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This short list is a concise introduction to the topic of California landscape history.
Check the bibliographies and footnotes in books and articles for more extensive references


The California Landscape Architecture and Gardens bibliography maintained by the University of California at Berkeley is a good place to start your research:

The most extensive scholarly treatment of California landscape history to date is California Gardens: Creating a New Eden by David C. Streatfield (Abbeville Press in 1994). It was based on a series of in-depth articles by the author. 

An earlier, essential reference is Victoria Padilla’s book, Southern California Gardens: An Illustrated History (UC Press, 1961) reprinted by Allen A. Knoll Publishing, Santa Barbara, in 1994.

Harry M. Butterfield (1887-1970) remains the best California horticultural historian. His original articles published in The California Horticultural Journal (later Pacific Horticulture) and his unpublished papers (archived at the University of California, Davis) were the basis for Judith M. Taylor and Harry M. Butterfield, Tangible Memories: Californians and Their Gardens, 1800-1950, a book published in 2003 by Xlibris Corporation.

A revised edition of Michael R. Hardwick’s book, Changes in Landscape: The Beginnings of Horticulture in the California Missions (originally published by the Santa Barbara Mission in 2002) is available from Paragon Agency, Orange, CA.

There are many entries devoted to California designers in Pioneers of American Landscape Design, edited by Charles A. Birnbaum and Robin Karson (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000). Additional entries are included in the follow-up volumes: Shaping the American Landscape edited by Birnbaum and Stephanie S. Foell; and Shaping the Postwar Landscape edited by Birnbaum and Scott Craver.

Marvelous maps and text for each era illustrate the Historical Atlas of California by Derek Hayes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007) and illuminate many aspects of the cultural landscape.

M. Kat Anderson’s Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) is a good survey of the topic by one of its pioneers, and the rich bibliography will lead readers even deeper.


This early history of the rose in California by Darrell g.h. Schramm is an essential reference. Native species, varieties introduced by the Spanish colonizers and subsequent settlers, roses arising in California, and a chronological history of California rose nurseries are some highlights. Rose rustlers will appreciate the lists of introductions and lost roses at the end. No footnotes but the bibliography is extensive. 

While books, such as Landscapes of Exclusion: State Parks and Jim Crow in the American South by William E. O’Brien and Black Landscapes Matter edited by Walter Hood and Grace Mitchell Tada, have examined systemic racism in access to parks and scenic open space, this one is devoted to five African American leisure sites in California—all in the vicinity of Los Angeles. Black Angelenos tried to be free from white harassment at Bruce’s Beach, Ocean Park, Lake Elsinore, the Parkridge Country Club and Subdivision, and Eureka Villa. There is a chapter devoted to the historical context of Jim Crow California, extensive endnotes, and a superb bibliography 

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