California Nursery Company
The California Nursery Company was established in Niles, California and incorporated in 1884. It was responsible for introducing new hybrids created by such important West Coast breeders as Luther Burbank and Albert Etter.
John Rock was born Johann Fels in Lauterbach, Germany, on August 19, 1836. He immigrated to the United States in 1852 and fought on the Union side in the Civil War before settling in California in 1863.
"Rock's Nurseries" in San Jose
John Rock had two nursery locations in San Jose, California on Coyote Creek. The catalog for "Rock's Nurseries" for 1885 says that John Rock had 19 years of experience in California, putting the date of establishment at around 1865. Rock's Nurseries continued on some time after the establishment of the California Nursery Company. The San Jose City Directory for 1887 has advertisements for both the "California Nursery Company" in Niles and "Rock's Nurseries" in San Jose. There was a "Rock's Nurseries" catalog for 1888.
"California Nursery Company" in Niles
After Rock's death in 1904, the nursery was run by William J. Landers and managed by W.V. Eberly.
The year 1865 is often cited for the establishment of the California Nursery Company and has caused some confusion. The date 1865 probably refers to the establishment of "Rock's Nurseries" in San Jose, not the California Nursery Company. Sometime around the 1906-1907 catalog, the words "Established 1865" were added to the front cover along with "Incorporated 1884" and it was carried forward.
At first, the nursery was a wholesaler providing grape vines and fruit trees to California's growing agricultural industry, although early on it also supplied plants for the Palo Alto estate of California tycoon Leland Stanford. Later, in addition to its wholesale business, the nursery started a retail operation with ornamental trees and plants for homes and gardens. John Rock was interested in creating new plant hybrids and worked with West Coast plant breeders like Luther Burbank. His 1888 catalog featured some 500 varieties of fruit trees, 700 ornamental shrubs, and 270 roses. By the time Rock died, his nursery had introduced more new plant varieties to California than any other.
In 1940, the northern California plant breeder Albert Etter began a partnership with the CNC with the goal of patenting and then marketing Etter's best apple varieties. The CNC introduced six Etter varieties in its 1945 catalog, including Pink Pearl.
The CNC ultimately became the largest firm of its kind west of the Rockies. It was located close enough to the San Francisco Bay Area that it became a destination for gardeners and horticulturists. From the early 1930s to the mid-1960s, the CNC hosted annual bulb shows in spring that could draw up to 5000 visitors over a weekend.
California Nursery Historical Park
After 1972, some of the former nursery grounds were turned into a Fremont city park, the California Nursery Historic Park, although the family continued to lease out some land to other nurseries. Currently, the Roeding family operates the nursery as a mail-order business.
Catalogs for the California Nursery Company can be found in these collections:
- Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection for USDA
- Mertz Digital Collections, New York Botanical Garden
- The Biodiversity Heritage Library
- The Internet Archive hosts many of these collections and has an Open Library interface.
- California Nursery Co; Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection (1888). Price list of fruit and ornamental trees small fruits, evergreens, roses etc. National Agricultural Library U. S. Department of Agriculture. Niles, Calif. : California Nursery Company. p. 1.
- California Nursery Company, company website
- Cain, Julie. "History: California Nursery under John Rock". California Nursery Historical Park website.
- "1887 San Jose City Directory :: San Jose City Directories - Business Classified Sections (SJPL California Room)". digitalcollections.sjlibrary.org. p. X, XX. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
- "Pacific Rural Press 27 November 1886 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-15.
- California Nursery Co; Landers, Wm J.; Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection (1904). Catalogue and price-list. fruit and ornamental trees, evergreens, palms, roses, etc., 1904-1905. National Agricultural Library U. S. Department of Agriculture. Niles, Calif. : California Nursery Company.
- Catalogue and price list of the California Nursery Co. 1906-1907. Sonoma County Wine Library.CS1 maint: others (link)
- California Nursery Co; Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection (1888). Price list of fruit and ornamental trees small fruits, evergreens, roses etc. National Agricultural Library U. S. Department of Agriculture. Niles, Calif. : California Nursery Company.
- "The Ettersburg Apple Legacies". Greenmantle Nursery website
- "California Nursery Historical Park | City of Fremont Official Website". www.fremont.gov. Retrieved 2018-01-15.