Blake Garden

The Blake Estate (garden and house), was promised to the university in 1957 for instruction and research in landscape architecture. Although the gift was finalized in 1962 when Mrs. Blake died, Blake Garden has played a role in the education of landscape students since the early 1920s.

In 1922 Anson and Anita Blake and Anita’s sister, Mabel Symmes, began the transformation of a barren Kensington property into a tree-covered garden. Shortly after completion, Anita Blake made her gardens available to the Landscape Department where Mabel’s classmate Professor Harry Shepherd would often use the garden to teach his students about plant materials. Later, Mai Arbegast would make good use of Blake Garden, bringing her plant classes to the garden at least once a week.

Following the 1957 gift of the Blake estate, Department Chair Leland Vaughan appointed Arbegast as the garden’s acting director. She oversaw the surveying, mapping, photographing, and cataloging of the plant cover of the site. The garden became a well-stocked laboratory and was reputed to include up to 2,500 species where students could gain a broad understanding of plants.

2013 Blake Garden manager Lauri Twitchell (MLA ’04) feels that “working at Blake is an incredible experience that combines education, the natural world, and aesthetics. The garden is ten-and-a-half acres of opportunities...Artists sculpt, photograph, paint, and write poetry in the garden, and many individuals and groups visit and engage the garden each year, including: garden clubs and guilds; K-12 school groups; and design, art, education and environmental science classes from several area colleges, including classes from UC Berkeley’s LAEP program.”[1]

[1] Twitchell, Lauri, “Thinking Big and Small,” Landscape at Berkeley.