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  • March 06, 2021 9:05 AM | David Laws

    By David A. Laws (March 6, 2021) 

    Early in the 20th century, in Santa Cruz County, California, the city of Watsonville displayed a prominent banner across Main Street, proclaiming the nickname “The Apple City.”  Many city leaders made their living in the business of growing, processing, and shipping apple and apple products all over the country and overseas. As they succeeded, competition became fierce. Growers distinguished their fruit and orchards by creating brand names based on themes and lifestyles of the era that they promoted in vivid color and bold graphics on apple crate packing labels.

    "Apple City" sign circa 1910. Photo: Pajaro Valley Historical Association

    In 2008, Gabe Lopez, the owner of Golden State Auto Care at 20 East Lake Avenue, commissioned artist Art Thomae to paint a mural based on a Franich Bros. brand label from the 1920s on a side wall of his business overlooking Union Street.

    Original F.B. Brand crate label from the 1920s Model for mural.

    Inspired by Lopez’s lead, in 2009, the City of Watsonville established an Historic Label Art Mural Project to encourage artists to paint fifteen large murals of early-1900s era apple crate labels on the walls of businesses throughout downtown. Some artists received city financial support; private individuals funded others. Two murals were lost when buildings were razed. Thirteen remain today; eleven of them appear in the photo collage below as printed on page 87 of the Winter 2021 special orchard-themed issue of Eden.   

    Visit the Watsonville City website to download a pdf walking guide to the murals.

  • February 28, 2021 7:46 AM | David Laws

    By Susan Chamberlin (February 28, 2021)

    This early history of the rose in California by Darrell g.h. Schramm is an essential reference. Native species, varieties introduced by the Spanish colonizers and subsequent settlers, roses arising in California, and a chronological history of California rose nurseries are some highlights. Rose rustlers will appreciate the lists of introductions and lost roses at the end. The history ends in the 1920s. No footnotes but the bibliography is extensive. 

    About the Author - Biography from the rear cover of the book 

    Darrell g.h. Schramm, rose historian, a retired rhetoric, composition, and poetry professor, and a Master Gardener, is the author of numerous articles in such publications as American Rose, Historic Rose Journal, Heritage Roses New Zealand, Pacific Horticulture, Rose Letter, Rosa Mundi, By Any Other Name and others, including literary, educational, and historical journals and magazines. On the national board of the Heritage Roses Group, he is editor of its quarterly, while also serving on the board for The Friends of Vintage Roses and editing its online newsletter. He lives and gardens in Vallejo, California.

    Excerpts from the book can be reviewed at:

  • February 18, 2021 5:28 PM | David Laws

    Posted by David Laws (February 18, 2021)

    Thaïsa Way Program Director for Garden & Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, a Harvard University research institution located in Washington DC presented an online lecture "Shaping Landscape Architecture in the Early 20th Century: Race, Gender, and Difference" to CGLHS members on February 17, 2021. A video recording of the lecture can be viewed on the Members Only CGLHS Talks page of this website.  

    Works cited during the talk are listed below:

    “African-American Gardens at Monticello.” Monticello. Accessed August 4, 2020.

    Allen, Walter R. and  Joseph O. Jewell, Kimberly A. Griffin, and De'Sha S. Wolf. "Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Honoring the Past, Engaging the Present, Touching the Future." The Journal of Negro Education 76, no. 3 (2007): 263-280.

    Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum. “Biography.” Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum. Accessed August 4, 2020.

    Begg, Virginia Lopez. "Influential Friends: Charles Sprague Sargent and Louisa Yeomans King." Journal of the New England Garden History Society. Vol. 1 (Fall 1991): 38-45.   

    Bell, Susan Groag. "Women Create Gardens in Male Landscapes: A Revisionist Approach to Eighteenth-Century English Garden History." Feminist Studies 16, no. 3 (1990): 471-91

    Berry, Daina Ramey, and Gross, Kali Nicole. A Black Women's History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press, 2020.

    “Black Women’s Club Movement.” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Accessed July 6, 2020.

