Library Spotlight - “Açaí”

The Arboretum Library has many journals and periodicals that cover a range of horticultural topics. These journals include articles about individual types of plants, including one that's been seen around a lot more recently – the açaí.  You've probably seen this ingredient in all sorts of products at the grocery store, but I didn't know much about the plant, or even how to pronounce it (it's AH-sigh-EE, apparently). This article touches on several interesting aspects of the açaí: the history and cultural significance (including traditional uses for this type of palm), modern research into possible health benefits and the impact and future of cultivation of the açaí palm.
Stop by the library and check out this article and look over some of the many others in the periodical collection.
Engels, Gayle. “Acai: Euterpe oleracea.” Herbalgram, no. 86 (May-July 2010): 1-2. Print.

Book Review - “Defiant Gardens”

We're fortunate to be featuring book reviews by horticultural history author Judith M. Taylor. After a career in neurology, she retired to northern California and now “practices history without a license.”  She is currently working on her forth book and is the honorary librarian and book editor for the San Francisco Garden Club. Her website is Horthistoria.
Kenneth Helphand, a noted landscape architect and professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon, Eugene, has come up with an amazing theme. He had seen a photograph of soldiers in the first world war standing next to a garden they had made at the front. The image stuck in his mind and led him to a series of researches culminating in this book.
Soldiers confined to the hellish trenches of the first world war, Jews confined to the even more hellish Polish ghettos in the second world war, Allied prisoners of war in Germany and Asia, and Japanese Nisei interned in the United States all made gardens which he has designated “defiant”. Helphand even considers the substitute “gardens” made by American soldiers in the first Gulf War, covering the sand outside their tents with green tarpaulin.
This extraordinary book combines standard garden theory with striking quotations from primary sources which have survived. The illustrations are archival photographs taken by many different observers. Gardens have a lot of philosophical significance which Helphand elaborates on at some length.
As anyone who has ever attempted to do it knows, creating and maintaining a garden in normal circumstances needs a lot of resources. Once I had recovered from astonishment at the existence of gardens in these situations, my immediate thought was, where did they find seeds in the Warsaw ghetto. My next one was how did they find cameras and film to record their work. During the second world war in England we were very short of almost everything, especially photographic film, yet our deprivations were as nothing to those in Poland's ghettos.
Time is one of the first issues in creating a garden. One does not start to do it if the future is totally unpredictable. The residents of the ghettos had not conceived of the possibility that they were to be erased from the earth and they applied their usual systems of community organization to deal with being locked in the ghetto. Planting vegetable seeds in any available piece of ground would at least provide some food. Unlike the soldiers and prisoners of war, the Jews in the ghetto were completely on their own, abandoned by the entire world. Nothing came from the outside, yet the scraps and fragments of their diaries all say how much the sight of something green in the ground elevated their spirits.
Soldiers sent to fight in a war do not expect to be in a foreign land for years on end. Gardens made sense out of a chaotic world. Workingmen who had grown prize marrows and marigolds in allotments quickly got busy and re-constructed patches of “home”. They were assisted in varying degrees by local farmers, family and friends and even in the end by the War Office in London.
The making of gardens was not limited to the Allies. The Germans also did it, some of them even more grandiose and complex than the English ones. British prisoners of war at Ruhleben founded their own horticultural society and affiliated it with the Royal Horticultural Society in London.
For a variety of reasons, Japanese immigrants to the United States had largely been confined to farming and landscaping. When they were forced into internment camps in 1944 they had the skill and experience needed to improve the dreadful conditions. After the war ended and they were allowed to return to their former homes, one of them, Yasusuke Kogita, dismantled the garden he had built at Minidoka and moved it back to Seattle so that it would never be forgotten.
While the topic of this book is very unusual, it is not unprecedented. In 1955 Enid Bagnold wrote a remarkable play, “The Chalk Garden”, later to become a successful film, in which an enigmatic governess constructs a garden on unpromising chalk soil. Only at the end is it revealed that she learned this skill while in prison for murder.
Prison authorities in many countries use gardening as a form of rehabilitation. The doyenne of English gardeners, Rosemary Verey, led such a movement in England. Prisoners at Ledhill Prison entered their garden in the Chelsea Flower Show one year and won the top prize. The distinction between these formally sanctioned activities and the ones chronicled in this book is that the impulse sprang from within the victims themselves.
The soldiers, prisoners and internees suffered many losses before going home but the Jews in the ghettos were annihilated intentionally. Somehow their gardens seem the most poignant of all.
Copyright © January 2011 Judith M. Taylor
Helphand, Kenneth L. Defiant Gardens: making gardens in wartime. San Antonia, Texas Trinity University Press, 2006.
Find this book in the Arboretum Library catalog here.

