Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Plant Wizard

"I love humanity, which has been a constant delight to me during all my seventy-seven years of life; and I love flowers, trees, animals, and all the works of Nature as they pass before us in time and space. What a joy life is when you have made a close working partnership with Nature, helping her to produce for the benefit of mankind new forms, colors, and perfumes in flowers which were never known before; fruits in form, size, and flavor never before seen on this globe; and grains of enormously increased productiveness, whose fat kernels are filled with more and better nourishment, a veritable storehouse of perfect food--new food for all the world's untold millions for all time to come."

- Luther Burbank, 1926

Luther Burbank was a horticultural pioneer who, during his lifetime, developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants including fruits, flowers, grains, grasses, and vegetables. In his day, he was commonly referred to as "the plant wizard."

"I firmly believe, from what I have seen,
that this is the chosen spot of all this earth
as far as Nature is concerned."

- Luther Burbank, 1875

This was the opinion he shared with his family upon moving from Massachusetts to my current home town of Santa Rosa, California where he established his home and gardens on which he lived and worked for more than 50 years. The site is now a historical landmark which happens to be just a short walk from my house.

Interestingly, I also learned that Mr. Burbank and I were both transplants (pardon the pun) to this area from the same county in Massachusetts.


The beautifully landscaped grounds are open to the public for free so we often take walks here to admire all the different varieties of plants and observe the seasonal changes that occur over the course of any given year.

The photos in this post were taken during two such recent walks. On one I wore the above dress, an old favorite, purchased years ago from a vintage shop called Aubergine and my new China flats!

I totally had a hankering for a pair after writing up my
90's post so when my sister was heading down to San Francisco and asked if I needed anything from Chinatown, of course these popped into my head straight away and I must say they feel like old friends on my feet :)

In the photo, I'm standing in front of the greenhouse, my favorite feature on the grounds. I have a thing for greenhouses and this one is so quaint and charming, I wish it was in my own backyard!

Unfortunately, the inside is only accessible during special tours so I don't often get to go inside but I do love to peek in the windows. That's the safe where Mr. Burbank's precious seeds were once stored.

This was back before plants were patentable and such so the seeds and tricks of the trade were carefully guarded. I found a photo
here of what the inside of the safe looks like.

At the entrance there is a small maze of roses and the scent is quite incredible when walking through it this time of year.

The memorial courtyard area is a lovely serene place. Perfect for resting on a bench and listening to the sound of water falling from the fountain into the pond while watching squirrels scamper about.

"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul."

-Luther Burbank

One of the really cool things about this place is that all the many different types of plants are marked with staked plant markers telling you exactly what it is you are looking at.

Not only do I just like to walk around and read the lovely plant names, but this also makes for a wonderful resource when trying to decide what types of plants to add to our own garden... there's no shortage of inspiration here!

The sweet little Seed House is another favorite. If only one could still walk up to the sliding side window to buy packets of seeds... sigh.

tiny house

On this warm sunny day I was sporting a 100% thrifted outfit featuring a little floral skirt I received awhile back as part of my thrift swap with Lauren. It's funny how the small proportions of the Seed House kind of make me look like a giant here.

There's a lovely children's area which boasts a small "pizza garden" where oregano, tomatoes, and other items that may be found on pizza are grown. I love this quote, which can be read if the second picture is enlarged.

I should also add that I've been coming here since I was a child myself. Yup, that's me at 7 years old which would have made it 1979. My sister Val is standing behind me and behind her in the background you can just make out the Seed House!

My hope is for Clover to have many fond childhood memories of this place too :)

"The secret of improved plant breeding, apart from scientific knowledge, is love."

- Luther Burbank

Before writing this post, while I've always loved coming to the gardens, other than a few basic general facts about what Luther Burbank did, I really didn't know all that much about him. From what I've discovered though he sounds like a pretty fascinating individual.

