OUR STORIED PAST
An Ongoing Passion for California’s Native Flora
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s Blaksley Library was established in 1927 and includes over 15,000 botanical and horticultural works on California flora and landscape history. The collection is housed in the Library building, which was designed by local architect Lutah Maria Riggs and completed in 1942. The building’s beautiful mountain views and courtyard setting create an inspiring backdrop for our team of researchers and visiting guests.
What’s in Our Library Collection?
The Garden’s rich library collection of plant information is unequaled on the California central coast. It houses over 15,000 books, digital media, and journals on all aspects of plant science with an emphasis on the flora of California and its offshore Channel Islands. The collection’s strengths include floras of other Mediterranean regions of the world, botanical exploration of North America, plant conservation, ornamental uses of native plants, low-water landscaping, landscape architecture, garden design, and history at the Garden.
The Library building celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2022.
The oldest material in the Archive is from this year.
The Library houses this number of volumes in its collection.
Nearly a Century of History
The Archives consist of materials relevant to the founding and growth of the Garden — now nearly a century old. In addition to the special collections listed below, the archives contain a wealth of historical information about the Garden, as well as teaching collections for use by our Education and Engagement Team.
The Library has collected and organized papers from people and relevant organizations associated with the Garden or active in California botany and horticulture.
Horticultural materials about Berylwood in Ventura County, home of U.S. Sen. Thomas Bard from California and his wife Mary. Site of many rare plants and a commercial nursery. Records from 1894 to circa 1941.
Charles Francis Saunders Collection
Research materials, drafts, and correspondence for the 18 books and numerous articles Saunders published on California botany, ethnobotany, history, and gardening. Historical material on Southern California from circa 1904 to 1942. Rare books and an autograph collection of famous botanists are also included.
Finding aid available: Charles Francis Saunders Papers
Nursery catalogs, inventory books, plant lists, and articles by Dr. Francesco Franceschi document his contribution to Santa Barbara horticulture.
Ralph Stevens Papers
Correspondence, reports, articles, and plant lists of this Santa Barbara landscape architect and park superintendent. Materials pertain to Stevens’ teaching at University of California, Berkeley, and the creation of the botanical garden there, as well as his commission to design the grounds of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Papers
Includes papers of Garden directors Dr. Frederic Clements, Dr. Elmer J. Bissell and Ervanna Bowen Bissell, Maunsell Van Rensselaer, Dr. Katherine Muller, and Dr. Ralph Philbrick, and horticulturist Dara Emery.
Finding aid available: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Papers
Clifton Smith Papers
Research notes, correspondence, publications, field notebooks, photographs, maps, printed matter, and memorabilia of this well-known botanist and collector are included and cover the period 1861 to 1998. Regional history files document the history of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties. Extensive research materials pertaining to the different editions of Smith’s “A Flora of the Santa Barbara Region, California.”
Finding aid available: Clifton F. Smith Papers
Henry Pollard Collection
Field notes, correspondence, and articles regarding the botanical collections of the Ventura area from Pollard, a local plant collector and teacher.
Finding aid available: Henry Pollard Papers
Designing a Beautiful Native Plant Garden
Architectural drawings depict the development of the Garden since the 1930s and include planting and building plans by Riggs, Lockwood de Forest Jr., and Beatrix Farrand. A collection of planting plans of local parks by Will Beittel and Grant Castleberg is also included.
Nursery and Seed catalogs
Plants for Sale Over the Years
The Library houses a historical collection of more than 1,500 nursery catalogs from 1878 to circa 1970s. Both growers of native and nonnative plants are represented with a focus on Tri-County growers, as well as growers from across California.
Stories from the Garden’s Most Influential Figures
Inaugurated in 1983, the Oral History Program seeks to show life through the eyes of the influential figures of the Garden’s modern history and to ensure that their experiences and contributions live on into the future. To date, more than three dozen narrators have been interviewed. A team of volunteers is actively preparing transcripts for publication. Completed transcripts are available in the Library and some are available for download.
Capturing the Beauty of Plants & People
The photo collection contains over 100,000 slides and print photographs of plants, gardens, habitats, and people focusing on the plant life and garden history of the Santa Barbara region. Many of the photos can be viewed online in our digital image library.
Art & Rare Objects
Keepsakes from Our Friends of the Garden
The Library houses a small but noteworthy collection of botanical and regional artwork. Complete sets of botanical prints by printmakers Henry Evans and Henry Mockel are included, as are individual works by Jacqueline Broughton, Henry Chapman Ford, Mary Hood, Patrick O’Hara, and Elisabeth Hallowell Saunders. The Garden is also home to a rich selection of historical scientific field and research instruments once belonging to Frederic Clements.
Meet the Team
Director of Education and Engagement
Access the Archives
& Blaksley Library
The Library is open by appointment only and does not require an admission fee to the Garden. Materials are noncirculating but may be used on-site. Our archivist is happy to assist patrons with access and special requests by appointment.