Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A History of the Nursery Trade (1904)

To understand the importance of the California Nursery Company, it is helpful to understand the context of the times. How many nurseries were there around the turn of the 20th century?  Who were they supplying?  What were they supplying?  

Here is a helpful historical article from November 1904 - "Sketch of the Development of the Nursery Business in California" in The National Nurseryman (Vol XII, No 11).  I found The National Nurseryman (vols 11-13) in Google books when looking for the California Nursery Company.  Of course, Mr. Miller admits "I must base my attempt entirely on my recollections, which are somewhat deficient at my advanced age."  So some fact checking is in order, but it's a start.

It is best to read directly from the google book, but here's the excerpt if you can't get to it.



In giving the readers of The National Nurseryman a sketch of the historical development of the nursery business of California, I must base my attempt entirely on my recollections, which are somewhat deficient at my advanced age.

The first general nursery of ornamental as well as fruit bearing trees and shrubs was established by Mr. A. P. Smith about 1852 on the banks of the Sacramento river, near Sacramento city, the state capital of California. Mr. Smith cultivated a very meritorious collection of ornamental and fruit bearing trees, shrubs and vines, which would be considered a credit to his state at the present time. The undertaking, unfortunately was "ahead of the times." This very select stock had plenty of admirers, but the early pioneers came here for gold and had no time nor humor to cultivate plants. True, his first ripe peaches were sold at $1.00 each and his roses in pots and in bloom, which he transported under difficulties to the mines brought $10 to $15 each at auction in Nevada city in my presence. The nursery was not a financial success and Mr. Smith failed after a few years hard struggle. Some of his fine Camellias, which made a phenomenal growth in the open, to the height of ten feet to twelve feet, were dug up and removed to San Francisco by Mr. E. L. Reimer who sold the flowers, produced by the hundred, at $1.00 each.

From 1855 to 1865 several ornamental stock nurseries were established in San Francisco; Golden Gate Nursery by Mr. Walker, another by Mr. E. L. Reimer and a third one by Mr. Henry Sontag, all of which have gone out of existence years ago. During the same period a number of nurseries were established in the rural districts of California with ornamental as well as fruit bearing stock. The most prominent of them were Mr. West of Stockton, Mr. Fox of San Jose, Mr. Burbanks of Santa Rosa and Mr. E. Gill of Oakland.

The most profitable ornamental trees during the period were Araucarias, Acacias and Eucalypti in many varieties; Pittosporums, Leptospermums and other evergreens from Australia, all of which are well adapted to this climate, but not as much in demand now as they were then. The most popular evergreens introduced during the same time were Pinus insignis (Monterey pine) and Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey Cypress) both of them natives of California. The first lot of Cupressus lacrocarpa, four to five feet high, sold at $5.00 each; the same size to-day sells at 25 cents each, or $15.00 per 100. The demand for them has increased from 500 per season at that time to 25,000 to-day.

In 1875 the first horticultural society was formed, several very fine exhibitions were held, but the people would not sustain them.

In 1884 the largest general nursery was established at Niles.

It consisted of 500 acres under the management of Mr. John Rock, and is known up to this date as the California Nursery Company. Mr. Rock died July 20th. He was a remarkable man, closely identified during a long and useful career, with the inception, development and final establishment of an enlightened horticultural practice in California; a personality at once pronounced, broadly human, intensely serious, patriotic, imbued with a healthy ambition, and a broad civic pride in the state and country of his adoption; a trained horticulturist, a man of integrity and honesty of purpose in everything he said or did.

To-day we have about 140 nurseries in the state, all of them in a fairly prosperous condition, about 30 of them are engaged chiefly in propagating citrous fruit trees, about 35 in fruit bearing trees and shrubs generally and about 75 in stock of all kind, mostly ornamental.

Read Pacific Rural Press 1895 for ads

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