Library Spotlight - “Lessons Learned: Managing Biological Invasion on Hemlock Hill”

The Arboretum Library has many journals and periodicals that cover a range of horticultural topics. These journals include articles by members of the Arboretum staff.
The article “Lessons Learned: Managing Biological Invasion on Hemlock Hill (Massachusetts)” by Richard Schulhof (CEO of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden) in the journal Ecological Restoration details the challenges faced by the Arnold Arboretum in Boston by an invasion of Hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). This introduced pest has been decimating hemlocks in the south and east. It was detected at the Arboretum in Boston in 1997 and they spent the next decade trying to mitigate the effects of the infestation and save their important stand of hemlock trees in an era of rapidly changing information.  This article talks about what decisions they had to make and what were their main questions and concerns.
Stop by the library and check out this article and look over some of the many others in the periodical collection.
Schulhof, Richard. “Lessons Learned: Managing Biological Invasion on Hemlock Hill (Massachusetts).” Ecological Restoration 28.2 (June 2010): 129-131. Print.

Book Review - “The Chrysanthemum”

We're fortunate to be featuring book reviews by horticultural history author Judith M. Taylor. After a career in neurology, she retired to northern California and now “practices history without a license.”  She is currently working on her forth book and is the honorary librarian and book editor for the San Francisco Garden Club. Her website is called Horthistoria.

“The Chrysanthemum: its history, culture, classification and nomenclature” by F.W. Burbidge
This is a very small book, of the sort which is often called “a slim volume”. The idea of devoting a whole book to one flower was getting underway by the end of the nineteenth century. Roses, orchids and camellias had books of their own much earlier because of their vast complexity and opportunity for exquisite images. Flowers like the chrysanthemum were relegated to larger compilations and general floral histories. The first book about sweet peas appeared in 1892.
Frederick William Burbidge, 1847 – 1905, was one of those stalwart Victorian lads who improved themselves diligently. He was born in Leicestershire, the son of a fruit farmer. By the time he was apprenticed to a gardener he had already absorbed a good deal of knowledge about plants and the land. Burbidge was also a very gifted draftsman and watercolorist. The combination of these talents led to his successful career. With only a rather sketchy formal education he eventually rose to become the director of the botanical garden at Glasnevin in Dublin.
Burbidge wrote about ten books. He is remembered for this one, a similar book about the narcissus and his description of a plant hunting journey to Borneo for the Veitch Nursery, The Gardens of the Sun. He illustrated The Narcissus with his own watercolors.
He was clearly an expert and opens the preface with comments about rapid changes in the chrysanthemum world. Although some chrysanthemums are native to Southern Europe Western gardeners were principally enamored of the Chinese species. The flower flourished both in England and France and Burbidge was attuned to work being done on the Continent. He issued his 2nd edition just after the National Chrysanthemum Society was formed in London.
Burbidge believed that this society would make a great difference to the development of the flower. There were precedents with the National Rose Society and slightly later the National Sweet Pea Society. Setting standards and promoting competition were always effective. He recognized that new varieties coming from America and Japan expanded their horizons but were also a possible source of complications.