    Blain, Keisha N. Set the World on Fire : Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom. Politics and Culture in Modern America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.

    Brown, Nikki. Private Politics and Public Voices :Black Women's Activism from World War I to the New Deal. Blacks in the Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

    Burnett, Frances Hodgson, and Tasha Tudor. The Secret Garden. 1st Harper Trophy ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1987.

    Combahee River Collective. "“The Combahee River Collective Statement” (1977)." In Available Means: An Anthology Of Women's Rhetoric(s), edited by Ritchie Joy and Ronald Kate, Pittsburgh, Pa: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001: 292-300.

    Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics [1989].” In Feminist Legal Theory, 1st ed. Routledge, 1991: 57-80.

    Davidson, R. W. Introduction to The Spirit of the Garden, Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press: 2001.

    Davis, Elizabeth Lindsay. Lifting As They Climb. District of Columbia: National Association of Colored Women, 1933, originally published 1933.

    Farrand, Beatrix. The Bulletins of Reef Point Gardens. Bar Harbor, Me. : Sagaponack, N.Y.: Island Foundation ; Distributed by Sagapress, 1997.

    Ford, Charita M. "Flowering a Feminist Garden: The Writings and Poetry of Anne Spencer." Sage (Atlanta, Ga.) 5, no. 1 (1988): 7-14.

    Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things. New York: Vintage Books, 1971. 

    Frischkorn, Rebecca T., Anne Spencer, and Reuben M. Rainey. Half My World : The Garden of Anne Spencer, a History and Guide. Lynchburg, Va.: Warwick House Pub., 2003.

    Frost, H. A. and W. R. Sears. Women in Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Northhampton, Massachusetts: Smith College, 1928.

    Giesecke, Annette, and Naomi Jacobs. Earth Perfect? : Nature, Utopia and the Garden. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2012.

    Giesecke, Annette, and Naomi Jacobs. The Good Gardener? : Nature, Humanity and the Garden. London: Artifice Books on Architecture, 2015.

    “Gilles Deleuze/ Becoming.” The Human Geography Knowledge Base. Accessed August 1, 2020.

    Glave, Dianne D. Rooted in the Earth : Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. 1st ed. Chicago, Ill.: Lawrence Hill Books, 2010.

    Gundaker, Grey, and Tynes Cowan. Keep Your Head to the Sky : Interpreting African American Home Ground, Democracy and Urban Landscapes. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

    “Guide to the Century of Progress International Exposition,” University of Chicago Library,, Accessed July 7, 2020.

    Haraway, Donna Jeanne. When Species Meet. Posthumanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

    Harris, Carmen V. "The South Carolina Home in Black and White: Race, Gender, and Power in Home Demonstration Work." Agricultural History 93, no. 3 (2019): 477-501.

    Harris, Dianne Suzette. Little White Houses : How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America. Architecture, Landscape, and American Culture Series. Minneapolis, Minnesota ; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

    Harris, Dianne. "Women as Gardeners," in Encyclopedia of Gardens : History and Design, ed. Candice A. Shoemaker and Chicago Botanic Garden. New York: Routledge, 2018: 1448.

    Heath, Barbara J., and Amber Bennett. “‘The Little Spots Allow’d Them’ The Archaeological Study of African American Hards.” Historical Archaeology 34(2) (2000): 38-55.

    Henry, Marianne Morgan. "Notes: A Practical Course in Landscape Architecture." Bulletin of the Garden Club of America,  January 1938: 122-125.

    Hetherington, Kevin. The Badlands of Modernity : Heterotopia and Social Ordering. International Library of Sociology. London; New York: Routledge, 1997.

     “History.Guide to the Delphinium Garden Club of Dayton Records. Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives, 1931-2012.

    “History.” National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Accessed August 1, 2020.

    hooks, bell. Belonging : A Culture of Place. New York: Routledge, 2008, 5.

    hooks, bell. "Earthbound: On Solid Ground." in Belonging : A Culture of Place. New York: Routledge, 2008.

    hooks, bell. Yearning : Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1999.

