Library

The Blaksley Library

A Passion for California 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.

General Collection

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.

1942

The Blaksley Library building celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2022.

1841

The date of the oldest material in the Archive.

15,000

The number of volumes in the Library’s collection.

The Archives

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.

Manuscript Collections

The Library has collected and organized papers from people and relevant organizations associated with the Garden or active in California botany and horticulture. 

Bard Papers

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

Franceschi 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 UC 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

Architectural Drawings

Designing a Beautiful Native Plant Garden

Architectural drawings depict the development of the Garden since the 1930s and include planting and building plans by Lutah Maria 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.

oral histories

Stories from the Garden’s Most Influential Figures

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.

Photography

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 and 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

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.

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