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O.C.’s Sherman Library & Gardens tree holds about 4,000 wishes for 2021

A woman looks at a holiday message hanging from the wishing tree at Sherman Library & Gardens.
Some of the thousands of messages on the Sherman Library & Gardens Wishing Tree in Corona del Mar. The annual holiday tradition has many more messages than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.
(Don Leach / Times Community News )

Some of Orange County’s hopes and desires for the year are hanging inside a 2-acre beachside patch of greenery in Corona del Mar for all to see.

Sherman Library & Gardens set up its annual Wishing Tree, and members of the public — about 4,000 of them — have responded, providing a unique snapshot of the times.

What are people wishing for in 2021?

There are an overwhelming amount of wishes for the coronavirus pandemic to end, a vaccine to become widely available and for the nation to come together.

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The Wishing Tree started seven years ago along with Sherman Library’s Nights of 1,000 Lights holiday event. At first, staff used a small Japanese maple tree, but as the wishes piled up they expanded to hang on nearly every branch visitors could find. Two years ago, the setup was moved to one of the oldest trees in the garden — a California pepper tree.

“In the beginning, we really wanted it to be a family tradition for people in Orange County,” said Scott LaFleur, executive director of Sherman Library & Gardens. “The Wishing Tree is something that’s been around for generations and a part of many cultures. It’s a neat way for people to put their thoughts, hopes and desires on a piece of paper to get it off their chest or out of their hearts for the whole world to see.”

One of more than 1,000 messages on the Sherman Library & Gardens Wishing Tree.
(Don Leach / Times Community News )

The Wishing Tree will be available to visitors until Feb. 26, through Lunar New Year celebrations.

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LaFleur said that although fewer people attended the gardens’ Nights of 1,000 Lights event than previous years because of the pandemic, the tree is still full of wishes.

He said that like most nonprofits, the Sherman Library felt the burden and cuts during the pandemic, especially because most of its income came from wedding events, rentals and the on-site restaurant, which has opened and closed multiple times in the last year. But LaFleur added that the garden has a sustainable future.

The most recent hire includes the gardens’ first education director, Catherine Dickinson, and the facility is looking to hire a program educator to start offering additional classes about Pacific Southwest history, horticulture and arts. Classes, in-person and limited in size, are available focusing on floral design and gardening.

The gardens have remained open for visitors by following strict COVID-19 protocols such as wearing face masks, maintaining social distance and requiring hand sanitizing upon entry.

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“If people need a place to get some mental well-being or take a break from the news and everything else that’s going on, we welcome them to come and feel safe,” LaFleur said. “We look forward to supporting them throughout the year until we get everything back to normal.”

Castaneda writes for Times Community News.


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