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Treasure Hunt in East Village Community Gardens Ends With Diamond Ring

 Jonathan Baillehache proposed to Alejandra Calva in the El Jardin del Paraiso garden last month.
Proposal in East Village Community Garden
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EAST VILLAGE — Jonathan Baillehache led Alejandra Calva on a treasure hunt through East Village community gardens last month — which ended when Calva said yes to his marriage proposal.

Baillehache, 29, left a trail of clues across five of the neighborhood's gardens and then proposed to Calva, 28, in the treehouse at the El Jardin del Paraiso garden on East 4th Street, where they had shared their first kiss two years earlier.

"I was suspecting that Alejandra would sense that this [the engagement] was happening so I wanted to make it full of surprises," said Baillehache, who is from France and recently received his doctorate in literature at Rutgers.

The neighborhood's community gardens had been a constant in the couple's two-year relationship, after they met in a Mehanata nightclub on the Lower East Side and clicked over a conversation about the volunteer-kept sanctuaries.

About a month before the June 26 proposal, Baillehache began coordinating with volunteers from gardens including Earth People on East 8th Street between Avenues A and B and the Creative Little Garden on East 6th Street.

"The first surprise was a bottle at the garden on 8th street between B and C — a bottle with a message and a treasure map," he said. "The treasure map included one line of a poem so she could find the next one at the next garden."

Calva, who moved to New York from Philadelphia seven years ago and works in public relations, spent the afternoon following the trail.

"Some of them were really hard to find, so I was running all over the garden to find them," she said.

At the last stop, in the treehouse, Calva opened a letter that Baillehache had left her.

"There was a beautiful letter of why he loves me and why he wants to be with me and I made him read it to me," Calva said via Skype as she sported her unpolished gold and diamond ring from LiloVeve in Brooklyn.

"He asked me to marry him and I said yes. I was jumping up and down in the treehouse."

The two, who just relocated to Georgia for Baillehache's new job as an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, plan to wed next summer.

"We wanted to go to the gardens anyway to say goodbye to the East Village and New York," said Baillehache.

The treasure hunt also included the Plaza Cultural at East 9th Street and Avenue C and the 6th and B garden.

Community gardens "are a little bit of sanctuary from all the buzz and overwhelming nature of the city," Calva said. "You can sit there and forget you are in New York."