    Hutcheson, M. B. The Spirit of the Garden. Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1923.

    Hutcheson, Martha Brookes.“ Wider Program for Garden Clubs.” Address to the general meeting of the Garden Club of America, May 1919, New York, NY. Reprinted as “Excerpts from the Wider Program, 1919.” Bulletin of the Garden Club of America (Jan. 1938): 26-27.

    Jay, Martin. Adorno. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984.

    Johnson, Jessica Marie. Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020.

    Jones, Jacqueline. Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow : Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present. New York: Basic Books, 1985.

    Jones, Martha S. Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won The Vote, And Insisted On Equality For All. Basic Books, 2020.

    Koues, H. "Good Housekeeping Exhibition: Classic Modern Garden and Pavilion At A Century of Progress--Chicago." Good Housekeeping XCIX(2)1934): 54,55,56,132.

    "Little House Gets Crop of 36 Apples," New York Times, July 20, 1935: 15.

    Major, Judith K. Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer : A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013.

    McKay, George. Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism & Rebellion in the Garden. London, England: Frances Lincoln Publishers, dist. by PGW, May 2011.

    "Model Home Opens; Throng Inspects It," New York Times, Nov 7, 1934: 33.

    Mullins, Paul. “Gardens in the Black City: Landscaping 20th-Century African America.” Archaeology and Material Culture (blog). July 19, 2015. Accessed August, 4, 2020.

    Neyland, Leedell W., and Fahm, Esther Glover. Historically Black Land-grant Institutions and the Development of Agriculture and Home Economics, 1890-1990. Tallahassee, Fla.: Florida A & M University Foundation, 1990.

    Parker, Rozsika. “Unnatural History: Women, Gardening, and Feminity” in Kingsbury, Noël, and Tim Richardson. Vista : The Culture and Politics of Gardens. 1st Frances Lincoln ed. London: Frances Lincoln, 2005.

    Phillps, Karen and Perry Howard. 2020 Landscape Architecture Speaker Series – Karen Phillips and Perry Howard.”, Accessed August 1, 2020.

    Roberts, Edith Adelaide, and Elsa. Rehmann. American Plants for American Gardens. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

    Scholl, Jan. "Extension Family and Consumer Sciences: Why It Was Included in the Smith-Lever Act of 1914." Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences 105, no. 4 (2013): 8-16.

    Scott, Anne Firor. "Most Invisible of All: Black Women's Voluntary Associations." The Journal of Southern History 56, no. 1 (1990): 3-22.

    Scott, Anne Firor. Natural Allies: Women's Associations in American History. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1991.

    Shipman, Ellen Biddle. "Garden-Notebook," in Ellen McGowan Biddle Shipman #1259, Division of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Cornell University Library, Ithaca.

    Spencer-Wood, Suzanne M., and Sherene Baugher. "Introduction to the Historical Archaeology of Powered Cultural Landscapes." International Journal of Historical Archaeology 14, no. 4 (2010): 463-74.

    Spicer, A. H. "The Gardening Women in Our Town." The House Beautiful, (1913): 103-104.

    Sprague, Charles and William A. “Cover Page”,  Garden and Forest Magazine 10 (1897): 192.

    Stackelberg, Katharine T. "Performative Space and Garden Transgressions in Tacitus' Death of Messalina." American Journal of Philology 130, no. 4 (2009): 595-624.

    The Home Demonstration Agent; AIB 38-July 1951, US Department of Agriculture, booklet; 25-27.

    Thoren, Roxi. “Dreaming True.” Places Journal, November 2018., Accessed August 1, 2020.

    Van Rensselaer, Mariana (Mrs. Schuyler). "Landscape Gardening--a Definition." Garden and Forest 1, no. 1 (1888):2.

    Van Rensselaer, Mariana (Mrs. Schuyler), Art Out-of-Doors : Hints on Good Taste in Gardening. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1893, 1925.

    Vlach, John. The Back of the Big House. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1993.