The introductory pages give a quick view of the history of the plant in China and Japan and its arrival in Western Europe about 200 years before his time. The elusive Captain James Cunningham may have been the first to send the flower back in 1602. Once it caught on in the 18th century it stimulated the design of lushly printed fabrics known as chintz. Huge blowsy chrysanthemum blossoms adorned curtains, dresses and upholstery for many years.
Burbidge went to some pains to lay out the differences between varieties based on the shape and disposition of the petals making up the flowerhead. As a practical hands on gardener Burbidge tells you how to propagate and cultivate the flower. There are other practical matters and advice for those wishing to create award winning flowers. It was a good formula and one which would be employed in similar books for many years to come.
The most interesting part of it for me is the long list of cultivars at the end. Fully 50 pages out of the 140 are devoted to this list. Here Burbidge shows what a master he was. He had patiently accumulated specific information about every chrysanthemum which had been released publicly. Each entry lists the type, frequently the breeder, and enough description to recognize it easily.
It is startling to realize that more than 100 years ago there were already dozens of cultivars straining the nomenclature and making the nurseryman's life difficult. Which ones should he stock? ‘Oscar Wilde', bright red with long fringe-like florets? I expect the breeder regretted that choice of name. How about the dark chestnut ‘Oliver Cromwell', named for the dour Puritan to whom flowers were trumpery nonsense?
The torrent of gorgeous books about plants and gardens which washes over us in great streams is descended from seemingly very inauspicious ancestors. Confronted with Burbidge's The Chrysanthemum at a time when even a 10 year old child can adorn his homework with complex colored images downloaded from the Internet, the austere use of steel engravings in a black sea of text is very bracing and yet the book teaches us a great deal in a small space and with a minimum of effort.
Copyright © January 2011 Judith M. Taylor
Burbidge, Frederick William. The Chrysanthemum: its history, culture, classification, and nomenclature. London: “The Garden” Office, 1885.
Find this book in the Arboretum Library catalog here.

Raking Hay at Rancho Santa Anita

This image presents is a lovely pastoral scene at Rancho Santa Anita probably in the late 1880s or early 1890s. A man on a hay rake is gathering freshly cut hay, probably mown a day or two earlier and allowed to dry to feed the Ranch's animals.  
Closer examination reveals a number of other interesting aspects to this image. 

The man in the picture is African American. We know from photographs and newspaper stories from the time when this photograph was taken, that the owner of Rancho Santa Anita ,Elias J. Baldwin, needed laborers and recruited African American workers in North Carolina offering to pay their train fare to the San Gabriel Valley as part of the recruitment. The man in the photograph is the descendant of slaves and may in fact have been born into slavery in the South prior to the Civil War.
Employees at the ranch went on to become the founders of the African American community in the San Gabriel Valley and some of their descendants still live in the area today.
This type of hay rake is a type known as a Sulky Hay Rake because it is a light two wheeled cart known as a Sulky which would be drawn by one horse or mule. It is also noteworthy that these animals were introduced to North America by Europeans as well as the grasses that are being mown to feed these introduced domesticated animals. These grasses and the horses prospered and proliferated changing the landscape and the culture of Native Americans who quickly learned to ride. 
We can go further, the buildings on the right are undoubtedly built of wood imported from the Pacific Northwest and brought to the location by horse drawn wagon and train. It appears that the buildings were designed by Albert Austin Bennett, who also designed the Baldwin Hotel in San Francisco for Mr. Baldwin as well as the Coach Barn and Queen Anne Cottage still present on the Arboretum grounds. 
In the center middle ground of the image we can also see young trees which are probably Eucalyptus trees brought from Australia. In all likelihood Eucalyptus globulus,which were introduced for timber and stove wood since they were fast growing and wood was scarce in Southern California and local sources were quickly exhausted. Some specimens of these trees survive today on the Arboretum's grounds. Practices of plant tending and controlled burning by Native Americans in the area had shaped the landscape of Southern California into one of oak woodland and meadows which encouraged game and edible plants. Irrigation was applied to soils that had built up over millions of years with remarkable agricultural results. The underground aquifer and Baldwin Lake, fed by artesian springs from the Raymond Hill fault as well as local streams provided the water. 

