California Nursery Historical Park

 The Mother Orchard

Though the Mothard Orchard within Niles of Fremont has long been removed from the property, its role in producing trees through grafting scions from high quality trees emphasizes California Nursery Company’s desire to pursue different techniques for top quality products. The Mother Orchard was created by American nurseryman John Rock in the late 1800s. The sixty acres of land became an essential area for producing and testing various tree species.

Rock wanted to ensure that the nursery trees grown would meet the contrasts of soil and climate throughout California. Quality and quantity were taken into consideration. The trees produced were from scions, also known as buds, cut from parent trees that were known to adapt to various climates and soil. These scions were then grafted onto the rootstock of another plant, thus creating a new plant type. By opening such an experimental orchard, Rock was able to introduce more European trees than any other nurseryman at the time. These heirloom trees were then sold to agriculturalists on the West Coast. Such meticulous work required additional help from California Nursery employees, specifically one that would be able to handle a managerial position.  

Ah Yen, a Chinese immigrant who worked on the California Nursery property, lived in an early Chinese housing site during the late 1880s. Yen was recruited from China due to his expertise in agriculture. He worked under Rock as well as William Landers and the Roeding family, the nursery’s later owners. Though Chinese immigrants of the time were solely known as laborers, Yen held a significant managerial position due to his diligent management over the Mother Orchard. He held complete control of the orchard and was trusted to handle the care of trees. Yen also maintained records of each grafting experiment and labeled each tree individually to avoid possible confusion.

Ah Yen proved especially necessary during the Roeding’s ownership of the nursery, as George Roeding Sr.’s operations became popular due to the careful organization of plant labeling and record keeping. Mother Orchard grew to be the largest in North America, providing scions worldwide that would cultivate different tree varieties, including figs, plums, peaches, prunes, apples, cherries, and many more.  

 Despite Mother Orchard’s great success, the operation was removed between 1934 and 1936 after the death of George Roeding Sr. Before this removal, several attempts were made to save the orchard due to the surmount of certified pedigree plants that had been so thoroughly categorized. George Roeding Jr. hoped to have the University of California purchase or take over the land and its operations. George Sr. had been a University of California regent responsible for forming UC Davis, the Agricultural Schools and Depository in California. Unfortunately, the university did not have the funds to oversee such detailed work during this time. A few rows of the orchard remained until the 1950s when it was turned over for gravel extraction. Today this land is known as Quarry Lakes, a local recreational area.  

Though the Mother Orchard no longer exists, its great achievement in grafting and selling thousands of new tree breeds deserves acknowledgment and remembrance. The amount of effort put into the Mother Orchard intrinsically links to the California Nursery’s values of providing agricultural resources to all who wished to learn about or grow various tree breeds throughout California.




 Contribution by: Joyce Blueford, Charlene Dixon (TriCity Voice)


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