    Waldenberger, Suzanne. "Barrio Gardens: The Arrangement of a Woman's Space." Western Folklore 59, no. 3 (2000).

    Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens : Womanist Prose. 1st ed. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983.

    Waring, G. E. Village improvements and farm villages. Boston, MA: J. R. Osgood and company, 1877.

    Way, Thaïsa and Steven Calcott. "Expanding Histories/ Expanding Preservation: The Wild Garden as Designed Landscape" Journal of Preservation Education and Research, 2 (Fall 2009): 53-64.

    Way Thaïsa. “Longue Vue Gardens and Landscape: Ellen Biddle Shipman’s Contributions" Longue Vue House and Gardens: The Architecture, Interiors, and Gardens of New Orleans' Most Celebrated Estate, Charles Davey and Carol McMichael Reese. New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2015: 192-221.

    Way, Thaïsa. “Social Agendas of Early Women Landscape Architects.” Landscape Journal, 25/2 (Fall 2006): 187-204.

    Way, Thaïsa. Unbounded Practice : Women and Landscape Architecture in the Early Twentieth Century. Democracy and Urban Landscapes. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009.

    Westmacott, Richard Noble. African-American Gardens and Yards in the Rural South. 1st ed. Democracy and Urban Landscapes. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992.

    “W.H. Manning to Frank Seiberling, Akron, Ohio, July 20, 1917,” Stan Hywett Archives.

    White, Monica. Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

    Williams, H. Hamilton. Handbook of the Negro Garden Club of Virginia. Hampton, Virginia: Hampton institute, Department of ornamental horticulture and Division of summer and extension study cooperating, 1943.

    Wolcott, Victoria W. Remaking Respectability : African American Women in Interwar Detroit. Gender & American Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

    Wood, Betty. Women's Work, Men's Work : The Informal Slave Economies of Lowcountry Georgia. University of Georgia Press, 1995.

    Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.

    Wright, Richardson. “House & Gardens Own Hall of Fame.” House & Garden (June, 1933).

  • October 23, 2020 8:48 AM | David Laws

    By Janet Gracyk (October 23, 2020)

    With COVID-19 restrictions this year we have been seeking ways to help members connect with landscapes and with each other. Please check out the website and participate. The new Members Only pages are accessed from the green menu bar on our home page. Note that you must log in to for access. If you have not logged in before just use the “Forgot Password” button to create your password. 

    CGLHS Talks: Did you miss a previous lecture or just want to revisit it? Recordings of recent lectures are available for members. 

    Sharing Project: CGLHS members are often engaged in fascinating projects or have acquired knowledge about surprising plants or landscapes. Maybe you are working on care and preservation of historic landscapes or you know about the location of an unusual plant or garden. Share your insights. 

    Meaning, Memory, and Landscape: This project was inspired by an essay by the cultural historian Robert Melnick titled Are We There Yet?,* in which he makes a plea to record the personal and the passionate in landscape. We all have places and people who drew us into the world of landscapes and captured our imaginations or that continue to move us. It may be some wild place, a family garden, or a grand vista. We invite you to post your story. 

    HALS Reports: We announced the annual competition for Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) reports in the spring, and several CGLHS members submitted documentation. Members can post their surveys here and they will be accessible once they're vetted by the National Park Service. 

    In addition, we have two Facebook pages to explore: 

    As we look ahead to 2021 we are planning additional lectures online. Are you a candidate to present one of our talks? Let us know.


    * Robert Z. Melnick, “Are We There Yet?: Travels and Tribulations in the Cultural Landscape.” Cultural Landscapes: Balancing Nature and Heritage in Preservation Practice, edited by Richard Longstreth, NED - New edition ed. (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis; London, 2008). pp. 197–210.

  • June 05, 2020 7:48 AM | David Laws

    By Janet Gracyk (June 4, 2020)

    Each year, the National Park Service Heritage Documentation Program sponsors a competition to document a significant landscape for inclusion in the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). The theme for 2020 is Vanishing or Lost Landscapes. CGLHS encourages everyone to participate. The deadline is July 31st.

