Nearly every Sunday we enjoy gorgeous flowers from Betty’s garden planted by Betty and Harley more than 50 years ago. It’s no surprise that the original careful planning, years of loving care, Hayward’s temperate climate and the rich alluvial soil of our western side of the California coastal range produces such a huge diverse variety of splendid year-round color.
Did you know that the San Francisco cut flower industry actually began during the 1850’s gold rush? Successful prospectors and merchants found themselves with excess wealth and flowers became expected adornments in hotels, restaurants and at family celebrations. The Domoto brothers arrived in California from Japan in 1884 and established a small nursery in Oakland growing a variety of garden plants including camellias, azaleas and lily bulbs. Their business thrived, and in 1892 the brothers bought 2 acres of land in East Oakland, probably making them the first Japanese land owners in the United States. Their business expanded several times through the years, ultimately becoming a 40 acre nursery site in the Oakland foothills, the first large scale Japanese business in the country. The brothers encouraged trainees to start their own businesses and by 1906 there were 42 charter members of the Japanese Flower Growers Association in the Bay Area. With open space, rich soil and low property values in the East Bay, many small Japanese plot nurseries were located in San Leandro, San Lorenzo and in Hayward. Chinese and Italians were also important players in the Bay Area cut flower industry and by the 1950’s there were hundreds of independent nurseries in the East Bay including several located along Mission Blvd. between Hayward, Decoto and Mission San Jose.
California Nursery Company in Niles was established in 1884 by John Rock and at first supplied grape vines and fruit trees to California’s growing agriculture industry. CNC provided plants for Leland Stanford’s Estate and began a retail operation selling ornamental trees and plants for homes and gardens. Rock worked with Luther Burbank and other plant breeders to create hundreds of new plant hybrids including more than 270 varieties of roses. CNC ultimately became the largest nursery firm of its kind west of the Rockies.
Most of the local independent nurseries are gone and California Nursery Company is now a Fremont city park, all replaced by generic garden departments in the big chain home improvement and membership stores. Gone also are the colorful gladiola fields that brightened our travel along Mission Blvd.
Thank you Betty, for keeping the tradition of Haywards cut flower legacy alive and for the beautiful flowers that brighten our Sunday mornings -Bill (and your grateful UCH family)