Dara Emery Memorial Lecture 2013

Dara Would Be Proud! The Garden’s First Horticulturist’s Legacy Lives On

Cal-Flora Nursery’s Phil Van Soelen Announced as Featured Speaker for Dara Emery Memorial Lecture 

September 12, 2013

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is proud to announce Phil Van Soelen, co-owner of California Flora Nursery (familiarly known as, “Cal-Flora Nursery”) as the featured speaker for the 2013 Dara Emery Lecture on Saturday, October 12 at 3pm

image of Dara EmeryEach year, the Garden honors the horticultural legacy of Dara Emery with this very special lecture. During his 35-year tenure as Horticulturist for the Garden, Mr. Emery launched several SBBG programs that continue to this day, such as the annual Fall Plant Sale (which takes place throughout October), the Garden Growers Nursery, and the Plant Introduction Program. His invaluable book, Seed Propagation of Native California Plants, remains the standard reference on the subject. 

For more than 30 years, Phil Van Soelen has brought interesting and unusual native plants to the attention of the public, making him an obvious choice as keynote speaker for this event. He is co-owner, with Sherrie Althouse, of the regionally famous and iconic California Flora Nursery in Fulton, north of San Francisco. Since 1981, they have influenced a generation of plantsmen and brought many new cultivars into wide-spread use, including Vitis "Russian River‟, Artemisia "David‟s Choice‟, Salvia "Winnifred Gilman‟, Monardella "Russian River‟, and Ceanothus "Heart‟s Desire‟, to name a few. Cal-Flora maintains a strong emphasis on propagating and growing their own plants from seed and cuttings. This keeps their inventory reflective of their interests and experiences, and their explorations of the surrounding foothills and wild trails of northern California. Cal-Flora Nursery‟s small size and large public following allow it to give greater attention to local gardening needs and conditions, as well as to the many locally endemic plants, often found in very small, restricted populations. Cal-Flora Nursery has enjoyed awards for their environmental work on the Russian River and an Award of Merit from the California Horticultural Society. 

“My motivation for starting the nursery came from a love of being around natives in the wild,” says Mr. Van Soelen. “If I didn't see them in that context, I wouldn‟t have the same connection with them that I do. Like many people, I have developed a personal relationship with nature. I'm constantly looking at vignettes and tableaus in nature and thinking – "wow - that's beautiful and so subtle‟. At the same time, natives fit in with this climate and environment. I find that I want to be surrounded with that kind of beauty. Over time, I find myself falling more and more in love with natives.” 

As the Garden's featured speaker for the annual Dara Emery Memorial Lecture on Saturday, October 12 at 3pm, Mr. Van Soelen's topic, Great Choices for the Home Garden: Inspiration from Northern California, is sure to be fascinating. “It's wonderful to have someone with Phil's experience and passion speak, “said Bruce Reed, SBBG's Horticulturist and Nursery Manager. “In the most important way, he is continuing in the work Dara Emery pioneered by evaluating interesting new native plants and finding ways to get them into the hands and gardens of the public. I am excited to hear the stories of how some of his well-known plants were found and introduced, and what new introductions might be on the horizon.” 

The general public is welcome to attend this informative and inspiring talk on native plants and how to use them in creating beautiful landscapes. Beverages and hors d'ouervres will be served before the lecture. Advance registration is required and the cost is $20 for SBBG members and $25 for non-members. Contact the Garden's registrar at (805) 682-4726 ext. 102; via email: [email protected], or register online

Guests can also purchase native plants to bring home, as the Garden's Courtyard is transformed into a botanical wonderland during the Garden's Fall Plant Sale which continues through November 3rd. All proceeds support the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden general fund. 

Download this article in PDF format

# # # #

About the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: 
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a 78-acre educational and scientific institution fostering the conservation of California’s native plants and serves as a role model for sustainable practice in Santa Barbara, California. The Garden was founded in 1926 and is among the nation’s oldest botanic gardens focused exclusively on native plants.

To arrange an interview or to request high-resolution photos, please contact:

SBBG Communications Coordinator
(805) 682-4726 ext. 132