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In the Footsteps of Kate O. Sessions

Articles: In the Footsteps of Kate O. Sessions

[Ed: The following is an expanded web version of Ms. Carter's print article]

Kate Sessions. Photo: courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden Archive

Katherine Olivia Sessions (1857–1940) enjoyed every gardener’s dream vacation in 1925. During that year, the San Diego nursery owner and horticulturist spent seven months touring gardens in Great Britain and Europe. She took in the famed Chelsea Flower Show, collected cuttings from botanical gardens, and hobnobbed with leading horticulturists from Scotland to Italy.

In long letters home, Sessions left a record of her travels with enough detail to guide a garden tour, but, after eight decades, the modern traveler would find it difficult to duplicate her experience. The sustained or recreated historical garden can approximate, but never fully duplicate an earlier iteration. Even when being consciously conserved, gardens evolve over time. Plant stock can become unobtainable and it is rare to have full sets of plans, drawings, or photographs to guide contemporary gardeners. When documentation is lacking, the recreated historical garden can be no more tha...

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