CGLHS Conferences and Me


By Thea Gurns

Until 1995, I was a person happy in my spot; indeed, a person who believed her spot was just the best, no question. I viewed San Diego the way that famous New Yorker cover viewed the world—mapped in detail for several blocks, then perspective narrowed and shortened until the illustration took a quick dive off an edge.

The far southwestern corner of the Golden State held everything for me—coast, flat lands, “back country,” mountains, desert. Beach cliffs, tide pools, coastal sage, streams, lakes. I thought San Diego lacked for little.

When Bill Grant founded the California Garden and Landscape History Society, I went along for the ride. Soon I was hearing names unknown to me—McLarens, father and son; Farrand; Yoch. Who were these people? What had they done? Gardens were mentioned—Bancroft, Saratoga, Val Verde. Where were they? What did they contain?

I began learning from the first meeting I attended, in November 1996, Botanic Heritage Gems of San Diego. Lucy Warren arranged a visit to archived wonders tucked in the basement of the San Diego History Center. Then we gathered in one of Balboa Park’s “secret” meeting places not often open to the public. When we went around the room to name interests, the answers intimidated: botanist, landscape designer, garden researcher, horticultural librarian, historian. “I want to look at pretty places,” I said.

Over the following fifteen years traveling the state to CGLHS conferences. I have looked aplenty at pretty places. Come travel along.


Saving an Historic Rose Collection

National treasures sometimes come in small packages. They’re delightful…but oh so easy to lose. So it is with a private garden of antique roses that colors and scents a gentle 2.5-acre slope in Sebastopol, California.

Some 3,500 different rose varieties are collected here on a plot with a sweeping vista of the Coast Range. They span the entire history of the rose. One finds many of the ancient wild or “species” roses here, as well as old Albas, Gallicas, Damasks and Moss roses, some of which Caesar and Shakespeare knew. The collection is especially rich in China, Tea roses and Hybrid Perpetuals, which bear romantic and mysterious names that reflect the French 19th-century mania for roses grown by Empress Josephine at her chateau at Malmaison. Finally, of course, there are Hybrid Teas bred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—many of them impossible to buy or even find today.