Oak grove featured in California Bountiful magazine

Image of cover of California Bountiful magazine featuring the Arboretum's oak grove.California Bountiful magazine, a publication that promotes connections between farm and city, often features towns and locations that are hidden gems.

The July/August 2015 issue features our own Peter J. Shields Oak Grove as a place visitors can stay cool during the heat of summer with a mobile-friendly, self-guided walking tour.

Check it out–scroll to the bottom of the page linked here.

Download the print article.



Sea of Cortez memorial site relocated to Arboretum’s East Asian Collection

Photo of the new location of the campus's Sea of Cortez memorial.

Our campus’s Sea of Cortez memorial has moved from a site on the west end of the Arboretum to this location on Lake Spafford.

Image of program from the "Celebration of Lives" of the 5 scientists who lost their lives in the Sea of Cortez while on a research mission.

The five scientists lives memorialized in this garden include Gary Polis, internationally renowned scorpion expert, ecologist and, chair of the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy; Michael Rose, a postgraduate researcher in the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy; Tayuya Abe, Kyoto University professor of animal ecology and an expert in termite biology; Masahiko Higashi, Kyoto University professor and Japan’s premier theoretical ecologist and biologist; and, Shigeru Nakano, Kyoto University community ecologist studying land- and water-based food chains.

On March 27, 2000 a tragic boating accident on the Sea of Cortez claimed the lives of two UC Davis researchers and three visiting scientists from Kyoto University in Japan.

In 2001, a small garden and five trees commemorating the lives of these scientists were planted in an Arboretum garden near Putah Creek Lodge, but the soil’s low pH and high boron levels made it difficult for the plants to thrive.

Photo of UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden student Jonathan Su taking soil samples for testing.

Jonathan Su, student staff with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, takes soil samples to send for testing prior to relocating this memorial.

In June 2015 the memorial was replanted with the help of staff, students, and volunteers near Mrak Hall on iconic Lake Spafford in the heart of the Arboretum. Not only is this area higher profile, its location within the Arboretum’s East Asian Collection just across the water from our Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California Native Plants, is ideally situated to honor both the Japanese and UC Davis researchers. The boulder that holds the site’s naming plaque will also be relocated this fall.

Plant list:

  • Acer macrophyllum, big leaf maple
  • Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’, Japanese barberry
  • Ceratostigma griffithii, Chinese plumbago
  • Euonymous fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’, wintercreeper
  • Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’, maidenhair tree
  • Hemerocallis ‘Cranberry Baby’, dwarf red daylily
  • Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’, Oregon grape
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Japanese silver grass
  • Nandina ‘Harbour Dwarf’, heavenly bamboo
  • Pittosporum tobira ‘Cream de Mint’, dwarf mock orange


Weathering the drought: on campus and at home

Over the past year the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden has managed to cut back water use across campus by over 30% from 2013—that is already well above Governor Brown’s recent 25% water reduction mandate. We are proud of this accomplishment, but we are not planning to stop there. We will continue to seek reductions throughout campus and the Arboretum. In this feature we will give you an insider’s look at how we’ve managed this decrease to date, changes you’ll notice in the near future, and how we are planning for a low-water future which will hopefully give you ideas for how you can do the same.


Photo of Willie Hernandez, groundskeeper with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, filling tree water bag called a "SeedlingSoaker." This bags provide our smaller campus trees with a slow release of water which helps prevent water run-off while allowing the trees targeted protection from the drought.

Willie Hernandez, groundskeeper with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s grounds and landscape services team, fills tree water bag called a “SeedlingSoaker.” This bags provide our smaller campus trees with a slow release of water which helps prevent water run-off while allowing the trees targeted protection from the drought.

The benefits of trees are many: they help prevent carbon from being released into the atmosphere, they provide shade, fight erosion, and so much more, but when we reduce water to our lawns that can mean we inadvertently stress the trees living there too. To help alleviate this pressure and maintain tree health we have installed over two hundred slow-release watering bags on young trees throughout campus. Each one of these bags is filled manually from our campus water truck about once a week with approximately 10-15 gallons of water which then seeps slowly from small holes in the botton of the bag into the surrounding soil. This action not only targets young tree roots, it also reduces water run-off and evaporation. Each one of these bags saves about 1000 gallons of water a year per tree. LEARN MORE.

Photo of UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden's Peter J. Shields Oak Grove.

The best way to irrigate trees during a drought is to apply water less frequently, but more deeply. We keep our world-famous oak collection (seen above) healthy by providing the root zone with a slow, steady soak about twice a month. This method allows the water to penetrate the soil deeply—there it does not evaporate as quickly and remains available to the roots for longer.

For mature trees, like in our oak grove (see photo top right on page 1), we apply water less frequently, but more deeply. During dry months, arborists recommend watering to a depth of three feet. To assist in this effort, the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis has developed instructions for how to purchase, assemble and deploy a unique watering device called the tree ring irrigation contraption (TRIC). For more information on gathering the materials necessary to create this device and the process for assembling it, visit http://bit.ly/tric-your-tree.

While most of our main campus landscape irrigation is part of a high-efficiency computerized system, there are still some areas, mostly in the central part of the Arboretum, that require hand watering during the day with hoses and/or spray irrigation. Not only is this method labor intensive—it requires staff who can start, stop, and move it—it’s also inefficient because it often results in overspray and wet guests!

We do have plans to install new irrigation systems in these areas as funding becomes available, however, since installing systems from scratch is very expensive, it will need to be phased in over many years. In the meantime, the university is investing in more efficient, but temporary irrigation systems. These temporary systems will be set up this summer and allow for automated, more precise nighttime watering. As permanent systems are funded and installed, the temporary systems will be removed.

