Nineteenth Century New Englander Began Nursery in California

California enjoyed a thriving nursery buinsess in the nineteenth century, especially after the gold rush of the 1840s.

Garden historian Judith Taylor in her book Tangible Memories: Californians and their Gardens 1800-1950  often discusses the California nursery trade.  In the book she frequently quotes from the research of California garden historian Harry M. Butterfield who died in 1970.

She writes that Colonel James Lafayette Warren came to California in 1849 from Brighton, Massachusetts where he ran a nursery called  Nonantum Vale Gardens at the corner of Lake and Washington Streets from 1830 to 1845.

After arriving in California, Warren  started his nursery business in Sacramento and  issued his first catalog in 1853.

Taylor says “It is not surprising to find a list of hardy ornamental plants common in the eastern states in the 1853 catalog.”

Colonel J. L. Warren (1805-1896). Photo courtesy of U of Cal.,, Berkeley

The plants that would grow in New England were thus proposed also for the California garden.

Though California nursery catalogs featured plants that would be more suited to California growing conditions, it was not uncommon to include also plants that demanded the cold winters that the Northeast provided.

If the same plants were sold at the local nursery from coast to coast, it was not uncommon to see the same garden style from Maine to California.

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