Scope and Content
Language of Material:
University of California, Davis Library, Dept. of Special Collections
Title: Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation Collection
Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation.
Identifier/Call Number: D-451
47.5 linear feet
Date (inclusive): 1938-2008
Date (bulk): 1952-1998
Abstract: The Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation Collection is the
organizational and research records of an association of California horticulturalists active from 1952 to 2006. The
Foundation's goal was to improve and enrich western ornamental horticulture through the promotion of shade trees, California
native plants, and drought-tolerant plants. The collection spans the years 1938-2008 (bulk 1950-1998) and includes minutes,
correspondence, financial records, research notes and data, project plans, and photographs relating to the Foundation's
operation and horticultural research.
Physical Location: Researchers should contact Archives and Special Collections to request
collections, as many are stored offsite.
The Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation (SHRF) was founded in 1952 by a small group committed to improving western
horticulture. Named after the location of its original headquarters on Verde Vista Lane in Saratoga, California, the SHRF
grew out of nurseryman Ray Hartman's vision of a horticultural experiment station for developing hardy, reliable trees and
shrubs for the California landscape. Hartman engaged his longtime friend Maunsell Van Rensselaer, a horticulturalist, and
handful of others interested in examining the possibility of establishing an experiment station as a foundation. Ultimately,
the SHRF was established as a non-profit organization under the direction of a Board of Trustees, which was guided by a Board
of Councillors drawn from prominent figures in the fields of western horticulture, arboriculture, landscape design, and
botany. The Foundation's activities were guided by a director who reported to the Board of Trustees.
Maunsell Van Rensselaer was chosen as the first director of the Foundation. During his twenty-year directorship, the
Foundation began its work to change the focus of western landscaping towards landscape plants and trees better suited to
California's Mediterranean climate. The SHRF's original focus was to promote western shade trees and native California
ornamental shrubs, but during the mid-1970s, when a period of drought struck the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, the
Foundation expanded its mission to include the promotion of drought-tolerant landscaping. It encouraged the use of California
native plants and trees, shade trees to maximize cooling, and alternative plantings for heavily-watered areas. At this time,
the SHRF was also investigating plants from Australia, New Zealand, and Chile as potential low-water-use and fire-retardant
introductions to California gardens.
The SHRF was instrumental in developing the ornamental landscaping familiar to Californians today. The Foundation
conducted research into plant quality and propagation methods, evaluated trees and woody plants for street and shade
planting, established test sites for investigations into climate and cultural techniques, and ultimately patented varieties
of magnolia, Chinese pistache, and olive trees. The SHRF also provided its findings to members of the nursery trade,
landscape architects, students, teachers, and researchers. Among the well-known plants and trees the Foundation promoted for
home and commercial landscaping are: Liquidambar "Palo Alto" and Ginkgo biloba "Autumn Gold," which provide brilliant red
yellow fall foliage; several varieties of Ceanothus, or California lilac, known for its spikes of purple and blue flowers;
and the many varieties of Manzanita commonly used in hedges and ground covers.
In 1984, the SHRF decided to sell its property in Saratoga and move the headquarters to a location on Murphy Avenue in San
Martin, California. In 1986, the SHRF purchased another seven acres on Silva Circle in Gilroy, California; this extra land
gave the Foundation additional room for its expanding research program.
In addition to its research work and educational outreach, the SHRF also ran a small nursery. The Foundation was known for
its spring plant sales and Fall Festival, both events during which the public could tour the nursery and purchase native and
unusual plants. Most of the outreach activities were coordinated and carried out by the Associates of the Saratoga
Horticultural Foundation, which was the SHRF's docent and fund-raising group.
The Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation was dissolved in 2006, when the board determined that it had succeeded in
its mission to promote the widespread use of native and drought-tolerant plants. The Foundation's fifty-four years of
activity were essential in guiding nurseries to continue the Foundation's work to select, evaluate, and introduce
climate-appropriate plants to the California landscaping and gardening public.
Scope and Content
The Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation Collection spans the years 1938-2008, with the bulk of the material falling
between 1952 and 1998. The collection contains material relating to the Foundation's administration and to its work to
identify and promote shade trees, California native plants, and drought-tolerant plants appropriate to California's
Mediterranean climate. The collection includes newsletters, minutes of the Board of Trustees, patent records, project plans,
specimen data sheets, and a large series of photographs documenting both Foundation staff and horticultural specimens. Also
present is a small series of ephemera and realia and a 16mm print of "Native Trees and Shrubs for California Gardens."
The following collections at Archives and Special Collections may also be of interest:
D-376, California Native Plant Society Collection, 1956-1996: This collection contains correspondence, newsletters, notes,
publications, and photos related to the history of the California Native Plant Society.
D-086, Harry M. Butterfield Papers, 1860-1970: This collection contains manuscripts, research material, and photographs
related to the history of ornamental plants in California.
O-009, Nursery and Seed Catalog Collection, 1856-: This collection contains catalogs of trees, fruits, vegetables, grains,
flowers, and gardening equipment introduced to the public from 1856 to the present.
Collection is open for research.
Gift of Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation, 2006, 2008.
[Identification of item], Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation Collection, D-451, Archives and Special Collections,
UC Davis Library, University of California, Davis.
All applicable copyrights for the collection are protected under chapter 17 of the U.S. Copyright Code. Requests for
permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission
for publication is given on behalf of the Regents of the University of California as the owner of the physical items. It is
not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Trees in cities -- California.
Shade trees -- California.
Drought-tolerant plants -- California.
Landscape gardening -- California.
Landscape architecture -- California.
Native plant gardening -- California.
Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation. -- Archives