Arboretum Memories

visitors enjoying the Arboretum

Will you share your story about what
the Arboretum and Public Garden means to you?

Stories bring us together, even when we're apart.

We encourage you to share a special memory, reminisce about a favorite plant or nature sighting in our gardens, recount a fun anecdote, or simply tell us about the impact it has had on your life. We love to hear about your personal connections to the Arboretum and Public Garden! 

The Memories Project is one way the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden support group is celebrating its 50th anniversary. With the partnership of all of you, and the Friends, we are “growing better together.”

We welcome photos and story submissions from volunteers, Friends members, our entire campus family and alumni, and all of our diehard community fans – everyone who loves the Arboretum and Public Garden!

The curated collection of stories will be shared on our website throughout the Friends 50th anniversary year in 2021.

Submit Your Own Arboretum Memory

A Project of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden

Memories from our Community!

Photo of people fencing

Fencing at the Arboretum

Name
Tom Farely
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Memory

I saw people fencing at the Ruth Storer Garden, February 13, 2011. Maybe they practice regularly  there, but this is the first and last time I've seen them.


 

Photo of Haley Proehl

A Place of Rest

Name
Haley Proehl
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Memory

I come to the Gazebo to relax in the shade or study. I like the open area and the view of the waterway and plants around me. It is my favorite place to go whenever I am feeling stressed.

Photo of John Meyer

Happy Ever After

Name
John Meyer
Affiliation
Staff
Affiliation
Retired Vice Chancellor, Administration
Memory

I got married in the Arboretum in September 1986. Happy ever after!

Date
1986
Photo of Rick Dewey

Plant Sale, Round Two!

Name
Rick Dewey
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Memory

I came to UC Davis for the plant sale. I took a long walk along the Arboretum creek, a ‘Zen’ walk. I found a new plant there: Leucophyllum frustescens. BEAUTIFUL! I came back to the sale and made my second purchase of the day. 

Photo of Rebecca Cherone.

One More Song!

Name
Rebecca Cherone
Memory

I am a naturalist for the UC Davis Arboretum and participated in the “Storytime Through the Seasons” series of family events. For this particular Native American-themed event, I was in the music section. I asked both the parents and children to participate and proceeded to teach a couple of Native American songs to the group, having them sing and dance, using Native American instruments like clappers.

Everyone was getting really into it and the kids were really enjoying themselves when time began to run out and we had to switch stations. One of the parents turned to me and exclaimed, “We have time! Can we please do ONE more song?!” 

photo of Charles Rowe

Hotter & Drier: The Arboretum in the '40s

Name
Charles Rowe
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Memory

I remember a University employee cultivating around the young redwood trees with a black Percheron draft horse in the early 1940’s. The arboretum certainly looked a lot hotter and drier that it does now!  

During the end of March or early April 1941, I saw the arboretum area brim-to-brim with brown flood water.

I also remember the original wooden bridge (where the bridge is now west of the Mondavi Center, leading to the old Swine Barn and Police Station). When it was out of service at one point, there was a dry crossing angled across the creek-bed (probably in the late 1940s or early 1950s).

Date
1941
Photo of Lei Putney

Almost Married at the "Snack Shack"

Name
Lei Putney
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Memory

The Arboretum has always been a magical place for our family, filled with fond memories starting back in our beginning days of dating and courtship as students here at UC Davis in the mid 70’s. The love of my life and I would often picnic by “the duck ponds” near Mrak Hall. We even contemplated a simple outdoor wedding at the Wyatt Deck, as it is now called. However, in those early days, it was not so quaintly named!

We searched the campus map back then to find the location for our wedding invitation, only to find that our lovely deck area there by Spafford Lake was called the “Snack Shack” in reference to the snack bar there in olden times. We had to laugh and decided that perhaps the name took away from the romantic nature of our plans, though fitting for my love and enjoyment of food! Following a more traditional church wedding, many delightful family picnics continued through the years, bringing children and friends to the Arboretum to share the ponds and the ducks and the funny story of wanting to marry at the Snack Shack! Thank you for all the beautiful memories, dear Friends of the Arboretum!

Photo of Manfred Kush

From Bare Land to Thriving Garden

Name
Manfred Kusch
Affiliation
UC Davis Sr. Lecturer Emeritus
Memory

When we moved into our new home, the land around the house was completely bare. During the last 23 years I have rarely missed an Arboretum plant sale and I have never left empty-handed. More often than not, my truck returned home loaded to the gills with native California plants, Mediterranean, South African, and Australian specimens. So that by now much of my garden resembles the Arboretum on campus.

And now, 23 years after moving to a sterile, almost bird-less piece of land, I have a garden that attracts an amazing number and variety of birds. Every nook and cranny seems occupied by bird nests, hard to count, but certainly over 100 every season. Planting the right plants was made easy by the folks at the Arboretum and their wonderful plant sales.

Photo of Bob and Mike Kelleher

Honoring Robert and Michael Kelleher

Name
Kathy Kelleher Minta
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Memory

Our family and friends dedicated a bench in memory of my father and brother, Robert and Michael Kelleher. The bench looks lovely and I can’t wait to rest on it as I watch the joggers, bikers and walkers pass by. I too worked for UC Davis and my father, brother, and I spent many days walking the Arboretum together. Of course, that was back in the days when the geese and ducks pooped all over the Mrak Hall lawn area and begged contributions from bag lunches, before the eggheads. I do confess to feeding the ducks and geese bread.

