In his lifetime (1849-1926), Luther Burbank introduced over 800 new plant species. He truly loved working with the plants, trying to get just the right characteristics in his creations. Even though he may have wanted to spend all his time experimenting with plants, he had to earn a living. Mr. Burbank had a nursery (the Santa Rosa Gardens) and a very successful plant catalog business. With this money, Mr. Burbank was able to support himself, and earn enough extra money to support his plant experiments.
New Creations

Luther Burbank made horticultural history with the 1893 publication of his catalog entitled, "New Creations." New plant creations? The idea of a human, not God, creating plants caused all sorts of controversy. During his lifetime, Luther Burbank couldn't "copyright" his new plant varieties. The only way that he made any money from his "new creations" was by selling plants from his nursery. After Mr. Burbank's death, the copyright and patent laws changed.

1910-1912 Catalog - Gladiola Cover

This catalog was published from 1910-1912. It features a beautiful gladiola on its cover.

Mr. Burbank chose to work with gladioli (plural for gladiola) because of their petal and flower structures. He felt that their petals weren't flat enough when open and that the flowers weren't very regularly spaced on the stem. Mr. Burbank succeeded in improving these areas and began to work on creating double rows of flowers on a stem, as well as developing new colors.

Mr. Burbank did run into quite a bit of trouble with these experiments and had to give them up for several years. The problem? Same as it is today; gophers loved to dig underground and eat the bulbs! Eventually, Mr. Burbank found a way to keep the gophers from his bulbs.

Plant Prices

Although it's a bit tricky to read, this is part of Mr. Burbank's 1904 catalog. The prices shown are for the Alaska, California, and Westralia varieties of the Shasta Daisy. The catalog stated that : "These new types have a remarkable resistant vigor and ability to overcome ill treatment..." These varieties are available today in many garden nurseries, especially the Alaska. When these plants were sold in 1904, one plant cost $0.75. That was a lot of money!

1919 Catalog - A Burbank Favorite

This is the cover of the 1919 Burbank Catalog. It features a picture of a little girl standing by some Shasta Daisies, with Mount Shasta in the background. This cover was said to be Luther Burbank's favorite picture of his Shasta Daisies.

Lots of Mail...

Luther Burbank became so famous that he received thousands of cards and letters from around the world every year. Many people even sent him unusual plant seeds for his experiments! Lots of plant and seed orders were on these postcards, just like the one shown below.

This card, sent in 1902, is addressed to "Luther Burbank, Florist, Santa Rosa, California, Etats Unis." This card was sent from the Provence Region in southern France.
Looking at the back of this postcard from France, some of the handwriting can still be read:

"Dear Sir,

Both our best thanks for Shasta Daisy, which have sown in careful way in our small farm..."

And Lots of Questions!

Mr. Burbank enjoyed getting all these postcards, but he didn't always have time to answer them. Some people sent big questions in the mail that required pretty detailed questions. Here's the card that Mr. Burbank sent to these people.

Mail Order Seeds

If you did order seeds from Luther Burbank, they would arrive in a package with this label on it:

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