Albert Wilson (botanist)

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Albert Wilson (August 1903 – March 8, 1996), was an American gardening guru, was a botanist, a landscape architect, a nationally renowned author, teacher and lecturer on gardening and landscaping, and a TV and radio talk show personality who penned several authoritative books popularizing and extolling upon the finer points and virtues of his passion.

Early life and education[edit]

An orphan, Wilson's earliest years were spent growing up in a San Francisco, California orphanage, an experience he reminisced upon in his book, These Were the Children. In 1927, Wilson earned his bachelor's degree in botany and, in 1934, his master's in biology, both from Stanford University.

Dig It with Albert[edit]

For many years, Wilson had a regular talk show, Dig It with Albert, broadcast on San Francisco's KGO 810 AM. The original show what called "How does your Garden grow" and was produced with the help of his manager George Turkmany. He was on the local PBS TV member station, KQED. He also had a show on KCSM-TV in the late sixties. Wilson was a frequent and very popular guest lecturer at local gardening clubs and nurseries throughout the San Francisco Bay area, mentoring and befriending many attendees. Wilson designed and built his home in 1929, on Creek Drive in Menlo Park, California. Wilson was also well known as a landscape architect, having designed Allied Arts and Fremont Park in Menlo Park and countless backyards and gardens throughout the SF Bay area.

I recall being in the audience twice for the show, "DIG IT WITH ALBERT", but seem to recall that it was on KGO TV.

How Does Your Garden Grow?[edit]

How Does Your Garden Grow? is one of the well crafted gardening books by Wilson, who was genuinely interested not just in gardens, but in the gardeners who tended them as well. Though at one time he pontificated grandly upon the seemingly miraculous wonders of pesticides and herbicides, Wilson was an early advocate of wearing protective garments while using the primitive agricultural chemicals of the mid 20th century. Later, Wilson's stance changed, stunned and truly aghast at the health problems and deaths of many his friends and colleagues caused by chemicals such as DDT, about which he had troubling second thoughts after having helped popularize their use. He was also an early advocate of organic gardening.

Wilson's dedication to enhancing lives and living environments through gardening went well beyond mere landscaping, writing and the broadcasting of his well regarded talk shows. He tirelessly presided over and lectured at one gardening club meeting or nursery seminar after another. Among the clubs Wilson was involved with was the Foothill Men's Garden Club, which he co-founded in 1962, The club, which encompasses Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, raises money to preserve the natural environment while enriching the lives of community members through the sale of members' homegrown garden wonders. Each April, the club hosts an annual garden sale. "It takes two days to make the money and six months to argue about whom to give it to," once said Colonel Robert E. Work (ret. USAF), a club vice president, adding, "We contribute to the good eating and beautification of the community."

Not soon forgotten[edit]

Wilson died at age 93 after apparently falling down a steep ravine bank, into San Francisquito Creek, near his Menlo Park home, no doubt while tending his garden. At the March 11, 1996, Palo Alto, California city council meeting, when Wilson's passing was announced, a city staffer noted that he died, unfortunately, near the creek running past his home, and that he would be remembered by many people in the community.

In 1996, the 32nd annual Foothill Men's Garden Club show - held each year in Los Altos, California - was dedicated to Wilson, a charter member of the group of back yard gardeners. "Dig it with Albert" was remembered with a collection of photos of the beloved gardening expert and writer.

The Stanford Club of Palo Alto established a memorial fund for Wilson, with proceeds going toward the reconstruction of the Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University. Wilson planned and landscaped the original flower garden of the Rodin Sculpture Garden in 1986.

Publications[edit]

  • 1938, Distinctive Trees, Shrubs and Vines in Gardens of the S. F. Peninsula, Happy Hours Publishing, Menlo Park, California, ISBN 1-112-77924-8
  • 1949, How Does Your Garden Grow, Happy Hours Publishing, Menlo Park, California, ISBN 0-933845-00-6
  • 1953, Gardeners All in California, Happy Hours Publishing, Menlo Park, California
  • 1963, These Were the Children, Albert Wilson Publishing Company. Menlo Park, California

External links[edit]

  • LATC.com - 'Foothill Men's Garden Club to dedicate show to late Albert Wilson', Los Altos Town Crier (April 8, 1996)
  • SVCN.com - 'Garden Specialists: One club member concentrates on tomatoes, while another is into succulents and a third is an iris expert', Tim Persyn, Saratoga News (July 17, 1996)