Hakone Gardens, Saratoga, California


Springs, Orchards and Gardens

Annual Conference of the California Garden and Landscape History Society
October 20-22, 2006, Saratoga, California

Fifty miles south of San Francisco, surrounded by orchards and the dramatic Santa Cruz Mountains, the Saratoga-Los Gatos area has attracted vacationers since just after the Civil War. We will hear from experts and visit four important gardens–survivors of this early California resort era.

Our conference begins in Los Gatos (a 19th century rail head for arriving guests) with a Friday evening reception at the Museum of Art, housed in a converted fire house set amidst summer bungalows. On Saturday and Sunday from our base in Saratoga, we will examine the landscape history and the gardens of the Santa Clara Valley’s west side. The village of Saratoga is a designated California Historical Site with interesting architecture, and the hills which surround it are full of vineyards producing first-rate California wines. Once called “Tollgate,” it was named “Saratoga” in 1865 for its healthful spring waters (a reference to Congress Springs in Saratoga, New York), and the region’s orchards were celebrated by the artist Theodore Wores (1859-1939) whose studio-gallery was located in the former Methodist-Episcopal Church.

Attendance is limited, so please do not delay mailing your registration form.

Conference Schedule

Friday, October 20,
5:30—7:30 pm:
Reception at the Los Gatos Art Museum in Los Gatos
4 Tait Avenue at W. Main Street. Directions.

On Friday evening, we’ll meet for a reception at the Art Museum (a 1927 Spanish Eclectic-style building that was once a firehouse) in Los Gatos, known as the “Gem City of the Foothills.” One of the Museums of Los Gatos, it partner, the History Museum, is nearby at 75 Church Street off E. Main Street in the 1880-built Forbes Mill Annex. Refreshments will be served.

Saturday, October 21,
8:30 am—4:30 pm:
Registration & Lectures at the Old Fireman’s Social Hall in Saratoga
followed by Garden Tours
14434 Oak Street (within walking distance of the Inn at Saratoga).
Map of 14434 Oak St
Saratoga, CA 95070-6026

8:30—9:00 am: Registration

9:00 am—12:30 pm:
The garden legacy of the Santa Clara Valley’s West Side will be the source of inspiration for three lectures.

April Halberstadt, Executive Director of the Saratoga Historical Foundation Museum, will explore the regional character of the area’s gardens and the social nexus that linked their creators. Landscape historian Phoebe Cutler will explain how the Japanese and Italian garden styles that dominated the estates in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains were a national phenomenon (with some properties encompassing an example of each type.) Dr. Kendall Brown, associate professor in the Department of Art at California State University Long Beach and author of Japanese-Style Gardens of the Pacific West Coast (Rizzoli, 1999), will discuss the importance of Kotani-en, created c. 1928-29 by Yamamoto for Max Cohn as part of his impressive Little Brook Farm estate, and stewarded for more than thirty years by Bill Robson, its current owner. The annual business meeting of the California Garden & Landscape History Society concludes the morning.

12:30—1:45 pm:
Lunch on your own. A list of restaurants will be provided in conference packets.

1:45 pm: Meet to carpool to garden tours.

2:00—4:30 pm: Garden Tours—Little Brook Farm and Woodhills Ranch

Saturday afternoon we will visit Kotani-en. Tucked into the banks of a creek bed, it boasts ponds, a surrounding Roji wall, and an exquisite shrine to the goddess Ben-ten. We will also see other remnants of the Little Brook Farm estate, now divided into several smaller properties. These include the rock-lined driveway and rock entry steps, as well as a small outdoor amphitheater, all designed by landscape architect Emerson Knight. (Knight’s biography appears in the Summer 2006 issue of Eden: The Journal of the California Garden & Landscape History Society. For copies, click Eden on the menu above.) In the nearby foothills of Cupertino, we will tour Woodhills Ranch, the property of Fremont and Cora Older, now a part of the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space. A recent examination of Cora Older’s diaries at the Bancroft Library provided some interesting revelations about her garden, which turns out to have been designed, at least in part, by wild bulb specialist Carl Purdy.

Sunday, October 22,
8:45 am—Noon:
Garden Tours & Tea Ceremony

8:45 am: Meet to carpool to garden tours.

9:00—9:45 am: All tour Villa Montalvo gardens.

10:00 am—Noon: Garden tour and Tea Ceremony at Hakone Gardens
On Sunday conference attendees will have the opportunity to tour Hakone Gardens and participate in a tea ceremony in the moon-viewing pavilion overlooking the garden. We’ll also visit the grounds of Villa Montalvo, the home of former San Francisco mayor and U.S. Senator James D. Phelan, landscaped in the Italianate style by family gardener George Doeltz with advice from John McLaren, Superintendent of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Recommended Reading:


Tangible Memories: Californians and Their Gardens, 1800-1950, Judith M. Taylor and the late Harry M. Butterfield (2003).

Passing Farms: Enduring Values, California’s Santa Clara Valley, Yvonne Jacobson (1984).

Santa Clara County, Harvest of Change, Stephen M. Payne (1987).

Sunshine, Fruit and Flowers, Santa Clara County, and Its Resources, A Souvenir of the San Jose Mercury (1896).

A List of California Nurseries and Their Catalogues, 1850-1900, Thomas A. Brown (1993).

Old Santa Clara Valley, A Guide to Historic Buildings from Palo Alto to Gilroy, Phyllis Filiberti Butler (1975, 1991).

Peninsula Tales and Trails, David Weintraub (2004).

Ghost Towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains, John V. Young (1874).

Grand and Ancient Forest: The Story of Andrew P. Hill and Big Basin Redwood State Park, Carolyn de Vries (1997).