CNPS SCV Blazing Star Logo
California Native Plant Society

Santa Clara Valley Chapter

CNPS SCV Nursery History

The CNPS SCV Nursery was started in 1995 when Jean Struthers got a $10,000 grant from the Packard Foundation to build a nursery for the chapter. With that grant and the donation of some fencing left over from a Christmas tree lot, the nursery was started at Hidden Villa. The following excerpts starting from the July-August 1995 isssue of the Blazing Star trace the development of the Nursery.


July-August 1995

HIDDEN VILLA: Our Chapter Nursery

On May 20 Hidden Villa staff, board and volunteers welcomed CNPS as a part of their family. We sealed our contract with them with a donation of $500, and planted a pink-flowering form of Aesculus californica at the visitor center. A short ceremony on the knoll overlooking the farm included an introduction to the goals and history of Josephine and Frank Duveneck and this wonderful piece of land.

The following day, May 21, we had our second work day. It was cool and windy but we managed to erect fifteen 4x4 posts and the shade cloth-supporting rafters over them. Our thanks to Ken Himes, David Struthers and Don Thomas for the hoisting, and Lottie Jenvy, Tanija and Jean Struthers for their support work.

Our next work day is July 9, 10 am. We will work on a watering system and attach the shade cloth (courtesy of Charlie Baccus) to the framework. Weeding and general cleanup is also needed. We especially need people who know something about irrigation systems. Bring your lunch. Call Jean Struthers for more information, 415 941-2586.

The nursery needs: small tool shed, watering system supplies and expertise, tools (shovel, trowel, old bleach bottles for scoops).

November-December 1995

HIDDEN VILLA UPDATE: What's going on with our Nursery? A 14-x 20-foot greenhouse was purchased and moved to the nursery. CNPS member Gerry Ellis took it apart, kept mental note of the construction details, and has it nearly all put back together again at Hidden Villa. Bob Berka rented a truck, and Dave and Jean Struthers helped Gerry move it. As of this writing the plastic panels need cleaning and the benches need to go in. But, hooray!, it looks like a real nursery and will soon become one.

A small garden shed has been donated to CNPS by the Duhring family. It, too, has been moved to Hidden Villa and thanks to Dave Struthers will begin a new life as our supply and tool shed. Thank you volunteers Ken Himes, Vicky Silvas-Young, Marcie Fein, and Dave and Jean Struthers.

We are scheduling the next work day, Sunday, November 5, at 10 am. Bring lunch. We will clean panels, ready space for the shed, and build soil bins. Call Jean Struthers for details, 415 941-2586.

January-February 1996

Our native plant nursery at Hidden Villa Ranch proceeds apace, under the able direction of Jean Struthers. In rapid succession, or so it seems, we put down ground cloth, covered a large area with shade cloth, and bought and set up a large used greenhouse and small shed.  

 May-June 1996

PLANT NURSERY NEWS: Our greenhouse is working‹in a very primitive way (no watering system yet). We have to water all the plants by hand every day. If anyone knows about designing an automatic watering. system call Jean Struthers at 415-941-2586. There are work parties every Wednesday at 9:30 am.

Thanks to Gerry Ellis for putting up the greenhouse, Dave Struthers for building the shed, Ken Himes, Don Thomas, Don Mayall, Jim Sugai, Cathy Simms, and Helen Koch for watering and plant maintenance, and the Gardening with Natives Group.

July-August 1996


Our growing area is now being watered daily by an automatic watering system. We have yet to get a system into the greenhouse. "Hot house" is really what it is right now. We are working on this but final assembly is a ways off until parts arrive. David Chapman, with advice from Dad (Bob Chapman, familiar to us from his San Jose Mercury News column), is doing the actual assembly of the new system.

We are slowly landscaping around the nursery-area fence. Cathy Simms of Redwood City Nursery (formerly of Yerba Buena Nursery), obtained three large Fremontia 'Pacific Sunset' which are now in the ground and deer-caged.

Keep Sunday, September 22 open for our next work party in preparation for the fall plant sale, 10 am to 3 pm. Bring lunch. (Jean Struthers)

November - December 1996

NURSERY BULLETIN. We are having fun growing a lot of natives in our new greenhouse at Hidden Villa. Some of us make cuttings, gather and plant seed, or dig up stuff from our own yards. Consequently, we are always adding to our inventory.

These donations to our nursery have been extremely helpful, but we (Jean Struthers & Don Mayall) are developing memory overload and need your help. Please CAREFULLY LABEL EVERYTHING. We would like to have information as accurate as possible on all new contributions. So please tag them with:

1. Genus and species name (use Jepson)

2. Source of this plant (or location)

3. Your name

We realize you may not know the source but supply us with as much information as you can, and don¹t stop bringing in stuff. If you have a speciality, (like Sally Casey and grasses) let us know. All efforts are appreciated and important for the chapter.

