Santa Rosa horticulturist Luther Burbank (1849-1926) created spineless cactuses; the plumcot (a cross between a plum and an apricot); and the fragrant pink Burbank rose, which won a gold medal at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition.
Striving to pioneer new and better plants, Burbank used techniques such as grafting and hybridization to introduce more than 800 varieties. One of his first successes was the Burbank potato, a disease-resistant cultivar. A later variation, the Russet Burbank, became the potato most commonly used for making french fries.
You can see many of Burbank’s plants – including spineless cactuses, a plumcot tree and the award-winning rose variety – at the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, a state and national historic landmark. Other notable plants on display include the quadruple-hybrid Shasta daisy and the “Paradox walnut tree” – so named because it grows much faster than a typical hardwood tree.
The nearly two acres of gardens are open to the public year-round, and admission is free. April through October, docent-led tours, which include Burbank’s greenhouse (shown in the foreground above) and mid-1880s Greek Revival-style home, are available Tuesdays through Sundays for a modest fee. Contact: 707-524-5445: www.lutherburbank.org