still from 1946 film 1fair useThe California Spring Garden Show, also known as the Oakland Garden Show, was an annual flower and garden show in Oakland.

For many years it was produced by landscape architect Howard Gilkey, who added the idea of an overall theme for each show. The show was mostly held at the Oakland Exposition Building. Joseph Callaghan first conceived of the idea, and was considered the "father" of the show. 4

It ran from 1930 to at least 1977, though 1943, 1944 and 1945 were skipped during WWII. 2,6 In 1930, it was held in the former Earle C. Anthony showroom at Harrison and Hobart (now 21st). It proved so popular they looked for a larger location, and moved to the Oakland Auditorium. Two years later, they moved to the nearby Exposition Building. 8

In 1942 it was held in tents at Lakeside Park because the military was using the Exposition Building.9 One article indicates it was held at the new Oakland Coliseum complex in 1967. 11 In 1970 after the exposition building was torn down to build the Laney College campus, it was held at Lakeside Park; in 1973 it was moved to Dunsmuir Hellman House.

The officers of the 1933 show were Abe P. Leach, president; Harold Austin, vice-president; Bestor Robinson, secretary; Harry Raab, treasurer; Arthur Navlet, Rudolph Bitterman, William Steinmetz, Joseph Callaghan, Julius C. Dohrmann. 5

The show was cancelled after the 1955 show in part because the costs had grown, but it was re-instated on a smaller scale, and continued until at least 1977. 10,15


Each year, the show seemed to grow larger and more elaborate: waterfalls 40' tall were constructed, faux giant redwoods were installed (and smaller real trees brought in), and tens of thousands of plants. In 1942, when the theme was "Floating Gardens of Xochimilco", a huge lagoon was built in Lakeside Park so that some exhibits could be floating. 9

c.1930-1945 postcard Boston Public Library

Year Theme
1931 "Formal Gardens"
1932 "Ancient Gardens of Alhambra"
1933 "Semi-Formal Gardens"
1934 "Gardens of the Orient"
1935 "Manor Gardens of England"
1936 "Chateau Gardens of France"
1937 "Nature's Gardens"
1938 "Nature's Gardens"
1939 "Shangri-La"
1940 "Gardens of Fairyland" 7
1941 "Rainbow Forest"
1942 "Floating Gardens of Xochimilco" 9
no show during WWII
1946 "El Dorado"
1948 "Western Wonderlands" 10
1949 "California" (for state centennial)
1950 "Pacifica"
1952 "Today's Gardens"
1953 "Southern Azalea Gardens"
1954 "Redwood Vacation Lands" 8
1955 "Rainbow Waters"
1956 "Autumn Splendor"
(held in fall; 'spring' dropped from name)
1957 ?
1958 ?
1959 "Northern Lights and Southern Shadows"
1960 "From Kew to Kyoto" 13
1961 "Happy Isles"
1962 "Western Woods and Waters"
1963 "Valley of the Giants" 14
1964 "Enchanted Forest"
1965 "Gardens of the World" 12
1966 "Symphony of Flowers"
1967 "Floralia" 11
1970 "Adventure in April"
1971 "Oriental Interpretations"
1972 "Gardens Are For People"
1975 "El Dorado Days"
1976 "Flags and Flowers"
1977 "California Magic"


Links and References

  1. California Spring Garden Show, 1946 (and 1941?) films on Internet Archive
  2. Spring Garden Show Opens in Oakland Lodi News Sentinel April 26, 1949
  3. Historical Dates Past Events for The Office of Parks and Recreation

  4. Tribute Paid to Callaghan Oakland Tribune April 20, 1933

  5. Preview Will Open Garden Show Tonight Oakland Tribune April 20, 1933

  6. Garden Show Housed in Giant-Size Window Box Oakland Tribune April 26, 1953

  7. 'Gardens of Fairyland' Ready to Charm Thousands Oakland Tribune April 30, 1940

  8. 'Redwood Vacation Land' in Oakland Oakland Tribune May 2, 1954

  9. Garden Show Has Colorful History Oakland Tribune May 3, 1953

  10. And Now, On With The Show! Hayward Daily Review April 27, 1977

  11. Gardens in the Round for the Goddess of Flowers Oakland Tribune April 30, 1967

  12. SF Coed Crowned Garden Show Queen Hayward Daily Review April 23, 1965

  13. Waterfall 'Goes Up' For Garden Show Oakland Tribune April 13, 1960

  14. This Is Season Of Green Thumb Hayward Daily Review April 7, 1963

  15. Annual Oakland Spring Garden Show Assured Hayward Daily Review November 24, 1956