March--April 1997


Plant Sales are what keep this chapter funded. We do make money on books and posters too, but our two plant sales--one in April at the Foothill College Wildflower Show and the other in October--bring in most of the Chapter's funds. So, what happens at the nursery is very important. In the past we were very generously supplied with plants from Gerda Isenberg at Yerba Buena Nursery. It was her generosity which gave this chapter such a wonderful start. Bob Will at Foothill (college had the Ornamental Horticulture group grow some more of the plants for our sale. When Barbara Coe was plant propagator she was able to use Saratoga Horticulture facilities on a few Sundays for volunteers to pot up the plants she grew for us.

We no longer have any of these supports. We must do our own growing and potting and labeling and selling. Luckily we received a generous grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and space from Hidden Villa Trust to build a greenhouse. But, the work goes on. Don Mayall, Jean Struthers, and Cathy Simms have done most of the plant work on a regular basis every Wednesday 10 AM - 2 PM. We have a few special help days. These days are usually Sundays just before the sales. The next one is March 16 10 AM - 2 PM.

Help has been sparse and some of us are overworked. We really need some more help on a regular basis. Working at the nursery IS a good way to get to know some new plants and new people. Bring a sandwich and please join us soon.

To get to Hidden Villa go up El Monte Road past Foothill College Campus. Take Moody Road about 2 miles to the Hidden Villa Gate on the left. After you cross the creek turn right and park near the Visitor Center. You'll see the green house. 

Cathy Simms and Jean Struthers

September - October 1997


Plant Propagation Workshop, Sunday Sept. 21 - 10 AM to 3PM

Hidden Villa, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills

Our little 70x40' space is currently crammed with plants -- some big, some little. We now have around 3,000 native babies for you to plant in your gardens. Pretty remarkable since this is only our second year. Regulars over the summer have included Cathy Simms, horticulturist extraordinaire, Don Mayall, counter and peripatetic potter, Ray Deutsch, alpine specialist, and Ann Knopf, Debbie Thornley, Judy Windt and me. All of you are welcome to come help. We have a good time. It is quite and peaceful among the Black Phoebes, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Goldfinches, and it helps raise money for the chapter. Our regular workday is Wednesday from about 10 AM to 3 PM. We are located behind the visitor center at Hidden Villa. If the gate is locked, you can walk the short distance in.

On Sunday, September 21, 10 AM to 3 PM we will be having big "pot up" day to get ready for the Fall Sale, and we will need helpers for this activity. Bring lunch, hat, gloves if you want to stay clean, and maybe pruning clippers. Beverages will be provided. We pot, water, write labels, and, of course, socialize while working. Come for some or all of the time and get intimate with the natives. -- Jean Struthers

The next big project was the benches in the shade area. After a trip to the Elkhorn Native Nursery in Moss Landing with David Struthers, he saw their benches and declared that he could build them at our nursery. We ordered redwood untreated so as not to bring in chemicals harmful to workers and the environment. Dave Struthers figured out the angle braces and added the work height tables for the plants under the shade cloth. They have been wonderful and such an improvement over the pallets we had had to stoop over. Also, we had to raise the water pipes to serve the newer table height of the plants.

The next project was to have a better stock yard for plants to use for cuttings and seed. Some were planted outside if they were deer proof. But a lot of the cutting material was from plants I grew at home. We asked for more space for that project and it took almost one year for Hidden villa to give us permission for the 10x20 ft space. This time we used a plastic deer fencing with T-Poles. Much easier to install. We had help from many members for this installation. And once again David Chapman dug trenches through the nursery for additional water pipes. -- Jean

January-February 2006

Native Plant Nursery Expansion Underway

The expansion of our native plant nursery at Hidden Villa is underway. We are adding about 600 square feet to the end of the nursery so the stock plants can have some sun. Two corner posts are in the ground thanks to Gerry Ellis and Dave Struthers. Dave is working on a gate for the connection. Gerry cleared the land and did some pruning. Jean Struthers and Sue Welch did the light work. We will be putting down mulch instead of ground cloth. Then we can install the deer fencing. If you would like to help work on the nursery expansion, volunteers are welcome. Just let Jean or Ray know (see contact info below). Besides help with the above tasks, we will need help with an irrigation plan and installation.

March-April 2006

Native Plant Nursery

Thanks to many volunteers, we have completed the expansion of the nursery. It did not involve very much hard labor since we used a plastic 7-1/2 foot deer fence. Gerry Ellis helped with fence posts and clearing. He and Dave Struthers mixed cement for the corner posts and Ken Himes and Paul Heiple helped fasten the fencing. We covered the soil with compost chips supplied by Hidden Villa and water lines were put in by David Chapman and Dave Struthers. Dave also built a nice gate in the existing fence and landscaping is ongoing by Petra Foerster and Sue Welch. The new area is for the plants we do not sell (which are the stock for the ones we do sell). This expansion will free another aisle in the sale area for buyers of our plants.

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