    Remnant of the James Flood Estate, Atherton. CA. HABS photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

    That vanishing or lost landscape may never be documented without your efforts!  For those new to researching a landscape, this is a good way to start. The closure of libraries due to the COVID 19 pandemic poses a challenge, so you may have to rely on online resources and books in your personal library. 

    Following are four simple steps involved in documenting a lost landscape.

    1. Select a landscape. If it is nearby and you can visit without violating any “shelter in place mandates, go take a look to remind yourself of the essential features.  
    2. Take photos or dig up any you have taken in the past. All documentation goes to the Library of Congress, creating a permanent record of a landscape. The Library of Congress is very particular about copyright, so only submit photographs you have taken yourself, or images that you have permission to use from the copyright owner.
    3. Do some research using any sources you have to hand, search online, and call anyone who may be familiar with the history of the site.  Be sure to keep good notes on your sources - you'll need that information.
    4. Use the HALS online template (link here) and fill in the report.
    • Describe the landscape as it was at its peak, in as much detail as you can.
    •  Describe all existing remnants to provide the most accurate record of what is there today.
    • Add your photos, and you are done. 

    The Historic American Landscapes Survey uses both a short-format report, supported with some research and a few digital photos, and a much more involved format with detailed drawings and in-depth research. The short-format HALS report used for this competition is the easiest and most accessible form of recordation. The program also provides flexibility, and a short-format report may be expanded at a later date.

    If you plan to submit a report, please contact me, Janet Gracyk, at to avoid duplicating efforts. I am also happy to provide additional guidance.

    Visit the following pages for more information and to download a copy of the template.


    NPS Information:

    ASLA information:

  • April 15, 2020 1:17 PM | David Laws

    By Janet Gracyk (April 15, 2020)

    Changes proposed for the California State Capitol property in Sacramento include demolition of the late Moderne style Annex building. The project is advancing rapidly but there is still time to question aspects of this project. Documents may be viewed at: .

    Per the EIR, the project involves three primary components, (1) demolition and reconstruction of the existing Annex, (2) construction of a new underground visitor/welcome center on the west side of the Historic Capitol, and (3) construction of a new underground parking garage south of the Historic Capitol. See map below for the affected areas.

    The mid-century Annex Building (built 1949-1951) would be removed entirely, with some decorative details removed for reuse. No one doubts that the Annex requires significant modifications, should it be retained, but retention of the building is not under consideration. The building is part of the National Register district. There was no consideration given to restoring, rehabilitating, or reconstructing the Annex. 

    There is surprisingly little analysis of the effects on the historic landscape. The EIR states: "It is estimated that approximately 20-30 trees would need to be removed to implement the project.” People with expertise following the project say that there are 106 historic trees in the footprint of the project, with no thorough plan for the trees. There are over 200 different kinds of trees in Capitol Park. This collection of trees, including many unusual ones, has been diminishing in variety for some years now. It is not entirely clear from the documents, how the Capitol’s “front porch” on 10th Street would be affected, but knowledgeable people have expressed great concern. Nothing in the EIR bodes well for this quality of the park. 

    Of note in the Recirculated - Draft Environmental Impact Report is this text, as an example of concern with the proposed project, and that’s only for the Visitor Center: 

    Overall, the new visitor/welcome center would alter historic landscape features of the West Lawn of the Capitol and reduce the ability of the resource to communicate its period of significance. The proposed project would introduce a large, modern intrusion into the historic landscape, which would eradicate almost one-third of the West Lawn’s character-defining features, such as historic circulation, portions of its vegetation, the spatial organization, and the topography. Therefore, this change would contribute to a significant impact on the historical resource.

    Furthermore, the Historical State Capitol Commission, which by statute is to have access to all State agency documents when requested, has been denied access to documents. Commissioners have resigned, in protest. 

