adjacent Sutter Community Garden.

Skunk Creek is now called Carmichael Creek. Fair Oaks Boulevard traffic now roars with traffic and the Jensens’ 11 grandchildren are now grandparents themselves. Charles and Marguerite are buried in Mt Vernon cemetery. But their retreat remains a community gem. “As a family, we’re so appreciative of the community embracing our grandparents’ garden,” says Shirley.

 “It’s still a place for celebrations and for reflection and solitude – all of which my grandparents valued in their own lives.”

Jensen descendants hope to have the family memorial in place by spring of 2024. Jensen Botanical Garden is located at 8520 Fair Oaks Boulevard.