visitors enjoying the Arboretum

Memories Project

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 the Arboretum and Public Garden has had on your life. We love to hear about your personal connections! 

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 celebration.

Submit Your Own Arboretum and Public Garden Memory

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

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Memories from our Community!

Fremontodendron

Volunteer's reflection on the arboretum

Name
Emily Burstein
Affiliation
Volunteer
Memory

Three years after retiring, I finally signed up to be a UC Davis Arboretum volunteer.  On our first day of training in January this year, we introduced ourselves.  Every person shared stories of tender connection to the arboretum; riding bikes with their kids; walking with family and friends; discovering new plants for their own gardens.  I didn’t know these people. Yet, in the warmth welling in my stomach, I felt an immediate web of connection to them, wound with strands of love for our shared place.

For one of our training sessions we learned to prune woody plants. I was excited to learn this skill, as my fear of harming a plant makes me a timid pruner.  Stacey, our teacher, demonstrated on an overgrown flannel bush that our group would later prune together.  Her technical knowledge and practical experience were impressive.  But most striking was how Stacey seemed to connect to the plant’s spirit, past and future, as she explained where to make pruning cuts that would best support the plant...

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Date
2020
Group of people walking in the arboretum

The first time encounter

Name
Graciela Molina
Affiliation
Academic
Memory

The first encounter with two of my laboratory friends in person was at the arboretum. After long months in the house, being in contact with only my housemates and with others by Zoom, the arboretum at that time was a place of a little freedom and hope. A place to breathe and enjoy the company and the trees at fall. At least give us a little sensation of normality.

Date
October 2020
Bride and groom under the gazebo

Gazebo wedding

Name
Alix MacDonald-Calhoun
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

Two weeks after graduation John and I were married in the gazebo with a bagpiper serenading us. Two children, many dogs, and twenty-six years later we’re still married. Perfect venue. I still cherish the memories and photos.

Date
7/1/1995
Raquel Silva on her mother's back

The Happiest Place in Davis

Name
Raquel Silva
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Memory

My most happy childhood memories of Davis include picnics and afternoons at the Arboretum. I remember running around as fast as I could, rolling down hills of grass, and feeding the ducks way too much old bread. It was pure bliss. This is a photo of me and my mom (Roberta (Kidd) Allen) in winter of 1971. My parents are both UCD alumni. I followed in the family tradition and completed undergrad and law school at UCD. Even at 52, I still get that warm and happy feeling each time I explore the Arboretum.

Date
1971
Two people walk next to the Arboretum Waterway

A relaxing afternoon far away from home

Name
Lulu Zhang
Affiliation
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

I began college in September 2011. I just moved from China to the United States. By the Spring Quarter of 2012, I was struggling with English really hard. I was homesick. I was depressed. My Chinese culture did not help at all. The Chinese culture always promotes the mentality that "study in every and one of your waking moment."

Luckily, around March 2012, my friend Joann invited me to hang out on a weekend. Before we went back to our dorms, Joann asked me if I would like to visit the Arboretum. I said: "Sure. Why not?" Then Joann took me to see the creek in the Arboretum. It was the very first time I realized that I was allowed to have some time to relax, even when I was struggling academically.

Nine years have passed, life has thrown down many more challenges to me after college. However, my memory of that relaxing afternoon at the arboretum has always been my safe space.

Date
Spring Quarter of 2012
Image of ten speed bike brakes.

Braking is important

Name
Gloria Partida
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

We were transplanted from Los Angeles in June of 1989. I was a newly single mom of three. We were settling in to a new life in the gem of the community at Solano Park that bordered the east end of the arboretum. My children were 5, 6 and 7 and thought our nightly walks after dinner in the arboretum were the most magical adventures. Especially after coming from the inner city of Los Angeles. Being able to ride bikes around the arboretum was especially thrilling. One evening a little too thrilling when my oldest decided that it was time to conquer riding down the steepest hill in the arboretum. The angle of incline proved too much ! for the foot brakes on his little bike and if it hadn't been for the profusive foliage of a well placed bush he would have added to aquatic life of Spafford Lake. It is a memory that has become a part of our cannon of cautionary tales we give to all the new generations of bike riders in our family. 

Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash

Date
August 1989
Image of Doug Miller and his now wife when they were students at UC Davis.

Hanging out by Putah Creek

Name
Doug Miller
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Staff
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

Before we were married, my wife Janet, and I were among many who enjoyed the Arboretum and environment along the creek [Arboretum Waterway], including the woods on hot days. We met in a Russian class in Olson Hall, a short walk from the Arboretum. I have had the opportunity to enjoy its growth in the intervening years, having recently retired after 20 years as a graphic designer for UC Davis Extension (now Continuing and Professional Education).
 

Date
1971 or '72
Image of Sandra Fisher's grandsons walking through the UC Davis Arboretum's Redwood Grove.

A Family Affair

Name
Sandra Fisher
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Member of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
Staff
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

I met my husband on the UC Davis campus while we were students and spent many hours enjoying the beauty of the arboretum. It was always a respite from daily life. When our children were born, the arboretum allowed us to go hiking and biking with them in a beautiful safe place. As they grew, they enjoyed the different areas of the arboretum with friends. Now they bring their children here. I feel so lucky to have been able to live in Davis all these years and so grateful to all those who have worked diligently to maintain and improve the Arboretum for all of us to enjoy. These are my grandsons loving the path through the redwoods.

