Santa Rosa should use the creations of Luther Burbank to landscape the new courthouse and every single front yard, suggested San Francisco’s city engineer a few months after the Great 1906 Earthquake. And yes, Burbank promised seed packets, bulbs, and plants when asked by a civic group seeking to beautify Santa Rosa a few weeks hence. You can probably see a descendant or two from Burbank’s greenhouse in many of the old gardens around town: agapanthus, walnut and plum trees, bottlebrush, daisies, and lilies are just some of the possible heritage plants from that era (Burbank’s most prolific years came later.)

If the name of letter-writer Marsden Manson is familiar to anyone today, it’s because of his shameful role in five-year campaign by San Francisco to flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley for use as the city’s reservoir. Starting the following year, Manson would become the point man attacking John Muir and what he called the “short-haired women and long-haired men” in the Sierra Club, whom he ridiculed as sentimentalists standing in the way of San Francisco’s glorious future.

A Letter From The Eminent Civil Engineer Suggests Laying Out of New Courthouse Grounds and Gardens Everywhere With Flowers and Trees of Luther Burbank’s Creations

Marsden Manson, the well known civil engineer of San Francisco, who is at present doing so much in planning and designing the new and greater San Francisco, has found time to interest himself in the beautifying of the new and greater Santa Rosa.

Mr. Manson’s pertinent suggestions are contained in the following letter which will be read with much interest from a man who has given the subject much thought:

San Francisco, Jan. 11, 1907– The Editor of the Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Cal.: Santa Rosa is the point towards which the agricultural scientists of the world look with great interest. From this far away town have gone forth to the world plantforms new to nature; and. which have added millions to the wealth of those who till the soil.

Rare flowers, delicious fruits, trees of unusual growth and beauty, vegetables and grasses of higher food values, even desert growths changed into valuable forage plants–all the product of the skillful scientific work of one man. No catalogue of trees, fruits, vegetables, etc., is complete unless its lists contain some at least of the creations from Santa Rosa. The work has just begun. Yet Santa Rosa does not realize her possibilities and advantages. I therefore make the following suggestions:

In rehabilitating the grounds around your new court house let the grass, flowers and trees be those developed and improved by Luther Burbank.

Let every front yard present one or more of the flowers he has given the world, and let that world know that some of the choicest products of his work greet the stranger, who visit your town, at every gate with the beauty and odor of some flower which has made Santa Rosa the mecca of the scientific horticulturalist and florist.
Sincerely yours, Marsden Manson.

– Press Democrat, January 13, 1907

Flower Planting In Santa Rosa Much Favored

Luther Burbank has promised to aid the movement started by the Women’s Improvement Club and endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations for the beautifying of the City of Roses.

At a joint meeting of the committed of the Improvement Club…Mr. Burbank willingly promised a generous gift of flower seeds and later of bulbs and plants and to aid in every way the movement to make the gardens of the city blossom as the rose by the time of the rose carnival in May. The promised gift from Mr. Burbank fired the committee with enthusiasm and he was heartily thanked.


– Press Democrat, March 22, 1907

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