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Suggested Reading for the CGLHS 2019 Conference—Early California Landscapes and Gardens: Romance and Reality

August 18, 2019 1:51 PM | David Laws (Administrator)

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


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