    Analysis of the construction of the underground parking structure, which gains 50 spaces over the current 150 spaces below the Annex, suggests little impact on the landscape. The claim is that the lack of information is due to the preliminary nature of the structure at this point, there does not appear to be a requirement for further study of effect of construction and the changes to the landscape.

    For questions or further information, contact former commissioners Dick Cowan at or Paula Peper at

    Take action by contacting or writing to your state legislators, as well as Bill Monning, Chair of the Joint Rules Committee at  If you need to locate your representatives, search

  • March 17, 2020 12:18 PM | David Laws

    By Nancy Carol Carter (March 17, 2020)

    Belle Sumner Angier moved with her family from Illinois to a farm on the San Diego north coast in 1884. Her interest in botany was stimulated by visits to the endemic forest of Torrey pine trees near La Jolla. Encouraged by a distant family relative, Charles Sprague Sargent of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, Angier conducted the first inventory of the rare trees. She joined advocacy efforts resulting in ordinances extending protection to the endangered groves and wrote about San Diego’s Torrey pines in the Overland Monthly (June 1900).

    Angier operated a downtown secretarial bureau and the Angier Agency, one of San Diego’s early advertising businesses. While still living and working in San Diego, she took charge in 1903 of “The House Beautiful—its Flower Garden and Grounds,” a new feature in the Los Angeles Times. San Diego gardens were included in her coverage. In 1904 she placed two articles in Floral Life (February and March 1904).

    By 1905 Belle Sumner Angier was residing in Los Angeles and finishing The Garden Book of California (San Francisco: Paul Elder and Co., 1906). The work was well received and its expressive writing on gardens and the making of a California home is still quoted. Angier took a staff position with West Coast Magazine in 1907 and, at age 36, married artist and photographer Walter Lewis Burn. She wrote for House Beautiful and placed another article in the Overland Monthly (October 1916).

    Advertising as Mrs. Walter Lewis Burn, she offered service as a “consulting landscape gardener.” Little is known of her landscape work beyond the elaborate gardens created in 1907 for the Hotel Virginia in Long Beach. (Mullio and Vollard, Long Beach Architecture. Santa Monica: Hennessey + Ingalls, 2004.) 

    Angier reportedly worked on projects in the Central Valley as the railway expanded, but documentation has not been located. There also are mentions of a multivolume collaboration on California gardens by Angier and Burn, but the work is unrecorded in library records and may not have been published. Possibly, that collaboration was the more modest endeavor for which Burn is the photographer of record:  a presentation album created around 1910 for the Los Angeles architects Sumner Hunt and A. W. Eager.             

    Note: The author is seeking a photograph of Belle Sumner Angier (Mrs. Walter Lewis Burn) and information on other landscape projects attributed to her, with the aim of more completely documenting the work of this relatively unknown early woman garden journalist and landscaper.  Information to:   

  • January 26, 2020 2:02 PM | David Laws

    By Alexis Davis Millar (January 26, 2020) 

    For over 150 years, Balboa Park has shone as an ever-changing gem of San Diego.  The 1,400 acres was originally set aside for public recreation in 1845, a portion of which would become Balboa Park.  Officially designated a public park in 1868, its master plan evolved in the early 1900s by landscape architect Samuel Parsons, Jr.  With the 1911 pivotal decision to celebrate the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park, competing renovation plans for the park would forever set the tone for all that would follow. 

    Water feature in Alcazar Garden (Credit: Alexis Davis Millar, 2019)

    John Charles Olmsted and local horticulturalist Kate Sessions’ regionally sensitive planting design and site planning design, which prioritized capturing views, local land, and views of the bay, would be rejected in favor of architect Bertram Goodhue’s central mesa siting of the primary exposition space.  Fulfilling this siting premise, Frank P. Allen, Jr. and Paul G. Thiene then created a planting design with turf and spectacular exotics.  Allen and Thiene’s dazzling design choices, hailed as a huge success and captivating many visitors to San Diego, informed our definition of garden beauty in California – lush year-round, high-maintenance flower beds, and high water-dependence.  Political might and funding pushed forward the central mesa siting and lush design, with Olmsted resigning from the project over these differences in long-term vision for the park.  Along with Olmsted’s resignation, the design also lost the local expertise of Kate Sessions, as her role as consultant to Olmsted dissolved.