The last walk I took with my father was along the Arboretum. That was in 1999. In 1969 he helped me with my Senior Science Project for Davis High School. It was a illustrated book of plants found at the UC Davis Arboretum and included pressed specimens, drawings and descriptions. The entire Kelleher family thanks you. 

Nancy Foster

Camel Strolling Through the Arboretum

Name
Nancy and Chuck Foster
Affiliation
Volunteer
Memory

"One evening on an adventure to tour the Storer Garden to get plant ideas, we saw next to the garden a camel being led! We did a double take—the camel being eight feet tall—and it really was a camel. Only in Davis would you see a camel in the Arboretum," said Nancy Foster, Arboretum Volunteer.

"I was there when we were in the Storer Garden and saw the camel on June 12, 2009. I joined Warren Roberts for a “Walk with Warren” three weeks later and mentioned the camel sighting. He too had seen the camel and had checked with the Vet School to see if they knew anything about it. Warren said they told him that the camel had had surgery and was recovering when we saw it walking just west of Storer," said Chuck Foster.

Date
June 12, 2009
Photo of Melissa Cruz

Love at First Sight

Name
Melissa Cruz
Affiliation
Current Student
Memory

My first encounter with the Arboretum was April 2009. I had won a free flight to Davis and I was determined to go and visit this famous arboretum. I visited and fell in love with it. It’s because of the Arboretum that I decided to attend this university. So the Arboretum basically shaped my future!  I LOVE the Arboretum.

Date
April 2009
Photo of Professor Conn

Beginnings of the Eric E. Conn Acacia Grove

Name
Eric Conn
Affiliation
UC Davis Professor
Memory

My interest in acacias really started about 1960 when I was studying the formation and metabolism of cyanogenic compounds—compounds that release hydrogen cyanide when a plant’s cellular structure is disrupted, e.g. when eaten by animals. When I learned that acacias are cyanogenic, I approached Roman Gankin, the Arboretum superintendent, and asked him to consider increasing the acacia collection. Roman was very accommodating.

Ryan Deering is now keeping an eye on the acacia collection. He even has a few seedlings of Acacia conniana that he hopes will be hardy enough to withstand our occasional winter temperatures in the low 20s.

Here’s how the name came about: In Australia, there were two species of Acacia cognata that had the same name, one in New South Wales and one in Western Australia. I had shown that both species were cyanogenic and wanted to publish this information in a paper on Australian cyanogenic acacia species. Imagine my surprise when my friend Bruce Maslin, the authority on Western Australian acacias, sent me a paper in which he renamed the western species Acacia conniana after me.

Photo of Christy DeWees

The Making of the Candy Tuft 'Little Gems' Tile

Name
Christy DeWees
Memory

I have observed Donna Billick's community work for many years and wished I could participate so that I could see how she coordinates many people to produce such marvelous cooperative pieces. Being invited to participate in the Art/Science Fusion project as an Arboretum volunteer was a perfect opportunity.

Donna suggested I make a big tile depicting Candy Tuft 'Little Gems', and then before I knew it, Donna sliced pieces off and gave them to two other volunteers to help make Little Gems. Just like that, we were cooperating. And although it was hard for me to not be in control, it all worked out. All three of us made flower clusters, I made most of the background leaves and glazed them, someone else added an insect, and another person put the pieces together and put the grout between the sections. Our one tile was indeed a group effort!

Sue Barnes

Boat Operator Crashes a Wedding

Name
Sue Barnes
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Memory

My husband and I got married at Putah Creek Lodge in the Arboretum on August 8, 1987. The morning ceremony took place on a gorgeous summer day, under the trees at the west end of the lawn; everything was serenely perfect. Even the ducks waddling around in front of the wedding party were charming.

As we began to recite our sacred vows, a very high-powered motorized model boat suddenly started zipping back and forth across the water directly in front of us. The boat operator was out of sight somewhere down the path, so I am sure he/she didn't realize the disruption to our special day. Our family and friends didn't hear a single word of our vows. After nearly 25 years together, we still laugh about our perfect wedding at the arboretum.

Date
1987
Photo of Sue Chelini

Labor Day '60: Building the Arboretum and Community

Name
Sue Chelini
Affiliation
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

I graduated in 1961.  When I started in 1957, UC Davis had about 2,200 students, fewer than my current high school had at it's prime.  I believe I entered the second year that the College of Letters and Science was in existence.  Prior to that, Davis was all agriculture engineering and home ec.  When I graduated in 1961, Davis had grown to about 5,000.

1960 was a leap year.  The tradition was that every four years, February 29 was called "Labor Day".  Each residence unit (dorm floors, fraternities, off campus) was assigned a work party detail somewhere on campus.  I remember some cleaning barns, clearing trash, etc.  In 1960, many residence units were assigned to "plant the arboretum".  

At that time, Putah Creek was a tiny trickle on the outer edge of campus.  It certainly was not a destination or a beauty spot on campus.  It was muddy in the winter and bred mosquitoes in the summer.  In February. the ground was soft from the rain.  That particularly day was cold and drizzly, too.  We were given hoes, rakes and shovels and many trees, some bare root and some in 5 gallon buckets, each an exotic species.  Each residence unit was given a specific area to clean out and plant.  

It was a day of team building and camaraderie that culminated in a campus barbeque on the quad, all of us rubbing sore muscles unused to that type of work.  Even though I don't remember exactly where 5th floor Malcolm planted trees, when I returned for Picnic Day, 2011 to celebrate my 50th year reunion, I walked the arboretum with a sense of pride and wonder about the vision that created such a lovely space on campus so many years ago

Date
1960