Date
1969

Warren and Me

Name
Richard Lawrence Tracy
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Affiliation
Journalist
Memory

I was the newly appointed garden writer for the Sacramento Bee. I'd had one class in botany at the University of Nevada, Reno, and was completely out of my element when I was assigned to cover the arboretum. Warren Roberts (who became a great friend and source of knowledge during my 30-year career) took me on a tour of the facility and my notes must have looked like those of a student in Latin 101. I hurried back to the office and plunged into the Sunset Western Garden Book and Taylor's encyclopedia to see if I could identify plants he described like they were old friends. AND submitted what I'd written to him in hopes of catching errors. There were a lot of them. But it instilled in me the value of the arboretum and its corps of dedicated volunteers.

Date
1970
 Food Technology float at the 1958 UC Davis Picnic Day

Love at first Picnic Day

Name
Warren G. Roberts
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Volunteer
Member of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
Donor
Staff
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

I have loved the University Arboretum and its ancient oaks ever since my first visit to the University of California Davis Campus on a warm, dusty Picnic Day in 1958.

Now this treasure of U.C.D. is called University of California - Davis - Arboretum and Public Garden, but when it was begun on 29 February 1936, Cal Aggie Labor Day, this was the first and only arboretum of the University of California, hence the original name. What is now called UC Davis was then called “The University Farm”.

We have come a long way!

Photo above shows the Food Technology float at the 1958 UC Davis Picnic Day, courtesy of UC Davis Food Science and Technology

Date
Picnic Day 1958
Waterpainting of trees in the Arboretum

My first watercolor painting

Name
Betty Berteaux
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Member of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
Memory

I painted my first watercolor in the Arboretum. It was terrible! What a mess! I later did a series of "Bridges in the Arboretum" that I believe were a lot better than that first one. I have been going to the Arboretum for inspiration for many years. During the last year during the Covid shutdown, when you could park anywhere for free, I spent many hours there sketching and painting with friends [masked and distanced].

Date
1978
Red-eared slider turtle

Walk of Peace

Name
Theresa Voss
Affiliation
Donor
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

As an undergrad at UCD, I put enormous pressure on myself to succeed in my studies. I'd spend entire weekends in Shields Library studying in the book stacks where I knew that I wouldn't be distracted. Looking back, I realize that the one thing that kept me focused wasn't really the quiet smell of old books and their silent presence on the shelves. It was the sure knowledge that I would afford myself one or two breaks during the day to hike out to Putah Creek at the Arboretum there to look for the red eared sliders basking in the sun, smell a flowering plant that attracted honey bees or watch families with kids cycling or walking the path together. I'd look at the carefully placed plant identifications and listen to the distant freeway and somehow all that I had tried to shelve in my brain would become catalogued and processed. Then, the sense of normal life would breeze through and clear the dust from the shelves. I'm so grateful to all those who made this place of peace and rest for me during those intense undergraduate years, and I am so thankful that I learned to balance work and rest in such a place.

Date
1982
Two wedding rings on a leaf

What’s That?

Name
Barbara C Marsden
Affiliation
UC Davis Alumni
Memory

One evening around Picnic Day April 1974, my boyfriend Steve Marsden, RNR’73, and I were walking in the Arboretum. We hung out at the Arboretum a lot not only because it was so beautiful, but our majors Renewal Natural Resources and Environmental Planning & Management took us out there nearly every day.

As we walked along the beautiful tree-lined path that evening, we followed a pair of meandering ducks swimming in the creek beside us. It was lovely there at dusk and no one else was around. When the ducks turned around to go back, we did as well. Suddenly, Steve stopped walking and said, “What’s that?!" pointing toward a picnic table.

I read aloud, in a questioning voice, the initials carved in the table...they were not ours. “Not those” he said, “That!” I looked again at the table and to my surprise saw a diamond engagement ring, which he’d placed there as we walked by the first time. He picked up the ring and asked me to marry him. I said “Yes!”, of course. We were married in August 1974 and had our reception appropriately at the Arboretum Gazebo.

The UC Davis Arboretum always held special memories for us, especially of that lovely evening walk that led to forty-five happy years of marriage and two wonderful children.

Date
April 1974
Jim Salyard and his partner pose in the Arboretum

Put me on my lifelong path

Name
Jim Salyards
Affiliation
Arboretum Enthusiast
Member of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
Staff
Memory

As a student, the Arboretum was a place to be in nature and find a place of respite. My go to location was a bench way out at the west end. I would go to study, read, write or just think. My appreciation for the Arboretum grew and grew over the years, particularly when I first interned, and then worked as a student during both my undergrad and graduate days at Davis. Within a short time of being connected to the Arboretum, I aspired to work at a public garden. Fast forward to today, and I have been working at the public garden Filoli for 26 years, now lead the horticulture department, and my passion for public gardens is only stronger. The Arboretum changed my life and I know it continues to benefit all who are connected to the plants, programs and people of this invaluable institution.

Date
1986-1994
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.