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!

 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.


 

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