top of page
  • Writer's pictureAdmin

Eden Revisited

The bucket list of Northern California public and quasi-public gardens.

Motivated by 1993's Visiting Eden, by Joan Chatfield Taylor and Melba Levick, I decided to maintain a list of public and quasi-public gardens...particularly since several listed in the book are no longer public. This list is in now way exhaustive! I encourage readers to alert TELCS of any that need to be included. And besides, why should bucket lists be limited to exotic nearly out of reach places?

Location: Santa Cruz

Founding: 1964, by Chancellor Dean E. McHenry

Founding Arboretum Director: Dr. Ray Collett

Emphasis: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, California plant species

Location: Saratoga

Founding: 1911, by James Duval Phelan

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: ?

Emphasis: Decorative gardens in the classical style, fine art, and cultural entertainment

Location: Saratoga

Founding: 1917, by Isabel Stine

Architect: Tsunematsu Shintani

Garden Designer: Imperial gardener, Naoharu Aihara

Emphasis: Japanese contemplative garden

Location: Palo Alto

Founding: 1902, by Edwin Gamble

Architect: C.A. Bates?

Builder: C. A. Bates

Garden Designer: Walter A. Hoff

Emphasis: Relaxed formal garden

Sunset Gardens (closed) See new location below

Location: Menlo Park

Founding: 1951, Sunset Magazine

Architect: Cliff May

Landscape Architect: Thomas Church

Emphasis: Mid-century ranch aesthetic with Pacific Coast plant collections, from Mexico to Canada

Sunset Gardens + Marketplace (at Cornerstone Gardens)

Location: Sonoma

Founding: 2015, Time, Inc.

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: ?

Emphasis: Test garden and kitchen

Location: Sonoma

Founding: ?

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: ?

Emphasis: Retail, gallery of designed gardens

Location: Woodside

Founding: 1915, William Bowers Bourn II

Architect: Willis Polk

Garden Designer: Bruce Porter

Emphasis: Mediterranean formal

Location: San Mateo

Founding: 1922, City of San Mateo (formerly, the Kohl Mansion property)

Architect: ?

Landscape Architect: Nagao Sakurai

Emphasis: Japanese contemplative, sister city: Toyonaka

Location: San Francisco

Founding: circa 1890s, John McClaren, with subsequent funding by Helen Strybing

Architect: (Helen Crocker Russel Library) Alec Yuill-Thornton, Daniel W.B. Warner, and John Russell Levikow Architects

Landscape Architect: (Helen Crocker Russel Library) Thomas Church; subsequent vignettes, Jean Wolfe (The Jean Wolfe Garden), Ron Lutsko (Meadow Garden)

Emphasis: Mid-century modern

Location: San Francisco

Founding: circa 1894, as part of the California Midwinter International Exposition

Architect: ?

Landscape Architect: Makoto Hagiwara, with subsequent pond design by Nagao Sakuri

Emphasis: Japanese contemplative

Notes: The Japanese Tea Garden offers a unique glimpse into the devastating legacy of Makoto Hagiwara and the 1942 Japanese American internment. For Hagiwara, a descendant of Japanese nobility, anti-sentiment predated internment when he lost concession of the garden between 1900 and 1908. Superintendent John McClaren "humbly" asked for the families return, which suggests that Golden Gate Park was unable to manage the intensive maintenance of tea house and garden. Hagiwara exhibited an unyielding dedication to the garden, including relocating his home on site. Once forced to relocate, J.C. Taylor writes, "The garden was renamed the Oriental Tea Garden and the Hagiwaras' house and family shrine were destroyed" (p.58). Once the war was over, the Hagiwara family returned to operate the garden and tea house until 1972, sans home.

Location: Oakland

Founding: circa 1934, Works Progress Administration

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: ?

Emphasis: Accredited by the American Rose Society

Notes: J.C. Taylor writes, "Morcom is scheduled to be completely refurbished in 1993. The original layout will be retained, since this is a historical landmark, but the design will be much enhanced by new turf, appropriately Italianate benches, and pathways paved in bricks and cobblestones. In addition, plans call for nighttime lighting and a drip irrigation system" (p. 65).

Location: Berkeley

Founding: circa 1933, Works Progress Administration

Architect: Bernard Maybeck ("suggested" design, according to the city's website, above)

Landscape Architect: Vernon M. Dean with rosarian C.W. Covell

Emphasis: Rose collection

Location: Berkeley

Founding: circa 1870s (at original location), Dr. Eugene W. Hilgard; formally circa 1890s, E.L. Greene; then circa 1909-1920 (current location)

Architect: ? In 2015, Julia Morgan's Girton Hall (now known as Julia Morgan Hall) is relocated to the garden.

Landscape Architect: ?

Emphasis: Mediterranean climate plant species of over 10,000 types

Location: Berkeley

Founding: 1940, City of Berkeley (verify)

Architect: ?

Landscape Architect: ?

Emphasis: California natives

Location: Kensington

Founding: circa 1920s, Anita and Anson Blake

Architect: Walter Bliss

Landscape Architect: Mabel Symmes, with her sister, Anita Blake, collaborating

Emphasis: Formal Mediterranean garden

Location: Walnut Creek

Founding: 1971, Ruth Bancroft (property family owned since 1880s)

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: Lester Hawkins (garden layout) and Ruth Bancroft (plant collection)

Emphasis: Succulents, cacti and drought tolerance

Daffodil Hill (closed for 2020)

Location: Volcano

Founding: circa 1850s, "a Dutchman," according to J.C. Taylor; subsequent opening to the public by the McLaughlin family, who bought the property from said Dutchman in 1887.

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: The McLaughlin Family

Emphasis: Spring bulbs

Green Gulch Farm @ the San Francisco Zen Center

Location: Muir Beach

Founding: 1991, property owner, George Wheelwright, donated farm to the Zen Center

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: San Francisco Zen Center

Emphasis: Sustainable farming

Location: Sebastopol

Founding: 1964, Stewart and Audrey Barbara (hybridizing, nursery); 1976, Polo de Lorenzo (business purchase)

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: ?

Emphasis: Demonstration gardens and nursery

Western Hills Nursery, currently operated as Western Hills Garden (closed for 2020)

Location: Occidental

Founding: 1961, Lester Hawkins and Marshall Olbrich

Architect: Lester Hawkins and Marshall Olbrich

Garden Designer: Lester Hawkins and Marshall Olbrich

Emphasis: "almost Japanese," eclectic

Location: Davis

Founding: 1936, "a botany professor;" 2011 consolidation under new name (above), U.C. Davis

Architect: ?

Landscape Architect: Contributors Lawrence Halprin, Ted Osmundson, Mai Arbegast

Emphasis: Historic arboretum, demonstration and research gardens

Location: Fort Bragg

Founding: 1961, Ernest and Betty Schoefer

Architect: ?

Garden Designer: Ernest and Betty Schoefer

Emphasis: Coastal garden

18 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page