Blaksley Library

The Garden's library, established in 1927, includes over 15,000 botanical and horticultural works on California flora and landscape history. The Blaksley Library building, designed by local architect Lutah Maria Riggs and completed in 1942, provides beautiful mountain views in a courtyard setting.




Blaksley Library Access

  • Library use is free to all and does not require an admission fee to the Garden
  • The library collections are non-circulating but may be used onsite
  • The library catalog is available on the SBBG campus. The Archivist is happy to to assist Library patrons working off site.
  • The library is open by appointment. Please contact the Archivist or telephone (805) 682-4726 x107

General Collections

The Blaksley Library has a rich collection of plant information unequalled on California's central coast. The library houses over 15,000 books, digital media, and journals on all aspects of plant science with an emphasis on the flora of California and its offshore islands. Collection strengths include floras of other Mediterranean regions of the world, botanical exploration of North America, plant conservation, ornamental uses of native plants and low-water use landscaping, landscape architecture and garden design, and Santa Barbara garden history.

Photo Collections

The photo collection contains over 100,000 slides and print photographs of plants, gardens, habitats, and people focusing on the plant life and garden history of the Santa Barbara region. Many of the photos and can be viewed online in the SBBG Photos Digital Image Library

Oral Histories

Inaugurated in 1983, the Oral History Program seeks to show life through the eyes of the influential figures of the Garden's modern history and to ensure that their experiences and contributions live on into the future. To date more than three dozen narrators have been interviewed. A team of volunteers are actively preparing transcripts for publication. Completed transcripts are available in the Library and some may be downloaded from the Oral History Page

Manuscript Collections

The library has collected and organized papers from people and relevant organizations associated with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden or active in California botany and horticulture.

Bard PapersHorticultural materials about "Berlywood," in Ventura County, home of California senator Thomas Bard (1841-1915) and his wife Mary. Site of many rare plants and commercial nursery. Records from 1894 until c. 1941.
Charles Francis Saunders CollectionResearch materials, drafts, and correspondence for the 18 books and numerous articles Saunders published on California botany, ethnobotany, history, and gardening. Historical material on Southern California from c. 1904 to 1942. Rare books and autograph collection of famous botanists are also included.
Finding aid available: Charles Francis Saunders Papers
Franceschi PapersNursery catalogs, inventory books, plant lists, and articles by Franceschi document his contribution to Santa Barbara horticulture.
Ralph Stevens PapersCorrespondence, reports, articles, and plant lists of the Santa Barbara landscape architect and park superintendent. Materials pertain to Stevens' teaching at UC Berkeley and the creation of the botanical garden there, as well as his commission to design the grounds of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden PapersIncludes papers of Garden directors Clements, Bissell, Van Rensselaer, Muller, and Philbrick, and horticulturist Dara Emery.
Finding aid available: Santa Barabara Botanic Garden Papers
Clifton Smith PapersResearch notes, correspondence, publications, field notebooks, photographs, maps, printed matter, and memorabilia of this well-known botanist and collector are included and cover the period 1861-1998. Regional history files document the history of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties. Extensive research materials pertain to the different editions of Smith's A Flora of the Santa Barbara Region, California.
Finding aid available: Clifton Smith Papers
Henry Pollard CollectionField notes, correspondence, and articles of local plant collector and teacher's botanical collections of the Ventura area.
Finding aid available: Henry Pollard Papers

Art Collections

The library houses a small collection of botanical and regional artwork. Complete sets of botanical prints by printmakers Henry Evans and Henry Mockel are included, as are individual works by Jacqueline Broughton, Henry Chapman Ford, Mary Hood, and Elisabeth Hallowell Saunders. The Garden is also home to thirty Patrick O'Hara original watercolor paintings and three porcelain sculptures featuring California native wildflowers.

Architectural Drawings

Architectural drawings depict the development of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden since the 1930s and include planting and building plans by Lutah Maria Riggs, Lockwood de Forest, Jr., and Beatrix Farrand. A collection of planting plans of local parks by Will Beittel and Grant Castleberg is also included.

Nursery and Seed Catalogs

The library houses a historical collection of more than 1,500 nursery catalogs from 1878 to the 1970s. Both growers of native and non-native plants are represented with a focus on tri-county growers such as the Southern California Acclimatizing Association, Montarioso Nursery, Kinton Stevens, and Theodosia Shephard, as well as growers from throughout California, such as Theodore Payne, Carl Purdy, Lester Rowntree, and Paul Howard.