Luther Burbank’s Experimental Gardens
20 artifacts in this set
Attracted by a longer growing season, Luther Burbank followed family to Santa Rosa, where he established a large experimental garden. By 1881, modest success raising and selling plants allowed Burbank to purchase the ivy-covered home visible in the background of this postcard.
Burbank expanded to nearby Sebastopol in 1885. On this 18-acre experimental plot, laborers cultivated lilies and many other plants.
"New Creations in Fruits and Flowers," Catalog from Burbank's Experiment Grounds, Santa Rosa, California, June 1893
Burbank's 1893 catalog, "New Creations in Fruits and Flowers," demonstrated his skill and helped make the local nurseryman an international celebrity. Ultimately, Burbank's experimental work yielded more than 800 new fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other plants.
"New Creations in Fruits and Flowers" captured the attention of established nursery businesses, including Stark Brothers Nurseries in Missouri. Clarence Stark traveled to Santa Rosa to see Burbank's creations for himself and purchased the right to sell Burbank's “Gold” plum variety. This began an exclusive distribution partnership that continued after Burbank's death.
One of Burbank's most enduring inventions, the Shasta daisy (introduced in 1901) took him 17 years to perfect. Burbank praised its grace, beauty, abundance of bloom, hardiness, and persistence -- even as he released three "new" Shasta daisy varieties in 1904.
Luther Burbank's Phenomenal Berry, Selected Hybrid from Cross of California Dewberry and Common Red Raspberry, 1907
Burbank's "Phenomenal Berry," pictured here, was the result of crossbreeding the California dewberry and the common red raspberry.
Legislators named the California poppy as the state flower in 1903. Burbank believed he could improve on it. He selectively bred the native yellow variety to create a consistently crimson poppy by 1909.
In search of a new livestock feed that could free acreage for crops to feed humans, Burbank devoted years of research to perfect the spineless cactus. When a business partner fraudulently distributed cacti with singed-off spines under Burbank's name, his reputation suffered and he retreated from business dealings.
This steel-truss bridge, built as part of reconstruction efforts after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, allowed easier access for pedestrians and automobiles visiting Luther Burbank's experimental gardens.
Burbank moved into this spacious new home in December 1906, just months after the San Francisco earthquake. The Mission and Colonial Revival design reflected popular tastes, while the furnishings ensured Burbank's comfort.
Burbank's private den opened onto a balcony above the porch, offering this sweeping view of staff at work in his 40-acre experimental gardens.
The visiting public could purchase seeds and souvenirs at Burbank's "Bureau of Information," opened in 1910 just across the street from his home.
A mailbox in front of the "Bureau of Information" allowed visitors to send postcards as proof of their trip to Burbank's experimental gardens.
The Luther Burbank Society, organized in 1910, used Burbank's old home as an editorial office and the "Bureau of Information" for storage. The group published a multi-volume series on Burbank's work in 1913-1914.
Luther Burbank died in 1926. He was buried beneath a Cedar of Lebanon tree he had planted in front of his old Santa Rosa home in 1893.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office -- swayed in part by Luther Burbank's life’s work -- began recognizing the work of horticulturalists by awarding patents for new or improved plant varieties in 1930. Burbank himself would receive 16 plant patents, awarded posthumously to his widow.