After the Second World War, agriculture gave way to housing developments paving over some of the best agricultural land in the country as part of the urbanization of Los Angeles County. The water table sunk drying the springs feeding Baldwin Lake. 
In this photograph we can see the story of a region, the African diaspora, the introduction of new exotic species of plants and animals to Southern California and the displacement of Native Americans as well as the drastic changes caused by the influx of Euro-Americans with their accompanying agricultural practices, technology and culture. A process which continues to impact Southern California today with results and consequences that remain to be seen. The Arboretum property survives as rare open space and a remnant of what was once widespread. 
Mitchell Hearns Bishop
Curator, Historic Collections

Reading the Western Landscape Jan/Feb 2011

The Reading the Western Landscape Book Group met Jan. 5, 2011, to discuss The Solace of Open Spaces.  Below is a summary of the questions that were brought up for that book and a preview of the book that will be discussed on February 2.

Previous book selections can be found here and future selections here.
Previous Book
January 2011 – The Solace of Open Spaces

The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich; New York: Viking ©1985.  Find it at your local library.
From Publishers Weekly: Like many before her, poet Gretel Ehrlich discovered the therapeutic qualities of the West. In 1976, a time of personal crisis, she moved from the East to a small farm in Wyoming where she ultimately found peace of mind and inspiration. Originally, she had gone west to make a film for PBS; she returned to work with neighbors at cattle- and sheep-ranching, taking pleasure in open spaces. Ehrlich writes with sensitivity and affection about people, the seasons and the landscape. Whether she is enjoying solitude or companionship, her writing evokes the romance and timelessness of the West. Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Specific questions for this book include:

Give some examples of Ms. Ehrlich's vision of this new place that she was immersed in for the first time. 

What are some details that someone who has lived there a long time might take for granted and not tease out into a story?

Tell us about how her characterizations of communication styles helped you understand the community. Do you agree with her generalization that those communication styles make it “western” or are they just “rural?” This book was published in 1985. What kind of change has there been in those generalizations? 

How did Wyoming help her mourning?

What did you find astonishing about the ranching life?

What does she mean by a “Nabokovian invention of rarified detail?”

How do the essays create a whole?  


Next Book
February 2011 – Tales of Burning Love: A Novel
Discussion on Wednesday, February 2, 2011, 7:00 p.m.

Tales of Burning Love: A Novel, by Louise Erdrich; New York: HarperCollins ©1996.  Find it at your local library.
Four women share their secrets after the funeral of their ex-husband. It happens when they decide to ride back together and the car becomes stuck in a snow storm. They all agree he was a good-for-nothing, so why did they marry him? The setting is North Dakota. From the WorldCat summary.

Library Spotlight - Plant Related Fiction

Now is a great time to just snuggle up with a good novel.  And the perfect place to find find modern and classic plant-related fiction is at the Arboretum Library. So come and explore the Arboretum Library and don't forget that members of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden can borrow books for three weeks and renew them twice!
Check out some of our fiction books in the Arboretum Library's online catalog here.
“Hot House Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire” by Margot Berwin

Library Spotlight - Houseplants

If the weather makes it hard to work on your outside garden, it's the perfect chance to focus on the plants you have indoors.  So come and check out the Arboretum Library's collection of books on indoor gardening where you can find guides on how to help your houseplants thrive and be a beautiful and vibrant part of your decor.
Find books about houseplants in the Arboretum Library catalog here.
“The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual” by Barbara Pleasant. [Storey Publishing, 2005]

About the project

This project has been made possible with help from Sara Lind, an intern from Sweden, and master's student in Digital Services: Culture, Information and Communication (Library and Information Science, Boras Hogskola, Sweden). The text is written by volunteer Laura Scott Sellers. The main goal is to show glimpses of the Arboretum Library Rare Book Collection. Instead of digitizing entire books, images have been selected from different sources. Plant images are native to Mediterranean Climate Areas. You can find many of the plants in the garden. If you want to know the source of the image, click on the image or imageslider on the webpage and you will be transferred to Flickr where all necessary metadata (information about the image) can be found.