    Twenty years later in preparation for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, architect Richard S. Requa expanded the building design and vernacular landscape style to include Moorish influences and styles relevant to the contextual architectural history of the Southwest.  Throughout the design, he judiciously used water features as accents.  Still preserved today was a key feature of his landscape design, that of transforming the formal garden to become the Alcazar Garden.  The Alcazar Garden, with its Moorish tiled water features, was reconstructed in 1935, true to Requa’s design. 

    The guiding principle in Requa’s planting design for Balboa Park was one of green textures with colorful islands, leaving much of the park largely undeveloped.  Though Requa ultimately considered his design unsuccessful, he was proud of a space he created for a specifically California native plant garden in the park.

    The decades that followed the Exposition brought additional buildings, garden additions, and uses.  Of the original 1,400-acre park created in 1868, 200 acres have now been lost.  During the WWII era, for example, as a continuing resource for the local community, the park buildings also served as adjunct U.S. Navy buildings for the Balboa Navy hospital.  Renovations during the 1990s included the Japanese Friendship Garden near the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

    As Balboa Park’s design continued to evolve into the late 1980s, local landscape architecture firm Estrada Land Planning produced a Park Master Plan and continues to re-envision how the park’s visitors can best experience the museums and outdoor spaces.  Guiding the master plan by Estrada Land Planning and Civitas landscape architecture is that the core design is returned to the main plaza in an essentially vehicle-free zone while providing universal access to the museum buildings and landscape spaces.  The community context and voices have been vigorously considered in the process.

    Credit: Estrada Land Planning and Civitas, Plan for Plaza de Panama, May 2012

    The Plaza de Panama Project concept, shown above has generated much passionate conversation.  To stroll the Plaza unencumbered by the ever-dominating vehicular traffic was perceived as the next chapter in the evolution of this Park.

    As illustrated in this very recent San Diego Union-Tribune article, the dynamic discussion continues to this moment, as to what is most appropriate in the next evolution of this community treasure. 

    Perhaps even the planting design of historic contributors such as Samuel Parsons, Jr., Kate Sessions, and John Charles Olmsted will also be reconsidered in this water-conscious time.

    A special thank you to Nancy Carol Carter and Vicki Estrada for providing me such valuable Balboa Park materials in preparing this post.

  • August 18, 2019 1:51 PM | David Laws

    David Laws (August 182019)

    Tom Brown's talk “Gardens of the California Missions” presented at the 2000 CGLHS Conference in Monterey and published in Pacific Horticulture Magazine (Spring 1988) is available online here. It is also reprinted in the Summer 2019 issue of Eden. Following is an abbreviated version of a reading list prepared by Susan Chamberlin for those seeking further information on the history of the missions and associated horticulture. The complete text will be included as a handout at the conference.

    La Purísima Concepción: The Enduring History of a California Mission by Michael R. Hardwick (The History Press, 2015)

    Superb, concise history of the mission, the Chumash Indians of the region where it was established, the mission system, and its economics, priests, and soldiers. There are brief treatments of the “Mission Garden” created by the CCC and their reconstruction of the buildings. 

    Changes in Landscape: The Beginnings of Horticulture in the California Missions second edition by Michael R. Hardwick (The Paragon Agency, 2005)

    An invaluable horticultural resource. Introductory chapters cover the introduction of European-style agriculture to the California landscape followed by a chapter devoted to each of the Spanish colonial missions.    

    Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson (Roberts Brothers, 1884)

    Jackson was outraged at the condition of California’s Indians under the Americans and wrote this novel as a sort of west coast Uncle Tom’s Cabin to stimulate sympathy for their plight after the end of the mission period. (The Spanish colonizers wanted to Christianize the Indians, not exterminate them, which was more or less the American approach.) Sure, it’s romanticized, but it’s the essential text for understanding the period that followed its publication in 1884.