I'd actually like to get my hands on a copy of this new book to learn more about him and if you're interested I found a wonderful little 10 minute long mini documentary which can be viewed here.

(Vintage images via
here, here, and screenshots from here)


Thrifted Treasure said...

What a beautiful place, looks so peaceful. so lovely you have photos of yourself as a child there and now your little one. Wouldn't that seed house just make the most adorable playhouse?

Hippie Frou Frou said...

This is such a cool post! Childhood traditions are so fun and this one hits close to home. We have been visiting arboretums and other attractions since I was very little.

The photo of you and your sister is darling! oh ya and also your outfits rock really hard, that dress is awesome as well as the skirt number w/oxfords!!

Jess s//

elena-lu said...

this was so lovely beautiful! and its free?? i bet she will have some magical memories you sure are giving her all the right opportunities! and you get to revisit your youth too! yay its fun for all! lovely lovely photos thank you so much for sharing these!

Alexa said...

What a lovely post, encapsulates so much about you. Seems like Santa Rosa, and Mr. Burbank, have been calling you from childhood. I love that picture of you and your sister! How great to share with Clover.

And Chinese flats = LOVE. Wish I still had mine ;)

Eyeliah SS said...

What a fantastic place to visit for free, an adorable pic of a 7 yr old you. :-)

Caroline said...

Plants are patentable? Geez...you learn something new everyday. That second outfit of yours is perfection. That's exactly how I want to dress every day all summer long. It's so sweet and pulled together, but looks so comfy and perfect for walking about. Kudos.

Diana said...

this place looks beautiful and i love the way you wear your blue floral dress! i can't believe you have kids! you are so thin!!

Sonoma County Historical Society said...

Thank you for such a wonderful post about our Luther Burbank. You took such care in sharing.

Sean Bressie, Webmaster

Ashlee said...

such a beautiful, blooming place.

he seemed like quite a guy.

Manja said...

Goodness, this is so beautiful! I love flowers and plants, though I am fairly bad at keeping them alive.
The picture of you and your sister is so precious!

Andrea said...

A really nice sequence of images! It sounds like a great place and reminds me of some of the gardens we have here in NZ, though they are obviously quite different in terms of plants and things. Luther Burbank sounds so interesting too. That's a great quote.

Hannah said...

I'd like to try and spend more time in places like this over the summer. We have something sort of similar just a few minutes drive away from me but the buildings are all modern and it's nowhere near as pretty. The seed bank is so cool! Especially on the inside. I'd love to own something like it. Your outfits are both great, I especially love that blue dress :)

Parapluie said...

This is so beautiful!

muchlove said...

The garden looks so beautiful! You fit right in with your pretty floral outfits.
Love that pic of you as a kid too. You obviously loved the place. That's so sweet that you've been going there for years.

polaris said...

It's been years since I have been there and it looks as beautiful as ever. Thanks for sharing. Great pic of you there as a kid, then one of Clover. Just lovely.

Diane said...

What a lovely place! I learned so much too - thanks! I'm sure that Clover will come to love it as you do.

Mars said...

Fantastic post! And two outfits in one day...you spoil us ;D You and the grounds look wonderful.

Andrea said...

This is such a wonderful post! What beautiful photos. If only botanists these days knew that the secret ingredient is love, and not bio-engineering. = )

Anusha said...

How incredibly beautiful! Goooorgeous pix! Nothing like a beautiful, peaceful garden. ^__^

I love your outfits and the photo of you and your sis in childhood. Okay, now I really have to visit these gardens!

angelina rodrigues said...

hah. i was gonna do a luther burbank post. yours is much lovelier than mine would have been though, so im glad i didnt! :) i love the shot of you when you were seven. youve got a little fashion pose going there, too! :))

BushStNews said...

Hmmm, I am not sure I have seen you in that the floral dress. It looks savory on you.

tormenta said...

"The garden of invention" is curently availble at Treehorn books for $6.00.