Member & Donor Stories
December 21, 2023

A Family Tree: The Baker Family and its Torrey Pine

By Jaime Eschette

For nearly a century, we’ve not only worked to establish our conservation mission that ensures biodiversity can thrive, but we’ve also acted as stewards for the 78-acres from which we operate – Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

This garden holds special memories for many who have soaked in the views, walked along its paths, and even helped us grow. These memories are what make the Garden such a valued resource in our community and we’re honored to be caretakers of its native plants so future generations can enjoy its legacy.

This past month, in honor of Margaret and Bradford Baker, we had a special tribute planted at the entry of the Backcountry. Rather than recount their beautiful story for you, we thought we’d share their letter directly (with their permission of course). A big thank you to Anne, Brian, and Elizabeth for sharing your story with us.

A Letter to Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

This week the Baker family planted a Torrey Pine tree at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in memory of our mother and father. As some of you know, Torrey Pine trees have a special place in our family history.

In 1974 our parents purchased a vacant piece of land in Carpinteria, hoping to someday build a family home there. In the middle of the lot was a Torrey Pine tree—a rare, huge tree that was at least 10-feet wide and well over 100 feet tall. The tree was so special to them that they built their house around it, making it a centerpiece. The house ended up with a “U” shape—it even had a view window so you could see one of the angled trunks from a hallway. At one point there was an incredible swing from one of its branches, there was often a lot of sap, and there were huge pinecones that landed on the roof with a bang in the middle of windy nights that we learned to get used to. That giant tree was a central part of our upbringing.

Later our mom learned that Fanny Stevenson, widow of the author Robert Louis Stevenson, an extraordinary person in her own right, who lived down the road nearly a century earlier, had planted several Torrey Pines along Padaro Lane that she brought from Santa Rosa Island, and ours was one of them. The trees symbolize resilience—they demand attention because of their size, sturdiness, and beauty.

Our mother loved the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, served on the board for several years, and would take anyone who would go with her to walk through the meadow, sit by the turtle pond, walk through the Redwood forest, or adventure to the Tea Garden. 

We planted the tree at the beginning of the Backcountry area, a new part of the Garden where kids are encouraged to explore, learn, play, and just be kids. We know our mom and our dad would love to see all the kids enjoying and exploring this impressive new part of the Garden. We’ve included a map and some photos of the tree so you can find it during your next visit. The purple X on the map is the location of the tree.

Best – Anne, Brian, and Elizabeth

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