Located in Santa Rosa, California, the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is a one-acre city park preserving the former estate, conservatory, and gardens of famed horticulturalist Luther Burbank, a contemporary and close friend of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Born in Lancaster, Massachusetts on March 7, 1849, Luther Burbank was a noted American horiculturalist and agricultural science pioneer, best known for his development of new varieties of plants as a means of increasing world food supply.
Throughout his 55-year career, Burbank developed more than 800 new varieties of plants, including over 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and other subsistence crops. Among his most notable plant developments were the Shasta daisy, the fire poppy, the Wickson and Santa Rosa plums, and the Flaming Gold nectarine. He is also credited with development of the russet Burbank potato as a blight-resistant answer to the Irish potato famine, which has since become the world’s leading potato variant used for food processing, and contributed to the development of a spineless cactus variant used for livestock foraging in desert regions.
As a resident of the Santa Rosa, California area for more than 50 years, Burbank performed the majority of his life’s work at the Greek Revival estate preserved by the park today, where he resided from 1884 to 1906. As a prominent international horticulturalist, Burbank was a close friend of noted innovators Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who frequently visited the Santa Rosa estate. Following Burbank’s death and burial on the estate’s grounds in 1926, his wife, Elizabeth, resided at the house until 1977. After Elizabeth’s death, the home and gardens were preserved as a public park facility.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
Today, Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is operated as a public museum and urban garden park, open to the public for self-guided exploration and guided tours. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark in 1964, and serves as one of a number of memorials dedicated to Burbank within the Santa Rosa area, including the city’s annual Rose Parade festival and celebration. The park preserves the Greek Revival Burbank Home and 1889 Greenhouse, which showcases a replica of Burbank’s horticultural office, including a display of original tools. Near the greenhouse, Burbank’s gravesite is visible, commemorating his 1926 death and burial on the house’s grounds underneath his Cedar of Lebanon tree.
Over an acre of garden space on the house’s grounds highlights Burbank’s various cultivars, including collections of varieties of fruit, trees, herbs, roses, and nuts he engineered. A Medicinal Garden features herb and plant varieties used in medicinal treatment, including aloe, comfrey, feverfew, goldenrod, lavender, thyme, and yarrow. In the Spineless Cactus Garden, Burbank’s hybrid varieties of Indian fig and Mexican prickly pear cacti are highlighted, which can be used for purposes in livestock feeding, medicinal healing, manufacturing, and cooking. An Edible Landscape Garden displays edible flowers, fruits, and vegetables used in ornamental landscaping, including garlic chives, kale, rhubarb, and edible chrysanthemums, as well as Burbank’s crafted varieties of slicing tomatoes, striped corn, dwarf pomegranates, and plumcots. A Wildlife Garden also features deciduous and evergreen shrubs, trees, vines, and blooming and berry-producing plants designed to attract birds, butterflies, bees, and small woodland animals. All plants within gardens are labeled with both their botanic and common names.
At the Carriage House Museum and Gift Shop, walk-in docent-led tours are offered daily, showcasing rotating special exhibits related to the history of agriculture, food production, and food culture in the United States. Past temporary exhibits include Food Will Win The War!, a retrospective of the National War Garden Commission initiative of World War I, which helped combat food rationing by encouraging civilians to plant vegetable gardens instead of buying commercially-produced agriculture. The What Blooms In Our Gardenexhibit has also been held due to popular demand, featuring changing photos of garden collections taken throughout the seasons, with an interactive site map to help visitors locate plantings on the park’s grounds. Items at the Carriage House Gift Shop include prints, posters, seeds, and souvenirs.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is open to the public from April through October, with docent-led tours offered of the Burbank home, greenhouse, gardens, and museum, lasting approximately 45 minutes. Group tours are also available upon request for groups of up to 60 visitors, including curriculum-incorporated tours for elementary school groups presented at a third-grade level. Garden audio cell phone tours are also offered, featuring 28 stops offering historical and horticultural facts about the gardens’ plant life, and independent exploration of garden areas is encouraged. Picnic tables are provided on the park’s grounds for visitor-brought lunches.
Annual public special events include a Mother’s Day Chosen Spot Plant Expo and Sale and a Holiday Open House in December, showcasing the Burbank home decorated in old-fashioned holiday style. The property may also be rented for private special events, including weddings, banquets, and business gatherings. Photography on the park’s grounds is permitted, with those looking to book private photo shoots encouraged to call ahead to inquire about conflicts with public event scheduling.
204 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95404, Phone: 707-524-5445