Early wells dug on the 1.043 acre ranch showed an average topsoil depth of 33 feet. Rich soil, a temperate climate, and an irrigation system enabled the newcomers to create orchards and gardens of the sort that made Southern California the envy of the world.
The first orchards of almond and walnut trees were laid out in 1873, and in 1875 3000 lemon trees were planted in the first commercial planting in California. Edgar Stow, ranch manager from 1915-1949, discovered that by grafting Lisbon variety lemons to grapefruit rootstalk, the resulting trees were impervious to the dreaded oak root fungus, which threatened to destroy California’s citrus industry.
The gardens adjacent to the Stow family residence reflect the Stow’s passionate interesting horticulture and experimentation, typical of the late 19th century. Drawing from the European model of “display” or specimen garden, Sherman and Ida (Hollister) Stow began their garden collection focused on the exotic and unusual.
Some of the oldest trees in the garden include the Titoki, Lagunaria, Star Pine, Lemon-scented Gum, Eugenia, Wine Palm, Bunya-Bunya, Spanish Fir, Giant Bamboo, Moreton Bay Chesnut, and Victorian Box.
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The exceptions to the exotic collection are the beautiful Coast Live Oaks and a single redwood tree. Now tall and stately, the redwood began as a mere seedling in a coffee can. The seedling was presented to Ida as a gift from her husband on their first anniversary (1874), and symbolized the “growth of their family.”
Additionally, a Redwood grove was planted as a picnic area at what is now known as Stow Grove Park. Stow Grove currently has 300 Coast Redwood trees, some standing as tall as 130 feet.