California Nursery Historical Park

California Nursery
under George C. Roeding Sr
by Karen Anderson

George Christian  Roeding was the son of famed banker, financier and nurseryman Frederick Roeding (1824-1910)(2).  Frederick Roeding emigrated from Germany to South America in the 1840’s and then to California during the gold rush.  He tried his hand at mining but soon returned to San Francisco where he was exceedingly successful as a banker, and became vice president of the German Savings and Loan Society.  In 1869, he and 7 other German financiers bought 80,000 acres in Fresno County.  This property greatly increased in value after the railroad passed through the land and the town of Fresno was formed.  Frederick used part of his 11,000 acres to found the Fancher Creek Nursery in 1883. (2)

George Christian  Roeding (1868-1928) grew up in San Francisco, but moved with his parents to Fresno.  When he finished high school in 1886, instead of continuing to college, his father gave him permission to try his hand at managing the Fancher Creek Nursery.  Roeding showed great ability and Fancher Creek turned a profit the first year George was manager. 

George Roeding’s relationship with California Nursery began decades before he purchased the business.  He had known the managers of California Nursery, John Rock and W. V. Eberly (7)  and was very intrigued with the plant experiments and particularly thought the 40 acre test orchard was highly valuable (8).  Roeding had his son, George Roeding  Jr. work at the nursery during the summers of 1914 and 1915, under the management of W. V. Eberly (8).    In 1917 he bought the California Nursery Company from William H. Landers, a San Francisco financier whose father, William J. Landers, had been one of the original investors in the Nursery in 1884.(9)

George Roeding turned out to be extremely gifted not only as a nurseryman but as a plant scientist, businessman and writer.  He published various books and articles on his plant discoveries (3)(4)(5).  He was considered a leader among U.S. nurserymen; he served as president of the Pacific Coast Nursery Association in 1910 and was instrumental in forming the California Association of Nurseryman in 1911 and was its first president(13)  .   He was also an Ex Officio Regents of the University of California from 1917-1919 in their Department of Agriculture at Berkeley. 

One of Roeding’s greatest success was in showing that the Symra fig could succeed in California.  He was able to manually pollinate the fig blossoms with pollen from wild figs and have fruit develop.  He then was integral to the process of importing the natural pollinator of the Smyrna, a fig wasp from Turkey(9).. Production of figs in California was highly lucrative and formed the basis of Roeding Fig and Olive Co,  a important stock company.  Roeding also supported and promoted Luther Burbank and was instrumental in introducing many Burbank’s new plant varieties (1).  Roeding worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and their various experimental stations and from 1917 to 1919 was the President of the State Board of Agriculture(6). 

 Under Roeding, the nursery continued experimenting with new plant varieties in the Niles experimental orchard.   In 1921, Roeding wrote that “our test orchard, covering 40 acres, and containing approximately 1000 varieties, is a branch of the business of which we are very proud.  These trees are the source of bud-wood for growing our exceptionally fine, well-matured, perfect root system trees” (10 ) One of the key trees produced at California Nursery was the wild plum tree.  This wild plum tree was imported from Europe and proved to be a very popular understock tree for grafting peaches, apricots and other fruits.  CNC was the only nursery in the United States to produce this particular wild plum which was in high demand throughout the United States and the Nursery produced 6000 pounds of plum seed annually.  Roeding was able to streamline the production of the plum seed by applying his experience in Fresno with raisins.  He adapted the raisin cleaning machine into a plum cleaner to speed up the processing time.  This machine is still in Niles and is being restored as a functional machine for display. (8)

George Roeding was very public minded and when the US joined World War I, he attempted to enlist.  He was considered too old for active duty, but he still did his part.  Soldier’s gas masks required charcoal filters, and it turns out that the pits of peach pits are one of the best sources for that purpose.  Roeding was brought to Washington where the Chemical War Department offered $50,000 for his assistance in producing peach pits.  Roeding directed California Nursery Company to produced large quantities of peach pits, and was pleased to return the $50,000 he had been given for the purpose, all but $350 for expenses(8)

George Roeding also was highly supportive of the gardens for convicts program and provided thousands of roses to San Quinten.(12)  This program started after the end of World War I and George Roeding supplied roses to San Quentin yearly until his death.  Roeding felt strongly that working with gardens could be a

 “helping hand to the unfortunate; … that will change the derelict from a pessimist to an optimist; that will convert the down-and-outer into a useful member of society; to create courage in place of despair, to repair a lost manhood and give it the character and stability that will command respect."

Roeding was instrumental in having some of the family land donated to the city of Fresno for a public park, and the family founded one of the largest parks in Fresno, Roeding Park.  It was always his hope that some of the land of California Nursery at Niles would be set aside for public gardens as well.  (8)



Roeding  brought a statewide vision to the California Nursery Company and under his management,  California Nursery in Niles became the headquarters of an expansive network of retail outlets and growing grounds throughout California from Sacramento, Oakland and San Jose in the north, to Fresno and Modesto in central California, to Ventura and LaBrea in Southern California.   As part of this expansion he was specialized in the production of trees in zones where they would be best suited.  As he says in 1921, “Our fruit trees are being grown in our branch nursery at Loomis, Placer County, California, in a soil composed of disintegrated granite which produces a very fine fibrous root system.” (10)  Under Roeding the widespread and zonally specialized nursery made California Nursery the biggest nursery west of the Rockies with a worldwide clientele. 

Roeding saw the opportunity of an expanding ornamental plants market as people immigrated to California and new housing developments and businesses developed.  The Nursery not only produced a wide variety of ornamental plants but Roeding hired landscape architects who were kept continually busy designing gardens and landscaping for private homes, businesses and public gardens.  Many famous people of the bay area had their garden designed by and plants supplied by California Nursery Company.


(1)    1908  Fancher Creek Nursuries, New products of the trees; a treatise on Luther Burbank's late introductions. 1908-1909: The Formosa, Gaviota and Vesuvius plum, 1907-1908: The Paradox and Royal black walnut, the Santa Rosa plum and the Rutland plumcot

(2)    1915  Bailey, L. H. The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture: A Discussion for the Amateur, and the Professional and Commercial Grower, of the Kinds, Characteristics and Methods of Cultivation of the Species of Plants Grown in the Regions of the United States and Canada for Ornament, for Fancy, for Fruit and for Vegetables; with Keys to the Natural Families and Genera, Descriptions of the Horticultural Capabilities of the States and Provinces and Dependent Islands, and Sketches of Eminent Horticulturists, Volume 3:  Horticultural Capabilities of the States and Provinces and Dependent Islands, and Sketches of Eminent Horticulturists,+nursery&hl=en&sa=X&ei=vJjGUfiAEMLG0gG8-4GACQ&ved=0CEkQ6AEwAw#v=snippet&q=john%20rock&f=false

(3)    1903  Roeding George C. The Smyrna Fig, At Home snd Abroad: A Treatise On Practical Smyrna Fig Culture

(4)    1915  Roeding, George C. Roeding Practical Planter’s Guide:  The result of Thirty Years Experience in California Horticulture

(5)    1919  Roeding, George C. Roeding’s Fruit Growers Guide


(7)    Proceedings of the Nurseryman’s association 1911

(8)    Bruce Roeding, personal communication, April 2013

(9)    1921 Wickson, E. J. California Nurserymen and the Plant Industry 180-1910; The California Association of Nurserymen, Los Angeles

(10)CNC 1921 Price List, Presidents Remarks


(12)  Roeding Sr. and San Quintin’s Garden Beautiful

(13)CANGC past presidents



California Nursery (George C. Roeding Jr.)



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