LEARN MORE: How low can they go?


Photo of lawn conversion signs along Old Davis Road on the UC Davis campus.

The large median along Old Davis Road near the Mondavi Center for Performing Arts will be converted to a low-water, region-appropriate landscape. Signs like these placed throughout the median alert community members and visitors of the change.

Thanks to the high-efficiency, computerized system that controls watering on most of campus, we can easily target turf for irrigation reductions. Some lawns will even be allowed to go dormant through the summer. However, lawns with high-event use uses like the Quad and fields used for athletics or student recreation will continue to be maintained.

We have also identified lawns for full-scale landscape conversions. Look for this change on the median near the Mondavi Center for Performing Arts. While the trees in the lawn will be maintained, the turf will be replaced with Arboretum All-Stars, California natives, and other regionally-appropriate plants.


Photo of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden's Ruth Risdon Storer Garden--a Valley-wise Garden

You will see low-water, regionally-appropriate plants like Arboretum All-Stars and California natives used throughout the Arboretum and on campus. Our Ruth Risdon Storer Garden (shown above) is a great demonstration garden to seek inspiration!

When given the option, planting in fall is always our first choice; temperatures are dropping, but the soil is still warm. Those are ideal conditions for root development, plus, with any luck from Mother Nature, seasonal rains should be right around the corner. Plan your new drought-tolerant garden over the summer and visit our plant sales in the fall for a great selection of regionally-appropriate, low-water plants such as Arboretum All-Stars and California natives.


FAQ: Campus landscape irrigation during drought

We made the list! 50 most amazing university botanical gardens and arboretums in the U.S.

Photo of Ellen Zagory leading a tour at the west end of the Arboretum.

Thank you to “The Best Colleges” website for recognizing the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden in their “50 Most Amazing University Botanical Gardens and Arboretums in the U.S.” LEARN MORE.

The article sites that the organizations listed not only beautify their campuses and communities, but also serve as environmental stewards, outdoor classrooms, and living laboratories.

Here is a little bit about what they had to say about the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden:

The seventeen gardens that make up UC Davis Arboretum are a beautiful testament to nature’s instruction. Students not only use the 100 acres of sprawling landscape for “peaceful contemplation,” but they can also use the gardens as hands-on learning facilitators in dozens of classes offered by the university. This free resource enables students to get their hands dirty while observing a living textbook or conducting meaningful ecological research. A variety of internships are offered in conjunction with the gardens as well in topics such as sustainable gardening, plant propagation and nursery operations, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The arboretum recently received a 4-out-of-4 star accreditation by the Professional Grounds Management Society for outstanding performance in the areas of environmental stewardship, economic performance, and social responsibility.

We appreciate the recognition of our gardens as well as the students and programs that support them.

Fish out of water: student-created art enlivens Arboretum sidewalk

Photo of student-created sidewalk mural in front of Nelson Gallery and in the UC Davis Arboretum.

The Aggie Public Arts Committee, funded mostly by the Nelson Gallery and in part by ASUCD, commissioned a mural on the sidewalk near the Nelson Gallery, along Arboretum Drive. Conceptually, the mural is based on reimagined landscapes and wildlife, using 3-D illusions of space with an element of fantasy. Next time you are in the Arboretum, we hope you’ll stop by to see it, but don’t get too attached to this design; according to Crystal Han, committee chairwoman, new artistic elements will be added before the fall 2015 school year.

Thank you to the artists Crystal Han, Kari Kiyono, Suhaila Sikand, and Tiffany Liu. for creating such a beautiful mural for us to enjoy.

The 2015 Aggie Public Art Committee members include Chairwoman Crystal Han, Vice chair Kaitlyn Griggs, and Members Kari Kiyono, Suhaila Sikand, and Tiffany Liu.


Planning a vacation? Don’t leave home without your membership card!

Photo of Suzanne Ullensvang, resource development manager for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, reviewing membership benefits with a plant sale attendee.

Suzanne Ullensvang, resource development manager for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, reviews membership benefits with a plant sale attendee. Be sure to take advantage of your membership benefits when planning your trips and vacations!

Planning a vacation or trip? Don’t forget to take along your Friends membership card! Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden can take advantage of great perks at gardens and museums across North America. Many offer FREE or reduced admission and other special discounts to Friends members through reciprocal admission programs.  Here are the details:

  • Friends members at all membership levels qualify for the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admission Program (AHS RAP) with nearly 300 participating gardens in North America and the Cayman Islands. To search the directory of all AHS RAP participating gardens visit: http://www.ahs.org/gardening-programs/rap
  • Friends members at the Manzanita level ($100) or above qualify for the North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM) program with over 780 participating museums and cultural institutions across North America. Even if you’re staying close to home this summer, there are lots of participating museums in northern California, including the de Young Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, The Crocker Art Museum and the California State Railroad Museum. To search the map of all NARM participating museums and cultural institutions or print a condensed list visit: http://narmassociation.org/

NOTE: The NARM program was added as a new benefit for Friends members earlier this spring.  If your membership card at the Manzanita level and above does not yet show the NARM logo, stop by our office to get a NARM sticker for your card to take advantage of this great program.

Not a Friends member? Or interested in upgrading your membership to the Manzanita level? Call us at
(530) 752-4880 or stop by the Arboretum Headquarters office in the Valley Oak Cottage on La Rue on campus during regular business hours M-F 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. to join or upgrade.

Happy trails!

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