Main goal
The idea of presenting images in this way is to show that the Arboretum Library is connected to the Arboretum and the specific plants in it. Botanical illustrators have captured the essence of the plants over a hundred years ago. We can see the same plants in the Arboretum. Visitors of the Arboretum will now have the opportunity to look at rare botanical illustrations as they walk in the garden, while viewing the same plant in real time. To view the images you can use the Google Maps-tour. This project showcases the Arboretum Library collections and makes the public more aware of the library as a public place, where the bulk of the collections are in publicly available stacks. 
Technical specifications
The images are digitally captured with as much authenticity as possible, but corrections can have been made (removing dots or dirt) afterwards. The images have been cropped. There are also different capturing methods due to technical challenges at certain times, but most images have been scanned with Canon CanoScan 8800F. On the About the books page, you will see links to entire works.
Plant names
The plant's names are mostly, directly copied from the source. If the name has changed over time it will usually be noted in the metadata. For those plants also found in the Arboretum, see the Plants in the garden page. All the plants portrayed in the images are from plant families that can be found in the Arboretum. Please note that the plant location in the Arboretum could change. 
Usage and copyright
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden scanned these images.  If you would like to use a scanned image, please contact Arboretum Librarian, Susan Eubank at 

Library Services

Arboretum Library Information
View the online catalog.
Check out recent Library posts on the Arboretum Blog.
Library E-News
Current citations to a selected group of articles relevant to southern California gardeners and plant lovers as well as lists of new library acquisitions and a selected list of subject appropriate websites are available on the Arboretum Blog. You may also receive the newsletter by send a request to subscribe to the librarian at
Library Access 
General Public
The Library is open to everyone, free of charge. Any member of the general public may use library materials on-site, but only Arboretum Foundation Members may check out books. To visit the Arboretum Library, come to the entrance rotunda and tell the cashiers you are here to use the library.
Arboretum Library Circulation Policy
Circulation Privileges
Books may be checked out by Arboretum members for three weeks at a time, plus an additional two renewals if needed. Items may be renewed in person, by phone, or by email. Current magazines may be checked out for three days, with no renewals. Please be sure to have your Membership Card with you.  Learn more about becoming a member of the Arboretum.
Overdue Items
The Library does not charge overdue fines. The Librarian is happy to accept donations for the Arboretum Library's new acquisitions fund.
Interlibrary Loans
The Arboretum Library can arrange to borrow almost any item not in their collection through interlibrary loans with other libraries.

Library Location
The Arboretum Library is located within The Arboretum. Go straight through the double doors on the left (east) of the entrance rotunda.
Library Hours
Tuesday-Friday 8:30 am to 5:30 pmSaturday 8:30 am to 5:00 pmSunday 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm 
The Arboretum Library will be open:Tues.-Thurs., July 16-18, 2013, 9:00am to 4:00pm.Friday, July 19, 2013, 8:30am to 5:00pmTues.-Fri., July 23-26, 2013, 9:00 am to 4:00pm.Closed, Saturday, July 27, 2013All other hours during this time period are as normal
Susan Eubank, Librarian
Phone: (626)821-3213Fax: (626)445-1217Email:

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© 2015 Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden • 626.821.3222 • 301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007 • Website Design by Kirk Projects.

© 2015 Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens

Phone: 626.821.3222

301 N. Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA, 91007

Site Design by Kirk Projects