Burbank came to Santa Rosa from Massachusetts in 1875. Then 27 years old, the self-educated creator of plants had already developed the Russet Burbank potato, which is still the most popular US potato cultivar. He sold the rights to that potato for $150 to finance his trip west, where he hoped Sonoma County’s mild climate, long summers, plentiful sunshine, and year-round growing season would offer the ability to create fruits and veggies to help increase the world’s food supply. “The climate is perfect,” he wrote home.
Burbank ultimately developed 800 different plant strains and varieties. Many of his 200 fruits and vegetables still appear on our tables today. The Santa Rosa Plum—with its tart flavor, deep purple skin, and yellow flesh—is the nation’s most widely-grown plum, and the July Elberta peach and Flaming Gold nectarine remain popular. Since Burbank created peaches with easily removable pits, essentially freeing their stones, he is responsible for every Freestone peach on the market. You can also thank him for plumcots, a tasty half-plum/half-apricot hybrid. And there were many novelties, such as the White Blackberry.
The Greek-Revival home where Burbank lived from 1884 to 1906, along with his greenhouse and gardens, is now a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark (#234) located in downtown Santa Rosa. The gardens include many plants introduced by Burbank, and he designed the greenhouse himself.
On Saturday and Sunday, December 1-2, Luther Burbank Home & Gardens is holding its 33rd annual Holiday Open House. You can tour Burbank’s former home, which will be spruced up with Holiday décor, stroll around the Carriage House Museum, shop for presents in the gift shop, and enjoy time in the gardens.
What you need to know:
- What: Holiday Open House at Luther Burbank Home & Gardens
- Location: 204 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa 95404. 707-524-5445; www.lutherburbank.org.
- Date/Time: Saturday & Sunday, December 1-2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Fee: $2 for those 12 and above; children under 12 enter free
- Parking: Free at First and D Streets (from this lot you can also catch a free, round-trip ride on Rosie the Trolley to the Dickens Holiday Craft Fair at Finley Community Center.