Kate Sessions

A Teacher of Horticulture and Botany

Today is the birthday of American botanist, horticulturist, and landscape architect Kate Sessions, who was born on this day in 1857.

As a young woman, Kate had traveled to San Diego to teach, but she ended up following her passion and bought a local nursery in 1885. Before long, Kate owned a flower shop as well. And, she didn't leave her teaching roots behind. Kate is remembered for going from grammar school to grammar school, teaching thousands of young children basic horticulture and botany.

In 1892, she managed to convince the City of San Diego to lease her 30 acres of land to use for growing in Balboa Park so that she could grow plants for her nursery. The arrangement required Session to plant 100 trees in balboa park every single year in addition to another 300 trees around the city of San Diego.  Over a dozen years, Kate planted close to 5,000 trees, forever changing the vista of San Diego. The Antonicelli family, who later bought Kate's nursery, said that Kate was tough and plants were her whole life. 

"When she would go out on a landscape job, rather than put a stake in the ground, she had these high boots on, and she'd kick heel marks in the ground, and that's where she would tell the guys to plant the trees."

Thanks to her nursery and connections, Session planted hundreds of cypress, pine, oak, pepper trees, and eucalyptus. And although she never married or had any children, it was thanks to her dedication to the trees of San Diego that Sessions became known as The Mother of Balboa Park.

But there is one tree that Sessions will forever be associated with, and that is the jacaranda, which is a signature plant of the city of San Diego. Sessions imported the jacaranda, and she propagated and popularized it - it which wasn't difficult given its beautiful purple bloom.

In September of 1939, Kate broke her hip after falling in her garden. The following march, newspapers reported she had died quietly in her sleep,

"At the close of Easter Sunday, when the broad lawns, the groves, the canyons, and the flower beds were aglow with a beauty that has become her monument."

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Kate Sessions
Kate Sessions

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