The abandoned lots were originally strewn with rusty cars, decrepit refrigerators and rubble. But over the years, the land became a secret garden, a tree-lined oasis with winding brick paths in the middle of Brooklyn.
With his free weekends and evenings, Lars Qualben slowly nurtured frail foot-high seedlings in Carroll Gardens into a backyard of sturdy giving trees for his family.
When his two sons could barely walk, Mr. Qualben hung swings from the branches of the mulberry tree so they could fly through the air. Once the boys could scamper, he pruned the branches so they could climb up and build their own treehouse. His sons, now 15 and 14, have graduated from middle school. The family celebrated with a party under the tree canopy.
Even dead tree trunks were made into garden benches.
Mr. Qualben’s trees now display a radiant fall palate of reds and yellows. The garden offered Mr. Qualben, 49, a senior vice president at Marsh & McLennan, some solace for urban living. It now offers his family some solace for their pain. 'We feel him in our lives by being there and looking at it,' said Martha Qualben, his wife. 'It’s a place where he is a living presence.'