    California Mission Landscapes: Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage by Elizabeth Kryder-Reid (University of Minnesota Press, 2016)

    It has long been posited that the mission gardens we see today are phony-baloney, Colonial Revival-style artifacts. The author deconstructs mission landscapes and links the patio garden at Mission Santa Barbara, created in 1872 by Father José María Romo, to the romanticized mission gardens that were created in the years that followed and became “touchstones” for interpreting California history and politics. 

    New Deal Adobe: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Reconstruction of Mission La Purisima 1934-1942 by Christine E. Savage (Fithian Press, 1991) 

    There is no better history of the CCC project at La Purisima. Based on interviews with people who worked on the reconstruction and historic documents, it is filled with interesting photos and ephemera.

    Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson (UC Press, 2005)

    This is a corrective to the notion that California was a wilderness before the arrival of the Europeans and that native American Indians lived simply hunting deer and gathering acorns. Great bibliography.

    See the complete conference bibliography at: BIBLIOGRAPHY CGLHS 2019 Conf .pdf

  • May 05, 2019 8:42 PM | David Laws

    David Laws (May 5, 2019)

    Western Hills Garden will celebrate its 60th anniversary with events scheduled on the weekend of May 25 & 26, 2019.  The Winter 2015 issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine published an article of mine on "The rise, fall, and renaissance of one of horticulture's brightest stars" to mark the reopening of the iconic garden.  The website included the following brief biographical information on the founders that was not shown in the print version.  

    Dining in the garden, 1978. Left to right: Lester Hawkins, Marshall Olbrich, Bill Day, and Jim Hickey. Photo: Jim Flack

    Lester Hawkins (1915-1985) and Marshall Olbrich (1920-1991), founders of Western Hills Rare Plant Nursery in Occidental, California, came from distinctly different worlds and backgrounds.

    Born in New York State in 1915, Lester Hawkins was raised in Olympia, Washington where his father ran a small grocery store. He went to live with an aunt in Texas who was married to an oil millionaire. The plan was for Lester to attend the Colorado School of Mines to study geology and enter the oil industry but instead he moved to New York where he lived on 40 cents a day. Charismatic, opinionated, and with strong views on the ills of the capitalist system, Lester studied economics in the public library and made plans to write a book on the topic. Three years later, he moved again, eventually arriving in San Francisco where he worked as a journalist and edited book manuscripts.

    Robert Marshall Olbrich and a twin brother were born into the family of prominent Madison, Wisconsin attorney and civic leader Michael B. Olbrich in 1920. In politics a Progressive Republican, Olbrich senior served as deputy attorney general for Wisconsin, a special counsel for the state, and a regent of the University of Wisconsin from 1925 to 1929. He initiated a movement to acquire land for a garden site near Lake Monona that today is the nationally recognized Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Despondent over health and financial problems, in 1929 the senior Olbrich hanged himself. The family remained in Madison where Marshall earned an M.A. in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin. He moved to Berkeley in 1942 to continue graduate work in philosophy at the University of California.

    Lester and Marshall met while associating with colleagues in Berkeley having similar socialist leanings and opposition to the politics of the McCarthy era. They lived together in San Francisco in a relationship that, while enduring, was described by friends as like “two monkeys fighting in a barrel.” To escape the urban political scene and prejudice against their gay lifestyle, in 1959 they left their San Francisco apartment and professional careers to homestead on three acres of pastureland in Occidental, California, that Marshall purchased with a $2,300 inheritance.

    While neither partner had any formal horticultural training, at Western Hills Lester emerged as a talented garden designer and Marshall as a master plantsman. Over the next 30 years, their unique combination of skills and personalities led to their development of the property into a garden and a place for sharing ideas that inspired a generation of horticulturists and landscape designers.

    In addition to their work at the nursery, both men contributed research material and articles to many professional publications including many that appeared in the pages of Pacific Horticulture.

    For information on the history of the garden, see "Western Hills at 60" on the Garden Conservancy website.

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