We arrived at University of California in Davis on a hot and windy day, typical of the summers east of the San Francisco Bay area. UC Davis Arboretum is located in the heart of Davis, which is just west of the city of Sacramento.
We were picked up at our hotel by Andrew Fulks, one of the assistant directors, who took us to the garden offices to meet Executive Director Kathleen Socolofsky. Kathleen has steered the Arboretum on a journey from being a private garden to a public institution. She wanted to exceed expectations during this time so her changes took place gradually to insure effective implementation. Kathleen expressed her vision for the garden and the process of co-creation, which encompasses numerous unrelated university staff in the process of garden development. Briefly, this process involves surveys and interviews directed at different sections of the University to determine their views on what the gardens should be, and the niche they should fill on campus.
The Arboretum itself is located in a narrow band of property along the south edge of the campus, and consists of 19 collections and gardens. During a limited time for exploration, this writer managed to see a good part of the Mediterranean Garden, as well as the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden and Gazebo.
The Mediterranean Garden borders a large canal, which is a prominent feature of this part of the Arboretum, and contains plants from several Mediterranean regions.
Another interesting project mentioned during our visit is the GATEways project, which serves as a resource for sustainable horticulture. This project involves collaboration among a garden team headed by Kathleen, the assistant Vice Chancellor, and the Campus Planner; all of whom support the larger vision of UC Davis as a visitor-centered destination. Gardens adjacent to specific departments contain elements of that department within the garden, itself.
The Director of GATEways Horticulture and Teaching Gardens, Emily Griswold, then took us to the newly-planted California Native Plant Gateway Garden, which features plants originating from the lower Putah Creek watershed. This site also features a “Shovel Gateway’’ sculpture which was created using 400 old shovels, which make for a remarkable entry way to the University campus. Interpretive signage will educate visitors about the regional flora and fauna of the Putah Creek Watershed and how to create sustainable landscapes with native plants.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to UC Davis, especially the great sense of connectivity between the staff. The Arboretum has a very exciting future ahead and we look forward to visiting again soon.
Blog by Gary Shanks and photography by Sara Helm Wallace